Established in 1991, Madikwe Game Reserve was developed as a three-way partnership between the South African government, local communities and the private sector. Prior to the establishment of the park, the region was used for cattle farming and agriculture. However over the decades, much of the vegetation had been extensively degraded and the outlook for the area was pessimistic. A land feasibility study was carried out and it was found that wildlife based tourism would be the most viable (both economically and environmentally) form of land use in the region.
The primary objective of Madikwe Game Reserve is to stimulate ecologically sustainable economic activity in the vicinity, thereby benefiting the local communities through employment and business opportunities. A direct result of this objective is the conservation of biodiversity in the area.
In order to establish Madikwe Game Reserve as a premier wildlife destination, an ambitious wildlife reintroduction programme, called Operation Phoenix, was initiated. Operation Phoenix is the largest game translocation and re-introduction programme to have taken place in the world to date.
Ten thousand animals were relocated into the reserve over a period of seven years. Twenty seven species, all historically occurring in the area, were released into the reserve. These species include lion, elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, wild dog, giraffe, zebra and a host of antelope species.