New Nature Park in Making

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By Staff Reporter WINDHOEK A new chapter in the history of nature conservation is in the making at CaÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚±on village in the Fish River Canyon in the south. Representatives of national and private nature reserves, a rural community and a few farmers in the Fish River Canyon area have agreed in principle to establish the Greater Fish River Canyon Complex Association (GFRCCA). A joint plan for nature conservation and for promoting biodiversity was adopted at a meeting held on August 11, with the vision of establishing a unique nature conservation area which extends from the Sperrgebiet in the west to the Klein Karas Mountains in the east, between Keetmanshoop and Aus as its northern borderline down to the Gariep/Orange River in the south, and even further, far beyond the South African border, where the huge park meets the Richtersveld. If the plan is implemented, game animals will regain a large part of the mobility which enabled them to respond to annual and local fluctuations in the arid and succulent Karoo’s grazing conditions before the arrival of settlers. The GFRCCA initiative is linked to the larger picture of the cross-border “Peace Parks”. At the meeting, Peet van der Walt, International Project Coordinator for the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, emphasised this. The core of the park will be initially made up by the national conservation areas at the Fish River Canyon and Naute Dam, the privately-owned nature reserves Gondwana CaÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚±on Park (east of the canyon), Canyon Nature Park and Canyon Private Nature Reserve (both of them west of the canyon) as well as Norotshama Lodge on the Gariep/Orange River west of Noordoewer. Farmers of the region and representatives of the Klein Karas Cooperative Community were also among the 28 participants. “The GFRCCA is intended to have advantages for everyone involved,” Dr Chris Brown, the Director of the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) sums up the goals. Particular attention woud to be focus on the growth-sector tourism because, he said: “We can jointly market the region as one of the few extensive nature conservation areas in southern Africa.” Additional income and jobs, which will help to speed up the sustainable development of the rural areas, can be expected when offering accommodation, local tours, arts and crafts, supplying meat, milk and vegetables and last but not least in nature conservation. “This does not mean that all landowners should switch over to tourism now,” Brown said, adding that on the contrary, “We rather divide the area into zones for different uses – agriculture, mining, tourism on a larger scale, exclusive tourism and wildlife management.” Since the association’s vision and objectives are in line with those of the state, is would be an ideal basis for cooperation between the public and private sectors in that the national parks and their private neighbours can support one another in the planning and building of watering places, the introduction and monitoring of game and their migratory patterns, or in solving problems such as poaching. The GFRCC extends across two biomes, the Nama Karoo and the Succulent Karoo, and the transition zone between them. Until such time as the proposed Sperrgebiet National Park is proclaimed, the GFRCC contains the largest single conserved area of this biome in Namibia. The Succulent Karoo ecosystem is recognised as one of the 25 biological ‘hotspots’ of the world. Four main vegetation types occur within the GFRCC, namely, the Succulent Steppe in the south and southwest, the Desert-Dwarf Shrub Transition, the Dwarf Shrub Savanna and the Karas Dwarf Shrubland. The landscapes and associated biological assets of the GFRCC are extremely important, which makes it critical that they are properly managed and conserved. Some areas, especially those in the northwest in the inaccessible Huns Mountains, have remained relatively undisturbed by human intervention. In contrast, the areas adjacent to the Orange River and to the east and north of the Ai-Ais National Park have been severely impacted by mining, grazing and agriculture. It is especially along the Orange River that these impacts must be significantly reduced through improved management and control.

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