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Sustainable Conservation

Sustainable biodiversity and cultural heritage across land and sea deliver benefits for the people of SA and the world, now and in the future. This is implemented through the Operations in Parks and Kruger National Park; the Special Projects and Infrastructure Programmes and Conservation Services.

  • Protected Areas Expansion aligned with the National Protected Area Expansion Strategy (NPAES) and the SANParks land inclusion plan
  • Effective and Efficient Management of National Parks
  • Degraded ecosystems rehabilitated
  • Climate change vulnerability is reduced and climate resilience improved
  • A framework towards the improved management of aquatic systems
  • A framework for the improved management of cultural heritage developed
  • Sustainable Populations of species of special concern monitored and maintained
  • Contribution to improved wildlife management and wildlife populations of the African range stated sustained
  • Wildlife crime in national parks reduced


South Africa’s national parks conserve the country’s rich diversity of flora and fauna. Located largely in rural areas, they are catalysts for economic growth, creating employment and transformation in areas that generally lack such opportunities.

They also contribute significantly to the protection of strategic water source areas, archaeological and historical sites and safeguard endangered ways of life.

SANParks’ Operations is responsible for managing the twenty national parks, organised into two divisions, namely Kruger National Park and Parks Division.

The Parks Division is divided into five regions:

    1. Arid Region
      The Arid region consists of six parks. Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, the largest, covers almost one-third of a sand-filled basin in the west of southern Africa and supports diverse fauna and flora. Because of its importance to the Khomani San, the park is also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Landscape site. Augrabies Falls National Park has the representation of Lower Gariep broken veld, Bushmanland arid grasslands, Blouputs thornveld, Lower Gariep alluvial vegetation, and Kalahari karroid shrubland. Namaqua National Park lies within the Succulent Karoo Biome and areas of significant geological interest. The Namaqua Marine Protected Area extends from the Groen to the Spoeg River and provides an important linkage to the terrestrial component of the park. Contractual agreements are in place with local communities in three of the Arid region parks: with the Khomani San and Mier communities in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park; the Riemvasmaak community in Augrabies Falls National Park; and the Richtersveld community in /Ai/Ais Richtersveld National Park. Mokala National Park supports diverse ecosystems in the transition zone between the Nama-Karoo Biome and the Arid Savanna Bushveld. The declaration of the Meerkat National Park around the development of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) in the Northern Cape is a key milestone that expands the conservation asset base to include an international science hub.
    2. Cape Region
      There are five parks in the Cape management region, namely Agulhas National Park, Table Mountain National Park and West Coast National Park and include three Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The latter includes Robben Island MPA which adjoins the existing Table Mountain MPA. Parts of the West Coast National Park and MPA are important non-breeding sites for hundreds of thousands of Palearctic migrant waders during the austral summer and, with about 32 per cent of South Africa’s saltmarshes, is recognised by the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. Table Mountain National Park, Agulhas National Park and Bontebok National Park are within the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site. The Tankwa Karoo National Park falls within the International Biodiversity Hotspot of the Succulent Karoo.
    3. Frontier Region
      The Frontier Management region consists of four parks located in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces. Addo Elephant National Park includes marine areas, thicket, forest, fynbos, nama-karoo, grassland, and azonal wetlands, representing a diverse landscape representing different biomes. The MPA in the Addo Elephant National Park, previously known as Bird Island MPA was repealed and is now included in the Addo Elephant National Park MPA.Camdeboo National Park is located in the Karoo Biome, recognised as a world conservation priority. Karoo National Park falls within the Nama-Karoo and Grassland biomes. Mountain Zebra National Park is in a transitional area between the Grassland, Nama-Karoo, Thicket and Savanna Biomes, allowing for an interesting mix of flora and fauna as well as important ecological and landscape processes.
    4. Garden Route Region
      The Garden Route Region is a complex of protected areas managed as a single entity. It includes the previously proclaimed Tsitsikamma National Park and Wilderness National Park, forests and mountain catchment areas as well as the Knysna National Lake Area.
    5. Northern Region
      The Northern Management Region consists of three parks. Golden Gate Highlands National Park, is the only grassland park in the SANParks estate in the northeastern Free State. The park is part of the Maloti Drakensberg catchment complex, which is considered one of the most important water catchments in southern Africa. The park is well known for its geological, geomorphological and palaeontological heritage. The importance of Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site lies in its more than 400 archaeological sites displaying a dynamic interaction between people, natural resources, and landscape. The park is part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, within an open system spanning three countries (Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa).
      Marakele National Park is situated in the extreme southwestern part of the Waterberg massif, rich in plant diversity typical of fynbos and forest systems, and on the edge of the central bushveld biodiversity hotspot.

    Marine Protected Areas

    The ten Marine Protected Areas, totalling 369,397 ha, managed by SANParks also play an important role in the country’s marine conservation and contribute extensively to the protection of important marine ecosystems in South Africa.

Kruger National Park

Proclaimed in 1926, this park in northeastern South Africa borders Mozambique in the east and Zimbabwe in the north. At almost two million hectares, this extensive savannah park is a crucial regional economic driver through its diverse nature-based tourism operations and the diverse associated activities and industries. KNP is an integral part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Special Projects – Expanded Public Works Programme

South Africa, as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is committed to rehabilitating and restoring degraded ecosystems. This is also aligned with Ecosystem-Based and Adaptation (EbA) objectives as outlined in the National Adaptation Strategy and the SANParks Climate Change Adaptation Framework and Implementation Plan. Target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal 15 sets out a new global objective to achieve a land degradation-neutral (LDN) world by 2030. The LDN response strategy revolves around avoiding degradation, reducing degradation, and restoring degraded lands. At a corporate level, SANParks is contributing towards achieving these targets through the restoration of degraded lands across national parks. SANParks is engaged in the implementation of different restoration programmes funded by the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), focusing on clearing of alien invasive vegetation as the main activity through the Working for Water Programme.

EPWP projects have deliverables aligned with the programme objectives, and contributed to biodiversity and infrastructure management in all national parks, including the following:

  • Invasive alien vegetation clearing
  • Land rehabilitation including erosion and control of bush encroachment
  • Wetland rehabilitation
  • Cleaning of beaches and rehabilitation of coastal systems and tourism infrastructure
  • Conservation management support through the Environmental Monitor Programme
  • Tourism operations and activities support through the Tourism Monitor Programme
  • Infrastructure maintenance through the NDT Infrastructure Maintenance Programme and DT PES Fund Phase 2 project.

Conservation Services

The Conservation Services Department provides SANParks with the services needed to manage national parks for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The department consists of the following units:

  • Park Planning and Development
  • Transfrontier Conservation
  • Veterinary Wildlife Services
  • Airwing Services
  • Scientific Services, which is further divided into four sections:
    • Arid Research Unit
    • Cape Research Centre
    • Garden Route & Frontier Research Unit
    • Savanna & Grassland Research Unit

Cultural Heritage

SANParks manages some of South Africa’s rich and diverse tangible and intangible cultural heritage and is committed to ensuring the safeguarding of this heritage in the areas under its jurisdiction.

Surveys and assessments of cultural heritage resources are continuously carried out in national parks. These assessments contribute to a better understanding of what heritage resources are in each park, their state of conservation, their potential to contribute to tourism and how they link with park stakeholders.Many heritage sites in the parks have associations with communities and SANParks intentionally creates opportunities for communities to interact with and celebrate their cultural heritage in parks.

Many known historical sites can be found in national parks and some are already open to the public, like the recent opening of the ‡ Khomani San Interpretation Centre in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Besides the Organisation’s role as custodians of sites of cultural and historical significance, SANParks promotes indigenous knowledge and facilitates the traditional passing on of oral history. Not only will all of this boost national pride and the rediscovery of lost identities – it also opens up opportunities for increased tourism, improved relations with communities, education and job creation.