7 September 2005
Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has announced his intention to proclaim South Africa’s 22nd national park in the area surrounding Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.
Provisionally named the Karoo National Park, the proposed new park has been made possible by the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA), which donated the 14 500 hectare Karoo Nature Reserve – worth an estimated R23-million – to form the centrepiece of the project.
“With the boost that this development will bring to the Camdeboo area and its people, we are again proving that conservation and communities prosper best together,” Van Schalkwyk said at the site of the proposed park on Tuesday.
“Our department will invest another R6-million over the next three years to create jobs and further develop the necessary facilities to make this new park an engine of growth for the region.”
The Peace Parks Foundation and the SA National Parks Trust have each pledged a further R1-million to South African National Parks (SANParks) over the next two years for the management of the new park.
Van Schalkwyk said public consultations would soon be held to find a name for the new park.
The longer-term plan, Van Schalkwyk said, was to link the new park up with the Mountain Zebra National Park, creating a unique African Karoo wildlife experience and protecting a huge diversity of plant and animal species, including the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra.
The Mountain Zebra National Park has expanded from its original 6 500 hectares to more than 23 000 hectares. Linking the two parks would result in a 500 000-hectare mega-conservation area over 120 kilometres long.
“Although the Eastern Cape is among the three most visited provinces by our domestic tourists, it ranks third-lowest in terms of attracting international visitors,” Van Schalkwyk said.
For this reason, he said, developing world-class ecotourism attractions, combined with the unmatched cultural heritage of the area, would help increase the benefits of tourism to all communities.
The Camdeboo area generated about R99-million in tourism revenue in 2004, supporting almost 700 jobs.
With a projected growth rate of five percent per year – soon to be further boosted by the new park – it is estimated that annual tourism revenue will increase to more than R154-million by 2009.