SOUTH Africa and France have joined forces to protect biodiversity in South Africa and on Reunion Island, with the support of Agence Française de Dévéloppement (AFD).
A bipartite agreement between South African National Parks (SANParks) and AFD was signed on Sunday.
The project will benefit from about R31 million in financial support from AFD, including R20m to SANParks and about R10m to Reunion Island National Park (PNR).
It focuses on territory-to-territory co-operation between PNR and Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) in Cape Town.
TMNP, nominated as the main project partner, covers 25 000 hectares of natural areas located in the heart of Cape Town, stretching to the tip of the Cape of Good Hope.
PNR was created in 2007 and is a French public institution. Its territory covers 70% of the island's surface area, with a central zone that houses 94% of the island’s endemic biodiversity.
The two parks face similar challenges in terms of management and conservation of fragile ecosystems. Both parks are located in urban environments, which stretch from the mountains to the sea, with a presence of invasive and vulnerable species, and high numbers of tourists.
Both SANParks and PNR will contribute expertise and collaborate on improving park management. In addition, the project will mobilise partner research bodies, including the University of Reunion, French agricultural research centre Cirad and UCT.
SANParks acting chief executive Dr Luthando Dziba said the peer-to-peer project would allow the teams of the two parks to strengthen their capacity by exchanging experiences of park management.
“The main project activities include developing strategic plans and sharing tools for invasive species management, vulnerable species management, fire management and climate change preparedness, training, pilot field interventions, awareness-raising activities and joint studies and research.”
French Ambassador to South Africa, Aurélien Lechevallier, said biodiversity conservation was one of France’s priorities.
“France will host the World Conservation Congress in 2021. Through this exemplary regional co-operation project, France is providing concrete support for the preservation of biodiversity in southern Africa and the Indian Ocean," Lechevallier said.