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Transfrontier Conservation Areas

 

Transfrontier parks

Essentially, a Transfrontier Park is an area comprising two areas, which border each other across international boundaries and whose primary focus is wildlife conservation. Authorities responsible for the respective areas formally agree to manage the areas as one integrated unit according to a streamlined management plan. The authorities also undertake to remove all human barriers within the transfrontier park so that animals can roam freely.

Transfrontier conservation areas

A transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) on the other hand usually refers to a cross-border region whose different component areas have different forms of conservation status such as national parks, private game reserves, communal natural resource management areas and even hunting concession areas. Although fences, major highways, railway lines or other forms of barriers may separate the various parts, these areas nevertheless border each other and are jointly managed for long-term sustainable use of natural resources. As opposed to Transfrontier Parks, free movement of animals between the different parts that constitute a Transfrontier Conservation Area may not always be possible.

Strategic objective

The establishment and development of Transfrontier Conservation Areas as a vehicle for conservation and sustainable use of biological and cultural resources has the objective of facilitating and promoting regional peace, co-operation and socio-economic development. It taps on the notion that nature knows no boundaries.

Community involvement is key to the success of the TFCA programme. With their involvement the TFCA's are bestowed with the legitimacy that they deserve. From a tourism point of view, it is envisaged that transfrontier parks and transfrontier conservation areas will enable tourists to drive across international boundaries into adjoining conservation areas of participating countries with minimal hurdles or bother.

Equally important, it is anticipated that these transfrontier parks and transfrontier conservation areas will provide jobs and revenue generating opportunities for many local people living within and around them. It sounds logical therefore to presuppose that improving the lives of rural communities will in turn further contribute towards biodiversity conservation by demonstrating the economic and social advantages that can be achieved through wildlife conservation.

It is important to understand that the vision of cross-border collaboration gives effect to the stated objectives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which aims at promoting synergy in regional initiatives for economic, social and conservation benefits over the subcontinent.

In this context, it can be said that the establishment, development and management of transfrontier conservation areas forms part of broader aims of trans-boundary ecosystem management, integration of conservation with development, promoting regional cooperation and socio-economic development in the Southern African sub-continent. Furthermore the TFCA programme forms an integral part of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which also aims to bring Africans together.

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Update on transfrontier conservation areas initiatives

There are six identified transfrontier conservation areas and five of them have memorandum of understanding. Greater Mapungubwe transfrontier conservation area is on the horizon and is currently being negotiated.

 

  • !Ai-!Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Park: 6,222 km2 in extent with 1,902 km2 (31%) in South Africa, and the remainder (69%) in Namibia.
    • Background

On 1 August 2003, his Excellency, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia and, his Excellency, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa signed an international treaty establishing the !Ai-!Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Extensive community consultations were conducted beforehand, as the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa is owned by the Richtersveld community and managed on a contractual basis with South African National Parks (SANParks).This allows the full participation of the local community through elected members representing the four towns in the area, Kuboes, Sendelingsdrift, Lekkersing and Eksteen-fontein, including local pastoralists

These communities would all benefit from increased tourism to the area, while at the same time conserving its unique biodiversity. In addition, a transfrontier park would help maintain the cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle of the Nama people. Various bilateral committees, as well as national working groups on community development, planning and management, security and customs, and finance were constituted to formalise the establishment of the Transfrontier Park.

The signing of the international treaty effectively transformed the bilateral technical committee into a Joint Management Board (JMB) and the working groups into management committees. A comprehensive consultative process was initiated in June 2002 and drafts of the treaty, as well as integrated tourism and management plans were discussed over the ensuing months.

To assist in the process, Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) funded workshops, as well as the appointment of an international coordinator and a community liaison officer. PPF also assisted with its GIS laboratory in the drafting of land-use and tourism plans

  • Description of area

The !Ai-!Ais/ Richtersveld Transfrontier Park measures 6 045 km² and span some of the most spectacular arid and desert mountain scenery in southern Africa . It incorporates the 4 420 km² area of !Ai-!Ais Hotspring Game Park in Namibia and the 1 625 km² area of Richtersveld National Park in South Africa . It features the world's second largest canyon, the Fish River Canyon , which meanders for 161 km between the steep, spectacular cliffs that divide the Nama plateau. In places, the canyon floor is more than 550 m below the plateau, exposing rock of up to 2 600 million years old. Other areas will eventually be added to the park. The idea is to link the transfrontier park with the Namib Desert belt along the Namibian coast and the Lona National Park in Angola . This area will measure some 180 000 km² and will incorporate a wide range of community-based natural resource management programme.

