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 Post subject: Mapungubwe: Worries
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:01 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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I visited Mapungubwe on Monday after an absence of 5 years. What I found was worrying. Sure, the new interpretive centre looks great. However, I have my doubts if the “duck pond” near the gate is really the best idea in an arid, ecologically sensitive area.

My second concern is the maintenance of the confluence lookout facility. When we were there on Monday, there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms, and plastic bags and other rubbish were strewn across the area. I investigated and it originated from an overflowing rubbish bin which was clearly not emptied in a while.

We drove the road to the east of the confluence and the only animals found were herds of cattle! Both in the riverine bush as well as deep into the interior of the park. Is there no-one trying to keep these cattle out of the park? What about the effect on the grazing for the resident wildlife?

My last great worry is the damage caused by the elephants that cross into the park from Botswana. I didn’t see one unscathed marula tree and many white kirkia, baobab and “kanniedood” trees are severely damaged. The same applies to the umbrella-thorn forest in the western section of the park. Are there any plans in place to fix the “elephant-proof” fences previously broken by the elephants?
There are even trees showing elephant damage on the tar road leading from the Ponddrift border post, outside the fence!

I know there are plans to create a transfrontier park in the area with Zimbabwe and Botswana, but can we really allow cattle to utilise the precious grazing on our side of the border and let the huge unmanaged elephant population from the Tuli-block destroy our riverine forest and baobabs?

The only positive points of my trip were to see that both the treetop walkway and the Maloutswa hide were well on their way in being repaired by park staff. This begs the question: What is more important, tourism facilities or the health of the ecosystem?

I am writing this post not out of uninformed criticism but through my genuine concern and love of our national parks. I would appreciate a response from a sanparks official who could hopefully put my mind at ease that everything is fine at Mapungubwe.

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:24 pm 
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The cattle walking in the streets, in towns and villages and now in a national is typical of a third world country, no control. A man's wealth and status is measured by the number of cattle he owns, irrespective of his ability to feed them properly. During times of drought, a commercial farmer will reduce his stock so that the remainder will have sufficient food to eat, but the subsistance farmer lets his cattle wander into territories where there are still grazing left.

It is because of this that the seasoned travellers will advise you not to travel in Afica during the night. Are we moving in the same direction? Many years ago if cattle was found outside fenced areas they would be impunded and the owner had to pay a fine to release them, but nowadays its is totally different, your cattle may go wherever there is food available, even if it is a National park.

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:08 pm 
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A few weeks ago I have read similar worries about Golden Gate National Park on the forum that a member has posted – also cattle in the Park and litter.

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:34 pm 
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Hello Ifubesi;

I have notified the Mapungubwe Management on your concerns and once I receive an official response from them, I will come and post here.
:thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:08 pm 
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Ifubesi,

The presence of cattle in the park was discussed 2 years back. The topic is now closed, but if you want to read it find the link below:

viewtopic.php?style=2&f=73&t=56735&start=45

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:15 am 
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Thanks Son Godin for pointing me to the old topic. What is worrying however, is that it is now 2 years later and the issue with the cattle is still unchanged...
The old topic also does not discuss my other concern, which is the heavy elephant impact on the sensitive vegetation of the park.

Lesego, thank you as always for your assistance in passing our queries onto relevant management. I hope they will respond with some specifics on how both these issues, plus the confluence lookout issue, are being addressed.

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:27 am 
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Lesego wrote:
Hello Ifubesi;

I have notified the Mapungubwe Management on your concerns and once I receive an official response from them, I will come and post here.
:thumbs_up:



Hmmm..... does the Mapungubwe Management not know what's happening in the park and any of the problems there ? Where are the offices of the Mapungubwe Management ? Do they ever visit the park or do they just sit in their offices somewhere and have to be told what happens in the park ?
:hmz: :hmz: :hmz: :hmz: :hmz:

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:35 am 
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We have even thought of shooting some of the cattle that come onto our land but the "political" backfire aren't worth the trouble.

