Media Release: SANParks Aims at Business Unusual
We need “business unusual” instead of “business as usual” to meet the future challenges of managing protected areas, was the message of Dr David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, at the opening of the 6th Annual Science Networking Meeting of SANParks. More than 200 scientists from South Africa and around the world are gathered at Skukuza from 21 – 25 April 2008 for the event.
Dr Mabunda emphasized that “national parks are not islands”, but rather part of a bigger landscape where they must live up to the challenges and expectations of neighbouring communities and other interest groups. “If the Kruger National Park is to retain its iconic status, we have to enhance the lives of people, while achieving our conservation and biodiversity objectives,” he stressed. “Therefore researchers must tackle the challenge of effectively involving local and indigenous communities.”
“Although South Africa is ranked as the 3rd most biologically diverse country in the world, after Brazil and Indonesia, our conservation areas are fragmented and scattered across the country,” Dr Mabunda explained. “It is therefore essential to start working beyond the borders of national parks.”
The need to attract research funding is another reason why researchers need to engage more effectively with non-scientists. “Unless we can demonstrate how funding leads to socio-economic benefits for the country, we won’t be able to sustain the vital funding stream required to carry on with research,” he said.
Dr Mabunda pointed out how much the management of protected areas have changed in recent years. Today science across all disciplines informs management decisions and the focus has moved away from single species, to maintaining fully functional ecosystems. Recognising the complexity of ecosystems where many pieces of the puzzle interact in a variety of ways, also informs new approaches in ecological research. Management is now a process of “learning by doing”, thereby continuously adding to our knowledge and understanding of complex ecosystems.
Several hot issues in conservation science and ecosystems research are on the agenda for the rest of the week, with an emphasis on biodiversity, climate change, river health and the need for better integration of ecological and social science research.
Raymond Travers, Media Relations Practitioner, Kruger National Park. Contact: Tel: 013 735 4116, cell: 082 908 2677
William Mabasa, HOD: Public Relations and Communications, Kruger National Park. Contact: Tel: 013 735 4363, cell: 082 807 3919
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