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  • Major features

Two major climatic regions meet within the transfrontier park, namely; the warm temperate winter rainfall area, characteristic of the Succulent Karoo biome and a non-seasonal rainfall region to the east, akin to the Nama-Karoo biome. The rainfall in the winter rainfall area (May – September) varies from 15 mm per annum in the valleys to 300 mm on the mountain tops. Chilly misty conditions are often caused by the Benguela anti- cyclone. In winter the temperature can drop to below 0°C, while in summer it can soar to 52°C, hence the appropriate name of the area: !Ai-!Ais, meaning hot, very hot.

The !Ai-!Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a renowned geological classroom, featuring many distinct periods of geological history that span some 2 000 million years. Complex, intensely folded, fractured and actively uplifted landmasses are now heavily eroded. The Orange River mouth is a Ramsar site, and the 350-million-year-old erosion-rich lower Orange River gorge abounds with history, folklore and grandeur. The area is renowned for housing most of the richest succulent flora of the world. The Orange River is characterised by striking endangered riparian bush.

The Gariep centre of plant endemism, with the Transfrontier park at its core, has at least 2 700 species of plants, 560 of which are endemic or near endemic. A soft, but regular and therefore effective rainfall is mainly responsible for this abundance of plant life. Many of the endemic plants are limited to small areas, mostly on mountains where the rainfall is higher and habitat diversity is greatest. The best-known endemic plants are the stem succulents known as the ‘' halfmens'', pachypodium namaquanum, and the giant tree aloe, Aloe pillansii . The animal species found in the area are adapted to withstand the harsh, arid climate. Other species are concentrated in the denser vegetation bordering the Orange River , including 56 species of mammals and 194 bird species. Furthermore, a large variety of lizard (35 species) and snakes (16 species) is found in various microhabitats.

The four main landscapes include lowland plains savannah in the majority of the area, a somewhat hilly granite plateau in the western portions, the Lebombo Mountains that rise to an average of only 500 m above sea level, and the floodplain riverbank areas along the Save, Changane, Limpopo , Olifants, Shingwedzi and Komati rivers.There are five major types of vegetation, namely Mopane woodlands and shrubveld in the northern portions, mixed bushveld in the southern half, sandveld in the southeastern areas of Mozambique, riverine woodlands mostly in Kruger and Gonarezhou, and seasonally flooded and dry grasslands in and around Banhine National Park.

The vast numbers of wildlife and plant species found here are the building blocks of successful ecotourism. These include at least 147 mammals, 116 reptiles, 49 species of fish, 34 different species of frogs, and an incredible 500 or more species of birds. In addition, at least 2 000 species of plants have been identified.

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  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP): 37,991 km2 in extent, with 9,591 km 2 (27%) in South Africa and the remainder in Botswana.
    • Background

This peace park has been in existence since 1948, thanks to an informal verbal agreement between the conservation authorities of the then Bechuanaland Protectorate and the Union of South Africa. In June 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks Board (now SANParks) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana set up a joint management committee to manage the area as a single ecological unit. This undertaking led to the drafting of a management plan, which was reviewed and approved by the two conservation agencies early in 1997.

The plan provided a basis for cooperative tourism ventures and proposed the equal sharing of entrance fees by both countries. An integral feature of the agreement was that each country would provide and maintain its own tourism facilities and infrastructure, giving particular attention to developing and involving communities living adjacent to the park.

On 7 April 1999, Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their adjacent national parks, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa as a single ecological unit.

The boundary between the two parks, which is also the international border between the two countries, had no physical barriers, thus allowing for the free movement of animals. 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 .

