Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: 20 years of transfrontier conservation, 20 days of virtual celebration
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (established in 1931) in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park (proclaimed in 1938) in Botswana. In 1948 an informal verbal agreement was made between the then Bechuanaland Protectorate and the Union of South Africa to set up a conservation area in the adjacent areas of the two countries. In June 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks Board (now SANParks) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) of Botswana set up a joint management committee to manage the area as a single ecological unit.
A management plan was drafted, reviewed, and approved in 1997. The parties agreed to cooperate in tourism and share equally in park entrance fees. On 7 April 1999, Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their neighbouring national parks as a single ecological unit. On 12 May 2000, President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa formally launched Southern Africa’s first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
This vast wilderness spanning 35,551 km² is a protected area where the boundary between the two countries has no physical barriers. This allows for free movement of animals along ancient migration routes that is so necessary for the survival in the harsh desert environment.
This is the only Transfrontier Park to date that is open in the true sense of the word for tourism movement – as tourists can move freely across the international border within the boundaries of the park. The boundary between the two parks has no physical barriers, although it is also the international border between the two countries. Passports are not required for entry, unless departure is planned through a different gate into another country, in which case a two-day stay in the park is compulsory.
The establishment of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA’s) as a means of jointly managing natural resources across political boundaries is one of the greatest conservation success stories within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since the establishment of Africa’s first TFCA, the Kagalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP), Heads of State in the region have signed a number of treaties, protocols and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) to further expand the network of TFCAs. The most recent is the Iona-Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Park between Angola and Namibia. The SADC region has 18 TFCAs in both terrestrial and marine environments; all in various stages of development.
With the endorsement of the SADC TFCA Programme in 2013, Member States recognised that TFCAs “are shared assets with the potential to meaningfully contribute to conservation of biodiversity and the socio-economic development of rural communities”. This emphasises how TFCAs enable people, countries and institutions to work together, to improve livelihoods for local communities and to promote peace and stability across the region.
The 12 May 2020 provides an opportunity for the region to celebrate the establishment of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 20 years ago, as well as the transfrontier conservation strides that have been made in the Southern African region in the last two decades. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed how we are able to celebrate such a milestone. It has also had severe socio-economic impacts, with jobs and livelihoods in the travel and tourism sector being particularly hard-hit. Revenues from tourism operations are a vital contribution to the sustainable operation of our Protected Areas.
The #kgalagadi2020 virtual celebration of 20 years of transfrontier conservation in SADC brings together conservation and tourism partners in Botswana, South Africa and the region in support of a collaborative, cost effective and carbon-neutral campaign. These are key principles that can guide a collective response in the Southern Africa’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 20 days from 12-31 May 2020, a social media campaign is structured around 4 themes:
The national TFCA focal points of Botswana and South Africa is supported by the Boundless Southern Africa unit to coordinate a task team of partners of the #kgalagadi2020 campaign. The SADC TFCA Network, International Cooperating Partners, tourism operators, former and future visitors to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the general public are invited to support this virtual celebration.
To develop a digital tourism destination campaign that celebrates the last 20 years of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a tourism destination and conservation area to support the recovery of the tourism destination as soon as possible within the relevant COVID-19 guidelines.
- Increase digital destination visibility of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
- Encourage a new type of domestic/regional tourist from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and the SADC region to start dream and plan their first visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
- Provide information about domestic tourism protocols in the context of the COVID-19 ‘new normal’.
- Increase knowledge about transfrontier conservation initiatives and tourism experiences across the SADC region.