THIRSTY WORK: Elephants at a waterhole in Tembe Elephant Park, KwaZulu-Natal. New land has increased the size of the Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape to more than 28 000 hectares, which is now roughly the size of the pictured Tembe wildlife reserve.

Tony Carnie

Two chunks of land have been added to South Africa’s newest national park as part of a conservation project that has seen the country’s national parks system expand by almost 560 000 hectares over the past 12 years.

The new land has increased the size of the Mokala National Park in Northern Cape to more than 28 000ha.

It is now roughly the size of the Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mokala, the Tswana name for a camel thorn tree, was established five years ago to replace the Vaalbos National Park. The Vaalbos National Park park was deproclaimed in the wake of land claims and increased interest in diamond mine prospecting.

More than 1 000 animals, including rhino and other rare species such as roan antelope, were relocated from Vaalbos to the Mokala sanctuary.

The park is located south of Kimberley.

Originally, Mokala covered 19 000ha.

SA National Parks (SANParks) spokesman Paul Daphne said that the acquisition of two properties neighbouring Mokala had helped to consolidate the park.

Nevertheless, more work was necessary to rectify what Daphne described as the park’s inefficient shape.

He said that since 2000, SANParks added 558 897ha to the national parks system.

This is an area almost six times as large as the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KZN.

“The expansion at Mokala will allow the animals to roam freely between the east and west of the park,” said Daphne.

He added: “This expansion is intended to attract a marked increase in visitor numbers to the Northern Cape. Our aim is to make the park sustainable.”