South African National Parks Week 2016
In 1910 the Game Reserves and General wildlife Preservation were placed under the Transvaal Administration. At this stage James Stevenson-Hamilton (former Game Ranger at Sabie Game Reserve) was very optimistic about the future of the reserves and conservation. He had managed to convince landowners to oversee the land between the Sabie- and Olifants rivers, as well as between the Letaba and Shingwedzi rivers. In 1912 he submitted a proposal to Sir Patrick Duncan that the reserves should become a national park. This idea was well accepted and was also supported by the Wildlife Society of Southern Africa.
In 1923 Col Deneys Reitz MP visited the Sabie Game Reserve, was very impressed and used his influence to lobby the idea of a national park. He drafted the bill on national parks, but due to the elections and change in government, the bill was not passed.
Minister Piet Grobler, the Minister of Lands, once again tabled the bill in Parliament. At long last the memorable day dawned and it was on 31 May 1926, that Minister Grobler moved the National Parks Bill in Parliament. He presented it as a realisation of President Kruger’s ideal. Despite opposition, the National Parks Act, Act No. 56 of 1926, was promulgated on this day, finally turning a vision into a reality and the first board of South African National Parks was appointed.
The stylised face of a kudu with its magnificent, curved horns was adopted as the face of South African National Parks. First appearing in 1955, it has undergone many improvements over the years. This logo was considered secondary to those of the individual parks, however, now the Kudu is the predominant logo used to represent all parks within the SANParks framework.
South African National Parks (SANParks) is the leading conservation authority in all national parks around this country, responsible for over 3 751 113 hectares of protected land in 22 national parks. The focus for SANParks in the first decade of democracy has been to make national parks more accessible to tourists and communities in order to ensure conservation remains a viable contributor to social and economic development in rural areas.
South African National Parks, (SANParks), manages a system of parks which represents the indigenous fauna, flora, landscapes and associated cultural heritage of the country. Of the 21 national parks, 15 have overnight tourist facilities, with an unrivalled variety of accommodation in arid, coastal, mountain and bushveld habitats. The national parks are: Addo Elephant, Agulhas, Augrabies, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Bontebok, Camdeboo, Golden Gate, Karoo, Knysna, Kgalagadi Tranfrontier Park, Kruger, Marakele, Mapungubwe, Mountain Zebra, Namaqua, Tsitsikamma, Table Mountain, Tankwa Karoo, Vaalbos, West Coast and Wilderness.
With the changed structure of the country after 1994, and with majority rule, the then National Parks Board re-conceptualised its role in South African society. SANParks, supported by the government through the Department of Environmental Affairs has also increased the area of land under its protection by over 400 000 hectares. The organisation has managed to transform itself, continue its high research and management standards, expand the land under its protection at an entirely unprecedented rate and has also begun to generate about 80% of its operating revenue – a spectacular financial achievement compared to most conservation agencies in the world, including those in developed countries.
The National Park Week concept is one that has been running for quite some time in a number of other countries, specifically in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is a week that is dedicated to creating awareness about national parks, raising the public status of national parks as well as educating the public about the need and use of national parks. In the US this is a week that is proclaimed by the State President and in the UK a number of top officials including the ruling royal family are often involved in the presentations for the week.
The very first national park that was proclaimed in the US, Yellowstone National Park in 1872, was aimed as a rallying point for national unity and pride as well as to create new national symbols in the ‘new country’. The national parks system was to showcase the best the country had to offer in terms of natural and cultural heritage. The aim, therefore, of establishing a National Parks Week in South Africa is to show that the national parks system in SA is linked to the global national parks movement and to showcase the best SA has to offer in terms of natural, cultural and historical heritage.
South African National Parks is to embark on developing an annual National Parks Week for South Africa whose inception is based on the following objectives (in no order of importance):
- To instill a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical, specifically that which is protected within the national parks system.
- To educate the public on the importance of the natural and cultural heritage that is held in custody by Protected Area Agencies, specifically South African National Parks (SANParks).
- It is to restore the status of national parks as envisioned in the first national park established, that of creating pride in one’s heritage and uniting the peoples of South Africa and of the world.
- It is to give the public an understanding of the business of national parks, dispelling the current understanding that national parks are either places of tourism or khaki clad right-wingers.
- To give the public a broader understanding of the custodianship role played by SANParks in conservation.
- To raise awareness about the role national parks in the management of endangered species and the community’s rights to sustainable utilisation of natural resources
- To create a greater understanding of the role of CITES in conservation and the survival of wildlife species
‘Know Your National Parks’
In line with the theme that has been adopted by the organisation since inception the above theme will be the theme for the National Parks Week this current period.
This theme is one that is aimed specifically at encouraging and restoring national pride in these areas that have been set aside for protection of South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.
Launch of the National parks Week
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molea and the Chief Executive Officer of SANParks, Mr Fundisile Mketeni will officially open the South African National parks Week on 11 September 2016 at the Addo Elephant National Park at 10:00 am.
Date of the National Parks Week
National Parks weeks is set to be observed from 12- 16 September 2016. The date of the observation coincides with the South Africa commemoration of Heritage Month. The choice of this month is borne by the view that natural resources are a national heritage and as such in line with the theme, ‘Know Your National Parks’, it is deemed fitting that this event be launched on heritage month.
National (anchor) exhibition
There will be a national/anchor exhibition that will be held in Addo Elephant National Park, for the duration of the National Parks Week.
The exhibition will comprise of displays from SANParks (including all national parks under its management) and other conservation entities in order to bring variety and representation of the broader South African biodiversity landscape, including private players in the conservation industry who may deem it beneficial to participate in this event.
All national parks are set to hold exhibitions of their own and they will be based on environmental education, a theme that has already been largely established by the People and Conservation division.
These exhibitions will be launched the day after the official launch of the National Parks Week at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.
National park open days
A key and most important part of the National Parks Week program is be the Open Access Day programme. The aim is to encourage all national parks to offer Open Access Days to members of the public, especially local communities, for the duration of the National Parks Week. Members of the public are to be given free access into the park and given an opportunity to learn more about the park’s business as they are being guided through the exhibition and other interpretive centers or public facilities in the park.
The open access does not in anyway include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities as the organisation may incur unrecoverable and exorbitant costs through such an exercise. However, it is considered to be of importance to consider discounted rates for tourists for the duration of the National Parks Week.
Soutn African National Parks (SANParks)