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Greater AENP Project

SANParks as the country's premier conservation organisation has been mandated by the national government to expand South Africa's protected areas from the present 6% to 8% of the country's surface area and up to 20% from 2% of the coastline by 2010.

This has entailed a shift in conservation philosophy from one of preservationism to an ecosystem-focused approach incorporating the interwoven ecological patterns and processes concepts. National parks as megabiodiversity repositories primarily serve conservation purposes, but also have an enormous potential for economic development, so much so that when fully developed they should be viewed as an asset and not a liability to South African society. In meeting both conservation and socio-economic obligations SANParks is attempting to address the issue of conserving a healthy environment, thus combining the objectives of restitution with conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. One such project is the greater Addo Elephant National Park project (GAENP).

GAENP planning process

SANParks initiated a planning process in 2000 to investigate the expansion of the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP), situated in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. This region is biologically diverse and presents an excellent opportunity for expanding the South African protected area network.

The project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) focused on ecological and socio-economic analyses required to drive the implementation process. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was commissioned to consolidate existing data to facilitate the development of a strategic conservation plan for the expansion project.

This section summarises these activities over the past three years and presents milestones that have already been achieved in terms of implementation and the road ahead.


  • To guarantee the long-term conservation of the regions unique biodiversity, patterns and processes through expansion.
  • To reduce critical threats facing the park.
  • Efficient & effective management.
  • To promote a sustainable & inclusive "eco-tourism" industry.
  • To promote capacity building in neighbouring communities and institution.


  • To expand to 270 000 ha, exclusive of a 120 000 ha Marine Protected Area.
  • To conserve elements of 5 of South Africa's 7 biomes.
  • The first National Park to boast of the Big 7 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard, Southern right whale & great white shark).
  • A disease (malaria) free ecotourism destination.
  • Economic development in impoverished Eastern Cape region.
  • The gateway to the Garden Route.

Socio-economics: It was soon clear that the implementation of the conservation plan for the region needed to be overlaid within the socio-economic environment. As part of the SEA, a number of specialist studies sought to consolidate the information from the socio-economic environment in order to identify areas where SANParks could improve or initiate action. The impact of the gAENP, especially in terms of land purchase, resettlement, cultural heritage and the creation of job opportunities on the region was assessed.

Findings and subsequent actions include:

  • Ecotourism could create 4 times as many jobs as currently in agriculture.
  • The gAENP could generate as many as 1500 additional jobs, contractual jobs through Poverty Relief and Working for Water.
  • Expanded opportunities for especially the farm workers through capacity building. A detailed capacity building programme will be initiated in 2005.
  • A Resettlement Action Plan and Policy Framework, a first for SANParks and regarded by the World Bank as Best Practice, was developed to plan for the future of the farm workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the gAENP.
  • The park plays a major role in the region's economic development, especially through ecotourism. Already various numbers of B&Bs and associated activities had sprouted in the Sunday's River Valley. The University of Potchefstroom is currently conducting a desk-top study to ascertain precisely what AENP's impact is on the region's economy.
  • The park plays a major role in development projects in accordance with the affected municipalities' Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
  • Continued communication through the Addo Planning Forum with relevant stakeholders, including government departments, local municipalities, business, tourism, local communities, farmers and farm workers goes a long way in dispelling fears about the project.

Since 2000, the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) has been undergoing a process of expansion. New land purchase has been made possible by funds from the government and overseas donors. This process as well as the rehabilitation and fencing of the new land, is still underway.

The process of expansion began in 1997, when the Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit at the University of Port Elizabeth published a report: "A proposal for a Greater Addo National Park" (Kerley & Boshoff, 1997) calling for the amalgamation of the AENP and the Woody Cape Nature Reserve and further expansion into the surrounding areas to stimulate sustainable development and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.

In 2000, a proposal was made to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) for funding for planning and implementation of the Greater Addo Project. In 2001, the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism (DEAT) approved the expansion principle.

With funding from GEF, a detailed research process took place in order to determine which land should ideally be included in the AENP. A Conservation Planning Framework identified the land classes in the proposed area and then took into account factors such as ecological processes, potential threats and vulnerability of each land class, as well as conservation targets for populations of fauna.

Money for the purchase of land comes from the Park Development Fund. This is an internal cost centre where funds are generated through the sale of wildlife assets, DEAT and donors. It is also the first time in many years that central government has allocated funds for land purchase to expand national parks.

Land purchase always occurs on a willing buyer - willing seller principle. In some cases, a landowner's land inside the AENP area is exchanged for land outside the AENP area (i.e. SANParks purchases the land outside the area in order to exchange it). SANParks can invoke the right to compel a landowner to sell land but this has never occurred within the history of purchase of land for the AENP and SANParks avoids this situation at all costs.

SANParks is compelled by law to look after the interests of any workers who are affected by the land purchase. Consultants were engaged to track down and create a database of all workers who were affected by SANParks' purchase of land since 1997. SANParks must ensure that all these workers have the same or better housing, salary and benefits (e.g. rations, right to keep livestock on land etc.). Either the worker moves to a new farm with the original landowner or SANParks must give the worker employment - permanent or, if this is not available, contractual.

Once land has been purchased, the process of rehabilitating the land must begin. Since 2000, SANParks has received R55 million from the government (DEAT) for this purpose. This money was given through a Poverty Relief programme, which employs previously unemployed people from local communities in a two-year project. During this time, workers undergo training to equip them with skills to help them to secure work after they exit the programme.


Recently, the Park has also been expanded by means of public-private contractual partnerships such as River Bend (about 1 000ha) and the Kuzuko Contractual Area (just under 15 000ha). Here, private landowners have signed a long-term contractual agreement with SANParks, bringing private land under the management of the national park. Indigenous wildlife is introduced into the contractual area and it is managed in terms of SANParks conservation policies while the contractual partner operates a tourism business in the area.

The park is currently about 170 000 hectares (one hectare = 100 metres x 100 metres) in size, making Addo Elephant National Park the third largest national park in South Africa, after Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It stretches from Woody Cape (between Bushman's River mouth in the east and Sundays River mouth in the west) in the south, moving northwards across the Colchester area (originally known as Olifantsplaat and Vetmaakvlakte), across the original elephant enclosure or Main Game Area, across to the Nyathi Concession area, encompassing a large part of the Zuurberg mountain range, moving westwards, and then northwards across the Zuurberg to the Darlington Dam area and Kuzuko Contractual Area up to the R400 (between Jansenville and Paterson).

The Bird and St. Croix island groups and a small Marine Protected Area around Bird Island, which protects a large variety of marine life, were proclaimed part of the Park in 2005. Bird Island is home the world's largest breeding colony of Cape gannets St Croix Island is home to the largest breeding colony of African penguins.

The expanded park is rich in biodiversity, conserving five of South Africa's nine biomes (Mucina & Rutherford 2006) - namely Albany Thicket, Fynbos, Forest, Nama Karoo and the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. It is also the world's first Big Seven conservation area, home to the traditional Big Five plus the Southern Right whale and Great White shark.

Once the process of expansion is completed, it is envisaged that the park will cover some 240 000 hectares on land with a proposed further 120 000 hectares of marine protected area. Although the Park is divided in places by roads, fences and railways, the long-term goal is to consolidate and expand the Park and link up the sections with corridors to ensure that the Park can be managed in as natural a state as possible.

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Official Guide on Sale

Addo Elephant National Park Official Guide book on sale

This 52-page full-colour brochure gives the visitor a complete overview of the Park, its fauna and flora, history, new developments, accommodation and activities. Highly recommended! Available from the park directly.

Did You Know?

  • The park boasts the Big Seven: (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark)