Citizen Reporter
2 minute read
3 Sep 2021
11:51 am

New national park planned for Eastern Cape Grasslands

Citizen Reporter

Local landowners will have the opportunity, through stewardship, to incorporate their land in the park on a voluntary basis. 

Picture - iStock

SanParks and the World Wide Fund are collaborating to establish a new national park in the mountains of the Eastern Cape.

Work is underway to establish a high-altitude national park close to the Lesotho border and the Naude’s Nek pass – South Africa’s highest lying road at over 2500m.

This new park will see a 30 000-hectare protected area that, once formally declared, will become South Africa’s newest national park, significantly contributing towards the conservation of grasslands and water security.

SANParks Acting CEO, Dr Luthando Dziba, said the ultimate objective was to establish an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable consolidated protected area, primarily by working with private and communal landowners.

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National Park with a Difference Planned for Eastern Cape Grasslands
An aerial photo from a helicopter of an African village in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela. Picture – iStock

“The establishment of this national park will mark a new and innovative approach to protected area expansion as it will be located within a working agricultural landscape,” said Dziba.

The area is rich in biodiversity and endemic species. It also lies within the Eastern Cape Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, a natural freshwater source for people downstream. 

“When declared, the park will also improve formal protection of South Africa’s grasslands which have been identified as a national conservation priority,” added Dziba.

National Park with a Difference Planned for Eastern Cape Grasslands
Hiking to Waterfall Bluff in the Transkei, wild coast of the eastern cape with hiker standing on a rock watching at the waterfall. Picture – iStock

The new Eastern Cape Grasslands National Park will be different from traditional parks. Local landowners will have the opportunity, through stewardship, to voluntarily incorporate their land in the park. 

“As such, they also stand to benefit from a range of financial incentives for private and communal land that is formally protected,” explained Dziba.

 WWF South Africa CEO Dr Morne du Plessis said: “The beauty of this model is that biodiversity conservation and ecological management will be done in partnership with those who live and work in this area – while allowing them to continue deriving benefits from their land through sustainable agriculture and other compatible land uses”.

National Park with a Difference Planned for Eastern Cape Grasslands
Rural landscape Transkei South Africa with green hills and houses on a cloudy day. Picture – iStock

The project, which also needs government funding, aims to restore and maintain the landscape for water security, bringing much-needed employment opportunities to the area through alien plant clearing and wetland restoration.

Thanks to its rugged, unspoilt landscape, the area has rich potential for adventure and cultural tourism, which could help build an all-year-round tourism industry, further unlocking potential jobs. 

The declaration of a national park will also motivate the inclusion of this area into the adjacent Drakensberg World Heritage Site.

“Ultimately, this is a win-win – for nature and people. We can’t wait to see this project coming to fruition,” said du Plessis.

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