Suddenly a huge crocodile splashed its dinner around in the shallows of the hippo pond in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Time stood still for all of us. Ann Reilly, a very busy woman, sat back and savored the moment.
From our discussion with Ann, she obviously has deep experience and opinions on wildlife and preserving nature. But what spoke volumes of her passion for the work was the way she looked at that croc. A true raw nature moment. Exactly what her family has devoted their lives to preserve.
I can’t tell you how pleased we were to meet Ann Reilly. She is the daughter of legendary Ted Reilly whose persistence & passion returned a lasting wildlife focus back to Swaziland. Lovingly she contributes to the legacy with her own footsteps. As the General Manager for the Reilly managed reserves, she helps others enjoy the wild nature the Reilly’s have played a key role in restoring.
It is obviously not just a job for her but a life’s work, a wild life’s work.
In a tiny country smaller than Kruger Park, the stars aligned for wildlife the 1960’s. Swaziland is not a theme park but a British protectorate from the colonial era. Surrounded by other European colonies it was allowed to remain its own country protected by the Brits. Amazingly, even today much of its traditions and culture remains intact.
By the 1950’s, Wildlife in Swaziland was mostly eradicated for food and trophy hunting. Until a young Ted Reilly stepped in. He was turned down by the Brits, to establish protected areas. But with blessing of King Sobhuza ll and that of the family, he turned his very small (460ha) farm into Mlilwane, Swaziland’s first conservation area.
King Mswati lll has since continued his father’s support of conservation in the kingdom. Mlilwane is now 4500 Ha, much of which has been bought in at commercial rates over the years.