Addo – Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says South African National Parks (SANParks) has contributed significantly to the social and economic upliftment of thousands of people through skills development programmes and job creation.
Speaking at the launch of National Parks Week 2016 at the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape on Sunday, Minister Molewa said South Africa’s network of 19 national parks play an important role in protecting the country’s indigenous fauna and flora contributing to the improvement of the lives of local communities.
Communities adjacent to a number of parks, including the Addo Elephant, Augrabies Falls and the Kruger National Park, are being engaged with a view to supporting the growth of a transformed wildlife economy.
“In line with our mandate to support entrepreneurs, we have also held engagements with emerging game ranchers with the view to develop custodianship and or loan agreements,” she said.
In this financial year, SANParks is expected to deliver a second batch of animals to the Erin Game Ranch owned by the Khomani San community adjacent to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
SANParks remains the leading product owner in the country with over 15 430 tourists beds, of which 6 790 are formal beds and 8 640 are camping beds.
“I am confident that SANParks will ensure through its work that it remains at the cutting edge of conservation, tourism and eco-economic development,” the Minister said.
National Parks Week
The main objective of the National Parks Week is to allow citizens of the country to enjoy the beauty of national parks and take pride in them.
SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mkheteni explained that the week is about creating awareness as well as connecting people with their ancestors.
During the week they will be offering transport to those people who wish to visit the parks.
“We want to take the parks to the people, these parks are spiritual healing for us. Through these parks, we connect with our ancestors,” he said.
Since its inception in 2006, the National Parks Week has seen an influx of day visitors in all participating parks.
The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities. However, it does not include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities.
Prior to the launch, Minister Molewa officially opened the Nyathi Rest Camp, which is an addition to the Addo Elephant National Park and situated about 8 km from the main camp.
According to SANParks Acting Head of Communications William Mabasa, the camp was privately owned before SANParks took over.
“Members of the public are welcome to visit the camp during this week for free,” he said.
The Addo Elephant National Park is unique to the world because it has the Big 7 – the Big 5 with the addition of sharks and whales – as it is situated about 80 km from Port Elizabeth.
Mtileni Salman, a mother of two from Cradock, was among those who attended the launch of National Parks Week. She told SAnews she is going to use the week to visit the park with her children.
“I am going to come with my children and spend the day at the park. This will be an opportunity for my children to learn about the Big 5,” she said.
Jeffery Monde from Zwide, told SAnews he is happy that SANParks is offering communities an opportunity to visit their parks free of charge.
“It is imperative for people to visit these parks so they can know these parks and the animals. Our children must know the Big 5,” he said.
All the parks managed by SANParks – excluding the Namaqua National Park and Boulders Penguin Colony in Table Mountain National Park – will be participating in the initiative to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of the country’s natural heritage.
The week grants free access to day visitors who have a valid South African ID. Persons under the age of 16 will be allowed free access to the parks without proof of identity.
All people from school groups, community members, higher education institutions are encouraged to use this opportunity that will give them a wealth of wisdom about the deep heritage entrenched in South Africa’s national parks.
The week was established to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage that is protected by the national parks system. – SAnews.gov.za
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