GPS Technology for Namaqua National Park
iKAPA Honorary Rangers Eileen and Paul van Helden donated 4 global positioning system units (etrex Garmin GPS) to Namaqua National Park manager Bernard van Lente on 11 January 2008. These small units are about the size of a thick cell phone and are extremely robust and user friendly.
Namaqua National Park has a need for these units, as it is a new emerging park which does not have all its boundaries, areas and activity zones mapped. Namaqua is set to be about 140 000ha in extent and is poised to become a real conservation jewel. It is situated in an arid area, but with many diverse eco-zones, including stony succulent fields, grassy plains, fynbos, Namaqua karoo, mountains and nearly 70kms of the West Coast. It is not all about the spring flowers and even in the heat of summer; a sweater may be needed on the coast as the Atlantic Ocean may be as low as 10 degrees C!
Most of the park is undeveloped at present and many sections are open to 4x4’s only (permit required). Van Lente says the GPS units will be used to assist with the laying out of eco-trails (for both vehicles and hiking), and the production of brochures. The brochures are intended to be informative, with facts on the area and maps containing GPS co-ordinates.
In addition, over the next year, a new “Coast-Care” initiative will begin. This will involve a clean-up of the 63 kms of coast, requiring block mapping for activities such as alien plant clearance. Some old farm tracks need to be closed and monitored for rehabilitation and as they gradually fade into the surroundings with time, they will be hard to locate without GPS location,
Since the area was old farmland, there are many structures in the surrounds which need to be mapped, such as dams, windmill or water points, buildings and zones with different utilisation history. These instruments will ensure good records are kept and used for monitoring and research.
Many of the old windmills have been removed, but if new fencing can be erected in the future, it is possible that some old water points could be reactivated for the use of larger herbivores, which should in all likelihood, be re-introduced to maintain the original biodiversity of the area.