  • Main features

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lies in the southern Kalahari, an arid region where annual average temperatures range from 4 - 32°C, but extreme temperatures of -11°C and up to 45°C have been recorded. The Nossob and Auob rivers cross the area. While these riverbeds are normally dry, they do flow once or twice a century after heavy rains. The three large pans in the Mabuasehube area of the park support a good variety of game. Spectacular parallel dunes of both red and white sands, separated by dune valleys, characterise the area. Shrubby Kalahari dune bushveld predominates and is characterised by scattered shrubs of grey camel thorn ( Acacia haematoxylon ) and grasses such as dune bushman grass ( Stipagrostis amabilis ), gha grass ( Centropodia glauca ) and giant three-awn ( Aristida meridionalis ).

A second component of vegetation, the thorny Kalahari dune bushveld, is characterised by sparsely scattered trees of camel thorn ( Acacia erioloba ), shepherd's tree ( Boscia albitrunca ) and false umbrella thorn ( Acacia luderitzii ).The vastness of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park allows the nomadic ungulate populations and their predators to maintain themselves in balance with their environment, consequently there is little need for extensive management intervention. The 60 species of mammals recorded include large herds of ungulates, mainly gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, eland and to a lesser extent red hartebeest. These ungulates and an abundance of rodents support many carnivores.

The transfrontier park has built up a deserved reputation as one on the few ecosystems in southern Africa where a variety of large predators can be maintained, with leopard, brown and spotted hyena, lion and cheetah all being well represented. Other carnivores include the caracal, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and Cape fox.

The endangered wild dog is also occasionally sighted. Other threatened mammals include the pangolin, the honey badger and Woosman's desert rat. Three hundred and seven bird species have been recorded, including many species endemic to the arid southwest region of southern Africa . Large nests of the sociable weavers are also characteristic of the region and can contain colonies of up to 300 birds. Wild ostrich are frequently seen as well as the world's heaviest flying bird, the Kori bustard. Of the 80 raptors recorded in South Africa, 52 have been recorded in the Kgalagadi.

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  • Adventure / wilderness trails

Deep in the heart of Botswana's side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Polentswa wilderness trail is available through an area that has remained unchanged from the days of our forefathers. For some 257 km of track, on which only 4x4 vehicle may travel for two nights and three days, those who wish to experience a sense of solitude and freedom in the wilderness will find only minimal signs of human intervention. The trail sometimes passes through areas of tall grass and sometimes over dunes of soft sand. The route links various pans, some plains and some spectacular. Kalahari wildlife can be seen in varying concentrations along the trail and lion may explore camps at night.

The Mabuasehube wilderness trail runs through the centre of the Botswana part of the park from the Mabuasehube area of the park to Nossob rest camp. This is a two-day, one-night trail over 155 km.

The Kaa game-viewing trail is a roughly circular route, starting and ending at the Kaa entrance gate, consisting of a total distance of 191 km with camping spots along the way. The trails must be booked through the Botswana Reservations Office and only one group, of not fewer than two and not more than five 4x4 vehicles, is allowed to start on each trail on any given day to ensure exclusivity.

A further two access routes linking the Nossob riverbed with the entrance gates on the Botswana side alternatively at Kaa and Mabuasehube are also accessible. The distance from Nossob to Mabuasehube is 170 km and from Kannaguass to Kaa 81 km. Both routes can be driven in both directions.

On the South African side the Nossob 4x4 guided ecotrail runs into the magnificent Kalahari dune veld and allows for up to five 4x4 vehicles per trail. The route runs over three days and four nights and is an excellent way to experience the Kalahari's tranquillity.

  • Cultural importance

An important development in conservation as a land-use option took place in October 2002 when a total of almost 58 000 ha of land in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was restored to the Khomani San and Mier communities. The 27 769 ha of San Heritage Land and 30 134 ha of Mier Heritage Land will be managed as contractual parks by SANParks and the income generated will be split equally.

The communities retain commercial benefits and rights, as well as the use of the land for symbolic and culture purposes. A lodge to further benefit these communities had previously been planned for the area. This is a prime example of environmental management that also ensures the sustainability of conservation.

