South Africa’s new national park

25 June 2007

South Africa’s newly proclaimed Mokala National Park, situated south-west of Kimberley in the Northern Cape, offers visitors unspoilt views of the surrounding countryside, has an abundance of game and features a wide range of accommodation options and activities.

Proclaimed last week, the 19 611 hectare reserve replaces the Vaalbos National Park, which was de-proclaimed after a successful land claim by the Sidney on Vaal claimants.

According to South African National Parks (SANParks), the new park is similar to the old park in size, climate and vegetation, and is in an area that has been protected from mining and other industrial activity.

“Two independent studies were done to look for an alternative site”, explains park manager Deon Joubert, “and both indicated that the Wintershoek area would be ideal for the new park in terms of SANParks biodiversity, conservation and tourism mandates”.

Mokala National Park comprises Kalahari Thornveld, Savanna and Nama Karoo terrain interspersed with rocky outcrops, and with a wetland area that stretches for 18 kilometres.

The park features a wide range of accommodation, as well as restaurants and team-building facilities, while future developments include a day visitor’s area and more rustic self-catering camps.

SANParks has also done a lot of work in establishing and maintaining a good road network.

Visitors to the park can enjoy activities such as mountain biking, day walks, sunset and night drives, bush braais and night stargazin.

“The park can already accommodate groups”, says Mokala hospitality services manager Hein Grobler.

However, day visitors and overnight guests will have to be patient while the management and staff members ensure that the park and its facilities are fully operational.

‘Unique operation’
A huge number of animals had to be moved to their new home, with the work beginning in early 2006. However, SANParks says, the pristine condition of the new park provided plenty of vegetation, enabling the animals to settle in quickly.

In the first phase, 234 animals were relocated to other national parks like the Tankwa Karoo National Park and Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape, Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape and Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo.

“This is to ensure that we spread the gene pool and maintain healthy animal populations in all of our parks”, explained Mokala spokesperson Henriette Engelbrecht.

Phase two started in June 2006, and was scheduled specifically for the winter season to cater for heat-sensitive animals. During that period animals like red hartebeest, buffalo, gemsbok, springbok and white rhinoceros were moved.

Animals like the black rhinoceros were moved during the third phase, which started in October 2006.

Moving some 1 200 animals was a challenge for SANParks, who used capture teams consisting of two veterinary doctors, three assistants and 12 park rangers. They also used four large translocation trucks, two specialised containers for transporting rhinoceros, one crane truck and one helicopter.

According to the organisation, pregnant, old and sensitive animals like black rhinoceros are the hardest to move, but a state veterinarian was present during the entire operation to ensure that procedures and safety elements were adhered to.

“It is not just a case of pack up and go, but a very sensitive and unique operation to relocate a whole national park”, said SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Services’ Dr David Zimmerman. reporter

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