Ellephants will go where ellephants want to go as you said they even make it to the "main road". Over the years we have seen there are no way of keeping ellies in or out even with "elephant proof fence". Most of the ellies will migrate but the old question just raises it head again what do you do if the land can't support the population anymore.. Dare I use the word culling, but no that means are also not available. Like they said in the 60's perfect the pill..... that also doesn't work.....

Or is this just part of the normal cicle of life that has been going on in the Limpopo valley for ages.....

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:32 am 
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Quote:
Ellephants will go where ellephants want to go as you said they even make it to the "main road". Over the years we have seen there are no way of keeping ellies in or out even with "elephant proof fence".


NetEk, I see your point, but most ellies must have been kept out of the area for many decades before the establishment of the national park, otherwise the riverine trees and baobabs would never have had the chance to become established. I guess it is now much more complicated due to SA building political bonds with the rest of SADC and Mapungubwe not being used as a heavily guarded military property anymore.

The issue is not only influenced by matters inside the park but also by the state of affairs in the whole region. Bush clearing for crops and other developments on the other side of the border has definitely reduced the elephants' old feeding ranges. They now spend much more time around the Limpopo river throughout the year. I guess some could argue that the establishment of elephant-sensitive tree species near the Limpopo due to elephant exclusion was never a natural situation, but with so little wild areas left and with some unique and locally threatened species (such as Pel's Fishing Owl) and habitats, we can't just sit back and let nature take its course, as the old "natural" systems does not really exist anymore.

I am sure Sanparks must have some kind of strategy to mitigate the impact in Mapungubwe, as their whole mission is to protect all forms of biodiversity and not just certain large and popular species. That is why I am looking forward to a response from a Sanparks official on the matter.

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14-15 Dec 2012 Lower Sabie
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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:11 am 
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Ifubesi wrote:
NetEk, I see your point, but most ellies must have been kept out of the area for many decades before the establishment of the national park, otherwise the riverine trees and baobabs would never have had the chance to become established



Bush clearing for crops and other developments on the other side of the border has definitely reduced the elephants' old feeding ranges..



Ifubesi - The elephants have always been there even when SANDF was in control. The trick is in that last part of your comment....... the space for them to feed is just not as big as it use to be. The zim side of the river as you can see from the decks has been over grazed to the point of exhustion.

Botswana if they find cattle on their side shoots them on the spot..............

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:46 am 
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I get your point NetEk. I guess in the end there can only be 2 solutions:

1) Zim get its act together and starts to control its cattle grazing practises and also protect what is left of the ecosystem on their side of the border. In this scenario a definite plan needs to be drafted for the management of the planned trans-frontier park as one ecological unit.

2) We accept that the available habitat for the elephants have been reduced permanently and decrease the elephant population accordingly. In this case we also forget about Zim joining any kind of trans-frontier park coalition and start to enforce our right to protect our park from illegal utilization by foreigners by acting severely against any intruding cattle.

At the moment, neither of these solutions seems very likely...

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:01 pm 
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Jip---- it's a catch 21......... to shoot or not to shoot........ and then what to shoot..... My vote is the park has already lost it's foot and mouth free status do wee really need an outbreak before we do something about it... (so no buffies for Map)

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:35 am 
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Dear Forumites;

Thank you so much for taking your time to write to us this kind of feedback and positive criticism as it helps us to improve on our service standard. As the park we value your valuable feedback. I agree with you that Mapungubwe is a unique and highly sensitive area and everything that we do should work towards accentuating that point. Regarding the pond, we as SANParks had the same view 3 years ago and stopped pumping water into the pond. We then experienced a lot of problems with animals especially elephants crossing the fence and destroying all water supply in the area looking for water.

They even crossed to the staff village and the neighbouring farms like Van Lemmer which created a lot of problems damaging our reputation and relationships with our neighbouring communities. At the moment we pump water 3-4 times during dry season. From October to May there is natural water and we don’t pump water to the pond. That is the only water supply in the area and serves as a birding and game viewing area as we don’t have many animals.

It is unfortunate that there were no toilets papers at the public facilities, rubbish and plastic bags were thrown around the area and rubbish bins overflowing. This was caused by uncontrolled school visits and the baboons in the area. We have started with environmental education to all the schools that visit Mapungubwe teaching them of the danger of pollution in the environment. We apologise unreservedly for the mess and we promise it won’t happen again.

