South African National Parks (SANParks) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are working on a proposed new national park in Eastern Cape.
Once formally declared, NE Cape Grasslands National Park will become a high-altitude national park in the mountains of the Eastern Cape.
The 30 000-hectare protected area aims to contribute towards the conservation of grasslands and water security, SANParks said in a statement.
Located close to the Lesotho border and the Naude’s Nek pass, dubbed South Africa’s highest lying road at over 2500m, NE Cape Grasslands won't be like other national parks.
"NE Cape Grasslands National Park will take a somewhat different form to traditional parks, in that the landowners will have the opportunity, through stewardship, to incorporate their land in the park on a voluntary basis. As such, they also stand to benefit from a range of financial incentives for private and communal land that is formally protected," explained SANParks Acting CEO Dr Luthando Dziba.
He said they intend to establish an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable consolidated protected area by working with private and communal landowners.
“The establishment of this national park will mark a new and innovative approach to protected area expansion as it will be located within a working agricultural landscape.
"Not only is this area rich in biodiversity and endemic species, it also lies within the Eastern Cape Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, which is a natural source of freshwater for people downstream. When declared the park will also improve formal protection of South Africa’s grasslands which have been identified as a national conservation priority," he said.
Dziba revealed that owing to its rugged and unspoilt landscape, the national park has potential for adventure and cultural tourism.
"This could help to build an all-year-round tourism industry, further unlocking potential jobs. The declaration of a national park will also be a motivation for the inclusion of this area into the adjacent Drakensberg World Heritage Site," he added.
Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa, is excited to see the project come to life.
“The beauty of this model is that biodiversity conservation and ecological management will be done in partnership with those who live and work in this area – while allowing them to continue deriving benefits from their land through sustainable agriculture and other compatible land uses. Ultimately this is a win-win for nature and people. We can’t wait to see this project coming to fruition," he said.