Joint Release: MZNP/Camdeboo Corridor Project to enhance conservation status
With only about six percent of South Africa’s land covered by formal protected areas and pressure on the environment mounting, the time for innovative methods of land conservation is ripe.
In South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, a new initiative to create a corridor between two national parks is providing private landowners with an option of formally protecting their land from environmental threats while maintaining current land use.
The Mountain Zebra – Camdeboo Corridor Project aims to improve the conservation status of the land between and surrounding the 28 417 ha Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock and the 19 405 ha Camdeboo National Park which surrounds Graaff-Reinet. The project, which is a joint initiative between the Wilderness Foundation and South African National Parks (SANParks), is funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), a global partnership committed to helping protect biodiversity hotspots through funding of key projects.
The footprint area of the Corridor project covers about 530 000 ha and includes sections of four biomes - Grassland, Nama Karoo, Thicket and Savanna – as well as six major vegetation types and a globally important birding area.
The Corridor project especially targets one of South Africa’s least conserved biomes: the grassland biome. Grassland ecosystems are under-represented in the country’s conservation suite mainly due to their suitability for agricultural use which places a high demand on any available land. Grasslands support some of the most vulnerable wildlife and plant species in the country.
Land acquisition is not on the agenda of the corridor project; rather landowners have an array of voluntary agreements to choose from to suit different levels of commitment. Private land which is run under a conservation or ecotourism mandate (e.g. private nature reserves), but does not currently have any form of legal protection makes up some 97 000 ha of the Corridor footprint. An initial aim of the project is to assist these landowners in obtaining appropriate legal protection for their land.
Benefits for landowners include protection against mounting threats to the environment, potential assistance with habitat management, increased recognition and marketing opportunities and access to collective opportunities.
A number of landowners, including some well-recognised private reserves, have already shown interest in participating in the Corridor project. These landowners have recognised the value of increased protection of their land and the benefits of being associated with national parks and protected areas.
Should the project go according to plan, it is envisaged that the Mountain Zebra - Camdeboo Corridor will consist of a mosaic of SANParks-managed and privately-owned and -managed properties which will stimulate conservation-friendly economic development in the region while protecting the area from inappropriate development. It also has the potential to provide a greater attraction for tourism in this area.
Jointly issued by:
The Wilderness Foundation and South African National Parks (SANParks)