Regarding the damage caused by elephants, we are in contact with the Zimbabwean authorities through the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTCA) to ensure that there is an alternative grazing area for the Zimbabwean cattle north of Maramani. We envisage this as a permanent solution to this problem. At the moment we have hired 8 environmental monitors or cattle chasers to keep the cattle outside the park. This has not been a fruitful exercise as they keep on chasing the cattle back and forth the whole day while other cattle are crossing on the other areas.

It is critical for us to keep the grass for animal grazing not cattle. We understand this is not good as people come to the park to see wild animals and would like to assure you that we are doing the best we can to win this battle and I can see that we are about to win it. We have purchase a vehicle for the environmental monitors for then to be effective in their jobs.

We have a team that is working five days a week maintaining the elephant’s exclusion fences in the park. During winter, herds of elephants move from Botswana to South Africa for greener pastures which contributes to the problems that we have with the fences. Due to the increase in the number of elephants in the park we start recording damages in the trees, overgrazing , lines of fallen trees in the western side etc. This can only be solved if the treaty between the three countries can be signed which will mean that there is enough areas for elephants to graze as we will increase the size of the park more especially in Zimbabwe.

We are trying to protect the gallery or riverine forest and baobab trees and many rear and special trees along the river banks by maintaining the elephant exclusions fences. The Trans frontier park will ensure that all those trees are protected from both angels.

It is a pleasure to hear that overall you did like the fact that the treetop walk and other tourism facilities are under renovations. Thank you for your continued loyalty and support to SANParks and we are looking forward to your future visits and will ensure that they are much more enjoyable.

Please feel free to contact us at any time. We really need people like you to succeed in conservation and cultural heritage.

Kind Regards:
Divhani Maremba
Communications Manager: Northern Region
SANParks
Tel: (012) 426-5304
Fax (012) 343-0153
E-mail: divhani.maremba@sanparks.org

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:36 pm 
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Hi Lesego thanks for the feedback, but the explanations on some on the issues left me a puzzled. Firstly I do not understand that the school groups are uncontrolled. Surely they do enter through the same gate as all other visitors, are counted and need to abide by the rules. If the park allows high volumes of school groups to enter, park management can expect an increase in rubbish at the picnic facilities and then ensure that the rubbish gets removed before the baboons move in after the school bus left within normal visiting hours and working hours for SANPark's personnel.

During our last visit a park official stayed in a small house near the picnic area and was therefore always there, even after hours. How come that it is not possible to clean after the school bus left and store the rubbish in a locked cage before collection the next day.

The other issue I have with the uncontrolled school visits is the fact that there is no park official with these groups to ensure that they do abide by rules. At the tree-top walk the rule board stimulates a certain number of people allowed to walk along the walkway to ensure the structural integrity of the raised canopy walkway and safety of all persons using it. In case of school groups you will find the whole school bus of ~ 100 learners entering the area and the hide with no space for any other visitors.

Why do you not introduce control over these group and also make the visit of other clients pleasant during weekday and after the school groups left.

I have nothing against the schools visiting, but it is important that visits are more organized by the park management.

Totally on a different topic, but still on the feedback given. Why is the water level in the river decreasing so fast after the rainy seasons. The park is at the confluence of two rivers that should provide water for longer periods. If the natural flow of water was not disrupted by mining east (coal) and south (diamonds) of the park more water would have been available along the river for the elephants to drink. Now all the water gets pump to Shroda dam and then to the mines. I do realize De Beers was there first and it will not be easy for the park to change it, but adding of the new coal mines aggravated the problem of water supply to the elephants.

I've added a pic of the elephant fence used in 2011. Wonder if you still make use of the same type of fences

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Worries about Mapungubwe.
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:43 am 
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The Sashe only has water in it during the "wet" season and even not always then.

Limpopo has always run dry in the winter, in fact the in-laws actually commented in June that the river is fuller than they have seen it for ages and they should know they have been going there since the 40's.

The school groups----- I don't know education is a big problem. We had a Fun day on wednesday at work and even the grown ups just through their rubbish around, not willing to walk the extra 10 meters to the bin.......

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