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  • Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area: 4,872 km2 in extent, 2,561 km2 (53%) in South Africa, 1,350 km2 (28%) in Botswana, and 960 km2 (19%) in Zimbabwe
    • Background

The concept of establishing a transfrontier conservation area around the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers dates back to an initiative by General J C Smuts who decreed in 1922 that some farms along the banks of the Limpopo River be set aside for the Dongola Botanical Reserve. The primary aim of this reserve was to study the vegetation and assess the agricultural and pastoral potential of the area. This idea was transformed into Dongola National park in 1940s when the results of the study showed that the area was not suitable for human habitation and that it could best be used as a “wildlife sanctuary for the recreation of the nation”. It was during this time that the idea of linking the sanctuary with similar conservation areas in the then Bechuanaland Protectorate and Southern Rhodesia was first mooted.

In the Botswana , land to be committed to the proposed Greater Mapungubwe TFCA would encompass the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (Notugre), an association of private land owners who have agreed to remove the fences that separate their properties and jointly manage wildlife resources. Notugre presently embraces 36 farms with a combined area of 70 000 ha. It is renowned for its Tuli elephants, the largest elephant population on private land in Africa . The establishment of this TFCA will considerably expand the range of land available to this elephant population.

On the South African side, the land to be committed to the TFCA would comprise a complex mosaic of private land, state-owned land and national parks. South African National Parks (SANParks) with the assistance of the World Wide Fund for Nature ( South Africa ), De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd, the National Parks Trust and Peace Parks Foundation, has since 1998 been involved in land purchases to create Mapungubwe National Park . This park forms the core area of South Africa 's contribution to the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA and will include 18 properties of 25 8000ha in total. A major advance in the consolidation of the core area was made in 2002 when De Beers, and SANParks signed an agreement whereby properties owned by De Beers would be integrated into the core area. To date, roughly 75% of the park's core area has been consolidated by means of purchase or contract, and the Mapungubwe National parks (replacing the working name Vhembe-Dongola) was officially opened on 24 September 2004.

The potential area that Zimbabwe can commit to the proposed TFCA is the Tuli Circle Safari Area covering an area of 41 100 ha. This area is contiguous with the northern end of Notugre and has no physical barriers to empede the movement of wildlife. The potential also exists to incorporate portions of the Maramani Communal Land into the area of the proposed Greater Mapungubwe TFCA.

 

  • Major features

The landscape south of the Limpopo River is a flat Mopane veld with sandstone and conglomerate ridges and koppies. Nearer the Limpopo, the flat landscape changes into rigged, hilly terrain. The altitude varies from 300 to 780 m above sea level. In the Tuli Circle Safari area, the relatively flat basalt landscape gives way to the Shashe River basin running north-south to join the Limpopo River. Other major rivers that cross the proposed TFCA are the Tune and Motloutse rivers in Botswana, and Mogalakwena River in South Africa.

Three main vegetation communities are recognized in the region: riparian fringe along the Limpopo and the Shashe rivers and tributaries; the Acacia-Salvadora community of the Limpopo flats (including flood plains) and vlei areas, and unique baobab and mlala palm stands and mixed western Mopane veld on ridges and flats south of the riparian fringe and floodplains. Both the riparian forest and the Acacia-Savadora communities are regarded as being among the most endangered vegetation communities in South African environment. Twenty-six Red Data plant species occur within the Mapungubwe National Park.

Within the Tuli Circle Safari Area, there are three botanical reserves: Tolo River (0,44 km²), Pioneer (0,38 km²) and South Camp (0,26 km²). The region has excellent potential for a “big five” conservation area. Viable populations of lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena still occur, apart from the well-known Tuli elephant. In addition, there are significant populations of ungulates within the area of a proposed TFCA, such as eland, gemsbok, duiker, impala, zebra, Sharpe's grysbok, steenbok and blue wildebeest. The habitat is also suitable for both white and black rhinoceros, which led to the release of four white rhinoceros into Mapungubwe National Park in 2004. The permanent pools in the Limpopo River offer refuge to crocodiles and hippopotamus as well as a variety indigenous fish species. De Beers recently reintroduced wild dogs, roan, tsessebe and elephant into Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve.

