South African National Parks (SANParks) today announced an exciting new venture – a brand new national park in the mountains of the Eastern Cape Grasslands that has potential for adventure and cultural tourism all year round.
SANParks said in a statement that the new high-altitude national park is being established just south of the Lesotho border, near to the spectacular Naude’s Nek pass which is South Africa’s highest lying road at over 2500m. SANParks said:
“This mountainous area of lush grasslands in summer and a snowy wonderland in winter will also be a park with a difference.”
The park will be located within a working agricultural landscape. SANParks Acting CEO, Dr Luthando Dziba, said the ultimate objective was to establish an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable consolidated protected area (30 000-hectares), primarily by working with private and communal landowners.
The venture is a collaboration between SANParks and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa, said:
“The beauty of this model is that biodiversity conservation and ecological management will be done in partnership with those who live and work in this area – while allowing them to continue deriving benefits from their land through sustainable agriculture and other compatible land uses. Ultimately this is a win-win – for nature and for people. We can’t wait to see this project coming to fruition.”
The 30,000 hectare park is expected to significantly contribute towards the conservation of grasslands and water security.
Not only is this area rich in biodiversity and endemic species, it also lies within the Eastern Cape Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area which is a natural source of freshwater for people downstream. When declared, the park will also improve formal protection of South Africa’s grasslands which have been identified as a national conservation priority.
Landowners can voluntarily incorporate their land in the park
According to Dr Dziba, the proposed NE Cape Grasslands National Park will take a somewhat different form to traditional parks, in that the landowners will have the opportunity, through stewardship, to incorporate their land in the park on a voluntary basis. As such they also stand to benefit from a range of financial incentives for private and communal land that is formally protected.
Dr Dziba said on the economic front, the project aims to raise significant government funding for the restoration and maintenance of the landscape for water security, bringing much needed employment opportunities to the area (through alien plant clearing and wetland restoration). He added:
“…and because of its rugged, unspoilt landscape, the area has rich potential for adventure and cultural tourism which could help to build an all-year-round tourism industry, further unlocking potential jobs.
“The declaration of a national park will also be a motivation for the inclusion of this area into the adjacent Drakensberg World Heritage Site”.
SANParks thanked its partners who’ve helped get the project off the ground – namely WWF South Africa, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, as well as The WWF Nedbank Green Trust and the Ford Wildlife Foundation.