Bilateral agreement on Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP)

On 3 March 1999 the presidents of Botswana and South Africa approved the signing of a bilateral agreement to manage the two countries’ adjacent national parks -- the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa -- as a single ecological unit, which is now formally known as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The agreement protocol was endorsed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces this month, as required by South Africa's Constitution. The new park was formally opened by the presidents of the two countries in February 2000. Following the agreement, a joint management structure for the overall management of the park would be established. A one-stop border post to facilitate access to the park would be build at Twee Rivieren.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has been in de facto existence for more than half a century as both countries tried to manage this extensive area in the southern Kalahari in as harmonised and integrated a way as possible. The agreement formalised previous arrangements to ensure that no barrier to wildlife movement exists along the international boundary that separates the 9 591 km2 Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the 28 400 km2 Gemsbok National Park.

Since June 1992 a joint management committee comprising representatives from the conservation authorities of South Africa (South African National Parks) and Botswana (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) had been working to formalise the de facto agreement and establish the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This was the first formally declared transfrontier park in Africa and would hopefully be a model for conservation in the 21st century. (Worldwide 136 such transfrontier conservation areas have been identified, involving 98 different countries, or almost half the world's 224 countries and dependent territories).

By establishing the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana and South Africa stand of benefit through:

  • Guaranteeing the long-term conservation of the valuable wildlife resources in the southern Kalahari, thus helping to maintain the integrity of the entire Kalahari ecosystem.
  • Pooling of expertise and experience on a good neighbourly basis.
  • Raising the international profile of this important conservation area through joint promotional campaigns, thereby enhancing its status and potential as a tourist destination.
  • Increasing the economic potential of the park and surrounding areas, which will bring benefits to both countries, especially to the local communities adjacent to the park.

Plans to formalise the joint development and management of the two contiguous parks were proposed in 1989, following a fact-finding study on tourism developments in southern Africa. The study was commissioned by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Botswana, and, as a result, in May 1991 the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana received a mandate to consult further on the matter with South African National Parks. Initial meetings between the two conservation agencies led to the establishment of a joint transfrontier management committee (TMC).

The TMC has been responsible for the coordination of the management of the two parks, and has worked towards the formal establishment of a transfrontier park. A management plan for the area has been drafted by the TMC, and the policies and actions necessary to maintain the cohesiveness and unity of the park have been agreed. It provides the policies for joint management of the area as a single ecological unit and the basis for the promotion of tourism. This plan is now being implemented and will be regularly revised and updated.

Tourists will be able to move freely within the park, and the TMC has produced a unified set of regulations to govern visitor behaviour throughout the park. The two parks will operate autonomously in the running of their own internal affairs and in the development of their own tourist facilities, as agreed in the management plan. Both countries recognise the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of the other. It has been agreed that entrance fees to the park will be pooled and shared equally by both countries, but other revenue (from accommodation, camping, etc.) will be retained by the country that generates it.
The overall objectives of the management plan of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are as follows:

  • To preserve the diversity of organisms indigenous to the southern Kalahari as functional elements of the ecosystem, with predators receiving priority.
  • To maintain those ecological processes that characterise the Kalahari ecosystem.
  • To provide facilities and opportunities for research and monitoring to advance understanding of the physical and biological processes of the Kalahari ecosystem.
  • To provide educational and interpretative programmes for visitors to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the Kalahari ecosystem.
  • To realise economic returns from tourism while safeguarding the ecological integrity and pristine wilderness of the Kalahari.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Foundation

The agreement makes provision for the establishment of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Foundation (KTPF). The KTPF is to be incorporated under section 21 of the South African Companies Act, 1973 (Act 61 of 1993).
The KTPF will provide the representatives of Botswana and South Africa with the opportunity to share ideas, develop proposals, provide general guidance with respect to activities undertaken in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and take steps that are in accordance with the agreement to facilitate the integration and joint management of the parks.

The objectives of the KTPF are to promote conservation and to develop the potential of the park as a tourist destination. To implement its objectives, the KTPF will:

  • Monitor the implementation of the management plan.
  • Render advice on matters arising from the agreement.
  • Initiate steps that will facilitate further cooperation and integration of activities as may be delegated to it from time to time by the parties.
  • Receive donations dedicated to the implementation of the agreement from third parties and distribute such donations equitably to the Wildlife Department and the SANP.