Vergelegen wine estate is now home to a group of rare quagga.

Visitors to Vergelegen wine estate might think they’ve tasted a little too much of its delightful wine when they spot a zebra sub-species that was hunted to extinction about 150 years ago.

Their eyes aren’t deceiving them, however, as this Somerset West estate, which is widely acknowledged for its environmental and sustainability initiatives, is now home to seven ‘Rau’ quagga – one stallion, five mares, and a foal.

A pregnant quagga mare explores her new surroundings.

The relocation of these rare animals to Vergelegen is the latest milestone in an ambitious project, initiated in 1987, to bring the quagga back from extinction and to introduce them to reserves similar to their former habitat.

Quagga once roamed South Africa in large herds, particularly in the Karoo and southern Free State, until they were hunted out in the second half of the 19th century.  The last known mare died in Amsterdam Zoo in 1883.

The Quagga Project is an attempt to use selective breeding to achieve a zebra sub-species which visually resembles the extinct quagga.

The seven animals are now settling down in a 180 hectare reserve area which includes natural grazing – a mix of renosterbos, Boland granite fynbos and various grasses – and plentiful  water from the farm’s Langkloof Dam.

The quagga share this area with five eland that were introduced to the estate in 2020. The eland form part of the Gantouw Project, which researches how grazing animals can naturally boost ecosystem diversity.

A resident eland watches the arrival of the quagga.

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Four of the Vergelegen mares are pregnant and should foal between October and December.

“We are absolutely delighted to play a part in this ambitious environmental project,” said Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer. “In addition to the historical value of relocating quagga back to this region, the estate offers the space and ecological skills for good biodiversity management.”

Vergelegen is situated in one of the richest floral regions of the world and in 2018 completed a 14-year, privately funded alien vegetation clearing programme. Some 2200 hectares were cleared, of which 1900 hectares have been declared a nature reserve with the same status as the Kruger National Park.

Getting used to her new home

Potential introductions of historically naturally occurring species at Vergelegen could also include black rhino, Cape buffalo, hippo and the geometric tortoise.

The quagga could in due course be viewed by visitors as part of the estate’s popular ecological game drives. This guided excursion currently takes guests through the Vergelegen arboretum and biodiversity nature reserve, with possible sightings of the estate’s free-range Nguni cattle, bontebok and eland.

Read more:

Vergelegen’s ecological initiatives: https://vergelegen.co.za/nature/

The Quagga Project: https://www.quaggaproject.org/

 

Vergelegen Environmental Tour

The environmental tour is weather permitting, costs R350 pp and departs from the tasting room at Vergelegen at 10h00. Duration is approximately 1.5 hours.
Contact  021 847 2122 for bookings.