Media Release: Minister opens SA National Parks Week 2010 in Addo Elephant National Park
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Ms Buyelwa Sonjica, announced the week long free access to South Africans at most South African national parks at the official opening of SA National Parks Week 2010 in Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape.
Ms Sonjica said that South Africans must remember that September is the official month for the celebration of both heritage and tourism and so it is befitting that South Africans should celebrate their natural and cultural heritage by visiting their national parks.
She further emphasised that SA National Parks week should be used as a platform to encourage the young brilliant minds of the country to seriously consider a career in biodiversity science. There is so much that is still unknown about our natural environment and the key to unlock this is through our dedicated scientists and researchers, parks like the Kruger National Park are already considered to be centres of learning for people around the world.
National Parks belong to all the citizens of South Africa and should always be appreciated as such; the free access to South Africans during this week is to remind us that these parks are always accessible to all of us.
The major challenge for national parks is to make them more accessible and appealing to an increasingly multicultural society that we reside in and it is our belief that the hosting of the annual South African National Parks Week campaign will give some answers to the disparity of other segments of society in national parks visitation.
She decried the persisting social and political barriers perpetuated by past unjust laws which to date continue to drive a wedge between the people of South Africa and their national parks. “The challenges brought on by the policies of the past are preventing SANParks from getting unencumbered support for its programs from a largely suspicious previously deprived populace, despite the new democratic dispensation with its attendant socially progressive policies”, she said.
Ms Sonjica said South Africa should be disturbed by the glaring disparity in national parks visitation amongst various racial groupings which does not reflect the demographic landscape of the country. Black visitors to national parks had grown 17,5% in the 2009/2010 financial period from the previous period, but overall still account for less than 20% of all South Africans visiting national parks.
The Chief Executive of South African National Parks (SANParks), Dr David Mabunda, said that one of the key deliverables that must come out of this campaign is to remove the wrong perception that national parks are for the use of foreign visitors largely and are financially inaccessible to South Africans.
National parks have for the past five years on average had only 20% foreign visitors, although some of the parks like Addo Elephant National Park continue to get more foreign visitors, something that requires attention in order to mitigate risks posed by dependence on foreign visitors.
The cost of staying in a national park ranges from as little as R90 to about R700 per person per day. This is made possible by the varying range of accommodation facilities provided by SANParks, starting with camping right up to three star accommodations. “One can decide to choose the type of facility that suits his/her pocket.” For people who can afford pure luxury there are also the four to five star concession facilities at various parks which start from about R2,500 per person per night.
The CEO of FNB Public Sector Banking: National Government, Ms Yvonne Zwane, said that the bank was proud to have partnered SANParks in this public campaign for the past five years and giving access to communities to enjoy their national parks. She concluded by saying South Africans should come to all the national parks to enjoy the splendour of their birthright.
SANParks Corporate Communications
Reynold Thakhuli: GM: PR, Media and Stakeholder Relations, SANParks, tel: (012) 426 5203, cell: 073 373 4999, email: firstname.lastname@example.org