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NC park expands as conservation efforts bear fruit

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Four of South Africa’s national parks have been extended, with the most substantial expansion occurring in the Namaqua National Park, which increased by 18,391 hectares.

The boundaries of the Namaqua National Park in the Northern Cape have been extended, marking a significant victory for conservation efforts. Picture: Supplied

By Dominic Naidoo

SOUTH Africa’s national parks are experiencing growth and expansion thanks to the dedicated efforts of the National Parks Trust of South Africa (NPTSA) and WWF South Africa.

On February 2, 2024, a declaration was made to incorporate an additional 20,206 hectares of land into four of South Africa’s national parks, with 18,000 hectares added through the joint efforts of NPTSA and WWF.

The most substantial expansion occurred in the Namaqua National Park in the Northern Cape, which increased by 18,391 hectares, with 15,992 hectares contributed by the NPTSA and WWF. This expansion encompasses various threatened veld types and aims to protect rare, threatened and endemic plant species, including the iconic kokerboom or quiver tree.

The expansion of the Namaqua National Park also includes vital river systems such as a 6km section of the Buffels River and the upper catchment of the Swartlintjies river system, essential for the park’s ecological functioning.

Mokala National Park, another beneficiary of the expansion efforts, now provides grazing for a range of rare antelope species and other wildlife, including disease-free buffalo. Its expansion includes the Northern Upper Karoo vegetation, with less than 1% currently under formal protection.

The Karoo National Park, known for its diverse flora and fauna, is home to Cape mountain zebras, Verreaux’s eagles, and a high density of tortoises. The expansion of the park aims to safeguard these species and their habitats, ensuring their long-term survival.

Similarly, the expansion of Agulhas National Park, situated at the southernmost tip of Africa, protects threatened habitats of the Cape Floristic Region. This expansion aligns with South Africa’s commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to protect 30% of the planet’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030.

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa, hailed these expansions as crucial steps in safeguarding South Africa’s natural heritage for the benefit of future generations. The collaborative efforts of NPTSA, WWF and SANParks underscore the importance of conservation partnerships in preserving biodiversity and promoting environmental sustainability.

“These declarations are part of our work to bring some of South Africa’s most threatened habitats and species under the umbrella of SANParks as the custodian of our country’s very special natural heritage for the benefit of everyone. All of this work contributes towards South Africa’s commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to protect 30% of the planet’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030,” said Du Plessis.

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