This area also has great diversity of birdlife and over 350 species have been recorded to date. At least eight black eagle breeding pairs have been recorded in sandstone hills.

  • Cultural importance

The cultural resources of the Greater Mapungubwe basin are generally associated with Iron Age settlements of around 1200 AD. The similarity of ivory objects, pottery remains and imported glass beads excavated at different sites that spread across the modern international borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe attests to the cultural affinity of the people that lived in the Greater Mapungubwe basin during the Iron Age.

The Iron Age archeological sites of Mapungubwe, K2 , Leokwe and the Schroda site in the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa , and the Mmamagwe site in Botswana are amongst the best-studied Iron Age sites in southern Africa . They represent the Zhizo, K2 and Mapungubwe Iron Age cultures that existed in this region roughly between 600 AD and 1300 AD. Small Iron Age sites postdating this period have also been recorded in the area, including stonewalled sites on hilltops and Khami-type ruins.

Mapungubwe is renowned for the golden rhino and is believed to be the precursor of Great Zimbabwe, the most remarkable Iron Age site in southern Africa. The Mapungubwe landscape was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in July 2003. Other important archaeological sites are at Toutswe Mogala and Mmamagwe in Botswana. Several sites are also situated on Sentinel Ranch and Mapela Hill in Zimbabwe.
Additional features of cultural importance in the Limpopo valley are the numerous San rock paintings and engravings ( petroglyphs ), fossilised dinosaur footprints and skeletal remains of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus which became extinct approximately 65 million years ago.

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  • Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park: (Formerly Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park) 35,000km2 in extent of which 10,000 km2 is in Mozambique, 20,000 km2 in South Africa and 5,000 km2 in Zimbabwe.
    • Background

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park began with a meeting between President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and the president of the World Wide Fund for Nature (South Africa ) in 1990. In 1991 the Mozambican government used funds made available by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for feasibility studies towards the implementation of a TFCA pilot project. The 1992 Peace Accord in Mozambique and the South African democratic election of 1994 paved the way for the political processes to proceed towards making this idea a reality. Feasibility studies initiated by the World Bank culminated in a pilot project that was launched with GEF funding in 1996.

This process led to the signing of a trilateral agreement in Skukuza , South Africa on 10 November 2000 by Minister Helder Muteia, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Mozambique ; Minister Valli Moosa, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in South Africa , and Minister Francis Nhema, Minister of Environment and Tourism in Zimbabwe . The Skukuza Agreement signalled the three nation's intent to establish and develop a Transfrontier Park and surrounding conservation area, at that time called Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park.

Since the signing of the trilateral agreement, working groups operating under a technical committee were established. The technical committee, in turn, would work under the Ministerial Committee.

Finally, on 9 December 2002 , Heads of State of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe signed an international treaty at Xai-Xai , Mozambique to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP). The signing of the GLTP treaty effectively transformed the technical committee into a joint management board and the working groups into management committees. The established permanent management committees deal with conservation, safety and security, finance, human resources, legislation and tourism. Facilitating the process is an international coordinator, who was replaced in November 2003 when Mozambique took over from South Africa as coordinating country to develop and implement the GLTP project. In terms of the Skukuza agreement, the coordinator ship rotates every two years. Zimbabwe is now preparing to take over from Mozambique.

  • Major features

The GLTP comprises a vast area of the lowland savannah ecosystem, not only in the Transfrontier Park itself, but also in the conservation area that will be reintegrated for joint management. This ecosystem is bisected by the Lebombo Mountains running along the border between South Africa and Mozambique. Five major river systems cross this ecoregion in a generally west-east flow. The dry savannah is maintained due to a relatively low average rainfall of about 550 mm per year.

The four main landscapes include lowland plains savannah in the majority of the area, a somewhat hilly granite plateau in the western portions, the Lebombo Mountains that rise to an average of only 500 m above sea level, and the floodplain riverbank areas along the Save, Changane, Limpopo , Olifants, Shingwedzi and Komati rivers.There are five major types of vegetation, namely Mopane woodlands and shrubveld in the northern portions, mixed bushveld in the southern half, sandveld in the southeastern areas of Mozambique, riverine woodlands mostly in Kruger and Gonarezhou, and seasonally flooded and dry grasslands in and around Banhine National Park.

