South Africa: Proposed Central Escarpment Reserve - An alternative model of natural resource management
A consultative process was launced in May, 2013 to ask local residents and stakeholders for their support, questions, comments and advice with regards to the potential establishment of a large fenced reserve approximately 35km west of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.
The proposed Protected Area or 'escarpment reserve' would extend roughly from the TRAC 'Schoemanskloof Road' in the south to the R37 'Long Tom Pass' in the north. The western border would be the R36, (Bambi-Lydenburg) road and the N4 / Stadsriver / R539 in the east. The total area could exceed 120,000 hectares.
"Due to the ruggedness of the terrain, much of the land is 'wilderness' and therefore there is still a relative abundance of game. Wildlife currently encountered includes Bushbuck, BushPig, Duiker (common and red), Mountain Reedbuck, baboons, monkeys, serval, porcupine, honey badger, Oribi, Brown Hyena, Samango monkey's, bushbabies, Cape clawless otters and leopard. Despite significant human activity in thetarget area, this diveristy indicate a relatively healthy ecosystem.
"The absence of larger herbivores such as elephant, buffalo, and herds of wildebeest, zebra, impala and eland, has led to areas which are wildly overgrown and almost inaccessible."
"The medium term objective is to appropriately fence the entire proposed reserve area, and re-introduce manageable numbers of wild game, including impala, zebra, blue wildebeest, eland, nyala, giraffe, and ultimately the Big 5."
There are existing 'conservation' areas and reserves in the proposed area, such as the Buffelskloof Private Nature Reserve and the Makobulaan and Wonderkloof nature reserve).
Current land use in the proposed reserve area is diverse, including forestry, agriculture and tourism. Various food crops are being produced in the area, including macadamia nuts, oranges, pecan nuts, avocado's, maize and vegetables. There is also livestock farming, including cattle and game (various 'conservancy area and hunting / breeding farms) and poultry farming in the area.
The proposed reserve will be managed to accommodate all these diverse forms of current land use, by utilizing mitigation measures (such as fencing of orchards, homesteads and industrial facilities). Appropriate technology would be used to monitor and manage potentially dangerous animals.
The R539 is a national road which connects the N4 to the R37. This road may be within the proposed reserve area (cutting through the north east corner). Speed on this road could be restricted and roadside bush cleared where possible. Alternatively, certain areas of the road could be 'fenced in'.
Such a proposed reserve is a massive undertaking, which can only be successful if all landowners and stakeholders in the potentially affected area support the initiative.
Reserves which aim to protect and enhance biodiversity resources are becoming increasingly important due to the essential services functional natural ecosystems provide. Increased Biodiversity leads to enhanced nutrient recycling, soil fertility, water infiltration / retention and less run-off and soil erosion. The resulting increased soil moisture and relative humidity have positive influences on weather and climate.
Environmental conservation is not a luxury... it is a necessity and a pre-requisite for long term sustainability.
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