Africa’s largest wildlife park established

The governments of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have announced one of the world’s largest conservation areas, straddling the borders of the three nations.

The creation of the Belgium-sized 35,000 sq km (13,700 sq mile) Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park was announced by the environmental ministers of the three countries, who signed a formal agreement on 10 November committing the governments to establish Africa’s first multinational park.

The governments, who signed the project into existence on 10 November, believe conservation efforts will be significantly boosted by an expected increase in eco-tourism. The park will join the already-popular Kruger National Park in South Africa, with the little-known Coutada 16 conservation area in Mozambique, and also the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. The park’s size will be additionally boosted by a slice of communal land linking the Gonarezhou with the Kruger Park. The announcement is a particular boost to Mozambique, by far the poorest of the three nations, which hopes that increased tourism will provide as a deterrent to environmental degradation and the killing of wildlife.

“This park will attract international tourism by its sheer size and diversity, and become the symbol of growing co-operation in Southern Africa,” said South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mohammed Valli Moosa. He referred to the agreement as “an important moment in the history of our three countries as we will be building co-operation on conservation management as well as building an asset for future generations”.

“The proposed park has two main objectives: promoting biodiversity conservation on a regional basis across international boundaries, and equally importantly, socio-economic upliftment of the rural communities living in and around the park,” Moosa continued. “Private enterprise will be involved extensively in developing and operating the many eco-tourism opportunities made available by this initiative.”

“In today’s world, conservation can not be separated from human development, and this has been amply demonstrated in many countries in southern Africa, where conservation that does not consider social and economic factors is doomed to failure,” commented the Mozambican Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Helder Muteia.

“If we succeed in this initiative, I expect that the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park cannot only be seen as a symbol of regional co-operation among our countries, but can be viewed as a ‘showcase’ which other states on our continent will emulate,” the Zimbabwean Minister of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema, added.

The commitment to establish the GKG Transfrontier Park follows after the launch of the continent’s first trans-border park in the continent in May this year, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, between South Africa and Botswana, which was opened by Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Festus Mogae.

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