There are five major types of vegetation, namely Mopane woodlands and shrubveld in the northern portions, mixed bushveld in the southern half, sandveld in the southeastern areas of Mozambique, riverine woodlands mostly in Kruger and Gonarezhou, and seasonally flooded and dry grasslands in and around Banhine National Park.

The vast numbers of wildlife and plant species found here are the building blocks of successful ecotourism. These include at least 147 mammals, 116 reptiles, 49 species of fish, 34 different species of frogs, and an incredible 500 or more species of birds. In addition, at least 2 000 species of plants have been identified.

  • Cultural importance

Stone-age artefacts and more recent Iron Age implements at many sites provide evidence of a very long and almost continuous presence of humans in the area making up the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Early inhabitants were San hunter-gatherers who left numerous rock-paintings scattered across the region, while Bantu people entered about 800 years ago, gradually displacing the San.

The available evidence suggests that humans occurred at low density and were mostly confined to the more permanent river courses. It is reasonable to assume from the continuous presence at some sites (Pafuri, for example) that humans and wildlife existed in harmony, with no major impact of humans on wildlife or the reverse. The arid nature of the environment, together with an abundance of predators and diseases (e.g. malaria) would have played a role in preventing large-scale human population growth and settlement. Nevertheless, sophisticated cultures already existed by the 16 th century, as evidenced by the Thulamela and other ruins near Pafuri.

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  • Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area: 4,195 km2 in extent, of which 317 km2 (8%) is in Swaziland, 2,783 km2 (66%) is in Mozambique, and 1,095 km2 (26%) is in South Africa.
    • Background

The Lubombo TFCA is a unique and complex TFCA, consisting of five mini TFCAs. The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area (TFCA) Protocol was signed between the Governments of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland on 22 June 2000 . These mini TFCAs are as follows:

  • Ndumu-Tembe-Futi TFCA is between Mozambique and South Africa (SA)
  • Ponto do Ouro-Kosi Bay Marine and Coastal TFCA is between Mozambique and SA
  • Nsubane-Pongola TFCA is between SA and Swaziland
  • Lubombo Conservancy-Goba TFCA is between Mozambique and Swaziland
  • Songimvelo-Malolotja TFCA is between SA and Swaziland (recently incorporated into Lubombo TFCA)
  • Where is the Lubombo TFCA?
  • Ndumo-Tembe-Futi TFCA will link the Maputo Elephant Reserve, through the Futi corridor, with the Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa . Other community conservation areas within this region will be incorporated into this TFCA.
  • Ponto do Ouro-Kosi Bay Marine and Coastal TFCA will link the Greater St Lucia Wetlands World Heritage Site with the coastline of Mozambique.
  • Nsubane-Pongola TFCA would encompass the Jozini region in SA and the Lavumisa region in Swaziland
  • Lubombo Conservancy-Goba TFCA will encompass the Royal Hlane National Park and Mlawula Game Reserve in Swaziland and the Changalane region in Mozambique
  • Songimvelo Malolotja TFCA will include the Songimvelo Nature Reserve in SA and the Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland.
  • Major features

Significant biodiversity resources exist in the area, some of which are listed below:

  • The area represents a substantial proportion of the core area of the IUCN designated Maputoland Centre of plant endemism
  • There is an unusually high level of endemism from all high level taxonomic groupings e.g. aves, amphibians, reptilians.
  • A diverse landscape which is intact in this geomorphical, hydrological, aquatic, terrestrial and ecological functioning.
  • Several established protected areas, namely, Ndumo Game Reserve, Tembe Elephant Park, Maputo Elephant Reserve and Sileza Nature Reserve.
  • Ndumo Game Reserve, listed as a Wetland of International importance in terms of UNESCO's Ramsar Convention.
  • The Futi Delta is a unique wetland.
  • The region has the potential for reestablishment of the natural movement range for elephant and other species.
  • Many tropical biota and unique vegetation communities such as sand forests and woody grasslands exist in the area.
  • The bird species are also prevalent.
  • The World Heritage Site, Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park's significant features include:
  • Coral reefs which include soft corals
  •  800 species of marine fish
  • Humpback whales pass close to the shore in route to east Africa
  • Ragged tooth shark aggregations are popular attractions for SCUBA divers
  • Whale sharks and manta rays are sighted frequently.
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  • Cultural importance

