Now that the country is emerging from COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, South Africans can reconnect with our beautiful natural heritage in dedicated wild spaces and national parks. Marking this occasion even more fittingly, is September being our country’s annual Tourism and Heritage month presenting the perfect platform for the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF SA) and South African National Parks (SANParks) to team up in launching a special campaign that celebrates and calls for the support of our country’s world-class national parks.
Protecting South Africa’s system of sustainable national parks
We know more than ever that we need our natural spaces and places. Our national parks are the cornerstone of protected areas in our country which is blessed with a natural and cultural wealth almost beyond comparison. Within our national parks we have thousands of kilometres of beaches where the waves from two oceans break, mountains and valleys, wild plains and endless grasslands populated by rich animal and plant life. National Parks are also hotspots of cultural heritage and play a major role in reviving indigenous knowledge and oral history. As humans we too rely on nature for our own health and wellbeing.
The “You are nature – Support it!” campaign by WWF and SANParks is calling on South Africans to help protect our parks as natural treasures by means of the following ways:
1. Maintain a hectare of national park land and win a prize
By making a donation of R300, individuals will contribute towards the maintenance of the more than 4-million hectares (comprising 70% of the protected areas under state management) overseen by SANParks. With each donation, individuals stand in line to win one of the following prizes:
- First prize: An opportunity for two people to accompany the SANParks game capture team for one day as they conduct game capture operations in a South African national park.
- Second prize: An opportunity for a group of four people to experience a Wilderness Trail in the Kruger National Park.
- Third prize: Three winners will each receive two nights’ accommodation for two people
2. Visit some of the beautiful SANParks sites
SANParks manages a system of 19 functional national parks in seven of the nine provinces of South Africa. South Africans can enjoy these precious landscapes which hold natural and cultural heritage assets which includes:
– Wildflower phenomenon – At the moment for instance, the flower season is in full bloom in the Western Cape. Usually drawing thousands of visitors from around the country, the changing weather patterns mean the wildflowers bloom well into late October. The West Coast National Park is a good viewing spot and the Postberg section is open from 09h00 until 16h00 with last entry at 15h00.
– Archaeological sites – The historical wonders of Mapungubwe can be admired by booking a guided heritage tour. Popular sites in Kruger National Park include Thulamela and Masorini. Most other parks also have a variety of Stone Age and Iron Age sites.
– Rock art – Impressive and ancient rock art was left by San and Khoekhoen throughout South Africa. Parks such as the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site, Tsitsikamma Area of the Garden Route National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park and Kruger National Park offer opportunities to view these rock paintings.
The “You are nature – Support it!” campaign aims to raise between R3 – R5 million and will run until end October 2020. As a leading conservation authority, SANParks is a public entity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries. Recognised as a world leader in conservation and protected area management, SANParks employs more than 4000 locals.
Commenting on the campaign Justin Smith, head of business development with WWF South Africa says “The lockdown has reminded many of us the true value of nature, how much we need it, and how much we crave it when we cannot access it. Now that restrictions have been relaxed, it’s more important than ever to support our world-class national parks as they are the core of our country’s protected areas, for our wildlife and wild spaces, and the many people who rely on tourism for a living,”
SANParks Managing Executive: Tourism Development & Marketing, Hapiloe Sello says “Our acclaimed National Parks yield invaluable socio-economic, cultural and wellness benefits. Conservation is a public good that is often underfunded. Yet, our protected areas play such a special part as refuge for our country’s natural assets as one of the megadiverse countries in the world, support important ecological infrastructure and contribute to the national GDP directly and indirectly. Through this campaign we are hoping to accelerate much-needed conservation activities and support local employment for our national parks which are places of value and shared pride for all South Africans”.