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"21st Century Version Of Noah's Ark"

This story first aired on Nov. 18, 2008.



In Zulu, "Phinda" means return.

And there couldn't be a better word to describe what's happening on the 57,000 acre Phinda Private Game Reserve in -- South Africa, the destination of Early Show weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price in the series, "Destination Unknown."

Price calls Phinda "a 21st century version of Noah's Ark." It land "was once farmland, up until the 1990s," with wildlife decimated by hunters, poachers and farmers.

"Where cattle grazed and cotton and pineapple grew, (the land) is being returned to its natural state," Price says, "and the animals that once roamed the bush

."

The reserve's Web site says its, "Seven distinct habitats shelter an abundance of wildlife, including Africa's 'Big Five' (lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo) and over 380 bird species, while the marine diversity off the nearby coast of Sodwana is said to rival the Great Barrier Reef in Australia."

While there, Price saw many other animals as well, including giraffes, zebras, and many more -- almost all close-up.

Price watched with Phinda ranger Giles Kellmanson as a leopard hunted prey. "That's what happens out here," Kellmanson remarked. "It's survival of the fittest. And we let things play out naturally."

At Phinda, Price observed, "wild animals that thrived long ago have been reintroduced to the land. Fences have come down. And the private land reserve expanded, so the wildlife is free to roam and breed. ... Without these initiatives, there is the strong possibility that many of the animals (at Phinda) would become extinct."

Phinda reserve manager Simon Naylor told Price, "Everything now is coming back into balance. And that's the benefit of having wildlife."

The lesson, Price says, is that things can be turned around.

"Absolutely," Kellmanson agreed. "It's just a mindset, I think, that humans own everything that I think we've got to get away from and try to share a little bit with these magnificent animals."

Phinda ranger Brett Drew told Price he's "making a career out of my passion" for conservation.

Price added, "What pays for this balance of nature is tourism -- ecotourism. Private reserves like Phinda can afford to maintain the land and preserve the animals by letting visitors get close to the animals -- but not too close. When the rangers radio in an animal sighting, the tourists close in -- for the photo.

Price learned that the owners of the Phinda reserve "have ceded much of the land back to (the locals), making them shareholders in both the future and the profits."

He showed a school and clinic paid for by the reserve, and described how residents are being given a whole new mindset as they're

and that their future is without doubt linked to the animals and that, "If they conserve the land, it will give them a future."

He also told of efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic, which affects almost a-third of people in the area.

Price

was "darted" -- sedated, then implanted with an identifying chip, and medicated, so it could be tracked.

He got to

He also

-- exotic foods, to say the least.

And what would such a trip be without seeing local dancers do their thing?!



Price's trip was arranged with the help of &Beyond Africa, a luxury adventure tourism company, and Virtuoso, a luxury travel service company.
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