The rich sociological, cultural and historical resources of the areas are as follows:

  • The communities practice the unique form of traditional fishing and fishery management ( fonya ).
  • There are several ancestral and sacred sites and important cultural associations with certain species of animals.
  • The area has a rich history with past linkages with Arab traders, Portuguese and British colonisation.
  • There is considerable movement and tribal affiliation of people across the international boundaries.
  • Traditional craft markets allow the communities to market their goods.
  • Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area: 8,113km2 in extent of which 5,170 km 2 (64%) is in Lesotho and 2,943 km2 (36%) is in South Africa.
    • Background

The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Project is a collaborative initiative between the Governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The main objectives of the project are to conserve the globally significant biodiversity that occurs in the catchments of the 300km border straddling the Maloti and the Drakensberg mountains, and t o stimulate integrated nature-based tourism development with maximum participation of local communities

Implementation of the five-year project is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank). On July 26 2002, the Governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa , and the World Bank signed the GEF Trust Fund Grant and Project Agreements.

The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountain bioregion has globally significant plant and animal biodiversity, with unique habitats and high levels of endemism. This unique bioregion has an estimated 51.5% endemic plants and has some 119 plant and animal species that are threatened and are listed in the International Red Data Books. Some of these threatened species are the Drakensberg cycad, various lilies and orchids, and birds such as the Bearded vulture and the Cape vulture. 41 out of the 43 Southern African endemic bird species breed in this bioregion. 32 of these are endemic to the bioregion. There are 11 endemic mammal species in the area.

The project area is also considered to be one of eight major centres of diversity for reptiles and amphibians in Southern Africa, there being about 40 endemic species present. These levels of diversity and endemism coupled with the existence of the largest concentration of rock art and paintings in sub-Saharan Africa led to the declaration, in December 2000, of one of the largest parks in the bioregion, the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, as a World Heritage Site.

The Maloti-Drakensberg bioregion, a 300km long alpine and montane zone, is also the most important water catchment area for the people of Lesotho and South Africa. Two of the largest civil engineering projects in southern Africa, the Tugela-Vaal Scheme and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, supply water from the mountains to the rest of the Kindom of Lesotho and the economic powerhouse of Africa, the Province of Gauteng.

However, these special resources and ecosystem functions are increasingly under threat from commercial uses, timber plantations and agricultural practices that are unsustainable. Rangelands in areas of high conservation value have been degraded by grazing regimes based on communal access and decreased regulatory capabilities. The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Project therefore seeks to address some of these threats and foster a collaborative conservation and development of this globally significant bioregion. A Memoranda of Understanding were signed between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa, and among key institutions of three provinces of South Africa, namely, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife of KwaZulu-Natal province, Department of Economic Affairs, Environment & Tourism of the Eastern Cape province, Department of Tourism, Environment & Economic Affairs of the Free State province and the South African National Parks.

In addition to specific conservation and development projects implemented on the ground, two specific outputs of the project will be a 25-year bioregional conservation strategy and a tourism development strategy for the bioregion.

  • Cultural importance

One of the two reasons for the declaration of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in the Maloti-Drakensberg bioregion as a World Heritage site was the existence of some of the most outstanding and diverse rock art in the area. The bioregion has the largest concentrated group of paintings in Africa , south of the Sahara , and is uniquely different from the rock art found in other continents. Most of the rock paintings found in caves and rock shelters throughout the bioregion were done by the San people over a period of at least 4 000 years.

These paintings are masterpieces of human creative genius, bearing testimony to the spiritual lifestyles and beliefs of the San people whose language and culture has been lost to the region over the years. The ancestors of the nineteenth century San people are believed to have inhabited the foothills of the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains from about 8 000 years ago. They (the San) are believed to have been a small group of hunters and gatherers who lived in caves and rock shelters, many of which were adorned with their paintings.

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