+27 71 448 3496
leon@whyafrica.co.za

Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip

Share Article
Soetendalsvlei, which is Africa’s southernmost freshwater lake, plays a critical role in recharging groundwater and supplying freshwater for local agriculture. Image credit: Jean Tresfon

Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip

On World Wetlands Day, South African National Park (SANParks) and WWF South Africa announced the incorporation of a significant wetland into the Agulhas National Park at the southern tip of Africa.

Through a generous donation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) took ownership of the Vissersdrift property for incorporation into the Agulhas National Park last year. This move has secured 90% of the Soetendalsvlei wetland and added a further 2 345 hectares to the park which lies about 200km from Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The vlei gets its name from the Zoetendaal, a Dutch ship that was wrecked off the nearby coast in 1673 on route from Jakarta. Those survivors who were able to make it to shore, walked inland and found freshwater to keep them alive at the vlei. They were so thankful that they named it after their ship. They were helped by a local Khoikhoi chief and cattle trader to get back to Cape Town.

Soetendalsvlei, which is Africa’s southernmost freshwater lake, plays a critical role in recharging groundwater and supplying freshwater for local agriculture. It drains into the Heuningnes River which connects with the sea at De Mond Nature Reserve between Struisbaai and Arniston. Here, the Heuningnes estuary provides both a safe-haven for migrating birds and for breeding fish.

Ecological functions to safeguard the future (Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip)

By turning this area over to conservation and reducing alien plant infestation and other pressures, the hope is that Soetendalsvlei’s ecological functions will be safeguarded into the future – in line with this year’s World Wetland Day theme of restoration. Wetlands internationally are among the most threatened ecosystems and often overlooked and degraded.

According to Dr Luthando Dziba, SANParks Managing Executive: Conservation Services, a benefit of this acquisition is that it also protects inland salt pans, many of which are under threat in the Western Cape from urban development, mining and agriculture, along with rare veld types such as the Critically Endangered Central Rûens Shale Renosterveld, Vulnerable Agulhas Sand Fynbos and Limestone Fynbos which face similar threats.

“Soetendalsvlei is designated both a Critical Biodiversity Area and an Important Bird Area, supporting over 60 water bird species including several birds of concern such as the Damara tern, great white pelican and two flamingo species, along with over 21 000 migrant and resident birds that are recorded here annually,” explains Dr Dziba.

Part of the Vissersdrift property supports pockets of milkwood forests around the vlei which once offered shelter to the first inhabitants of this area.

South of this property lies the Denhami property that was recently acquired by the National Parks Trust which is also to be included as part of the core of the park.  Although it does not have wetlands on it, it is the link between the Sandberg Mountain and the Soetendalsvlei, supporting the ecological functionality of the vlei system.

“The Soetendalsvlei and wetland properties also add substantial value to the park’s cultural and archaeological attributes. Historically, people used the adjacent salt pans for harvesting salt for local use and later to export to Cape Town. About every 50 to 100 years the vlei’s bed is exposed through droughts, such has happened in April 2019 when one could see some of these archaeological and cultural artifacts.  Among the first management actions will be to clear the alien infestation on the north-western end of the property, and to address the erosion control, to sustain the ecological functioning,” adds Dr Dziba.

Planning for rehabilitation ((Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip)

The park will now assume a visible presence on the ground and begin planning and implementing veld and wetland rehabilitation through our Working for Water and Working on Wetlands programmes. SANParks will also plan towards improving area integrity, look at fences, access control and other uses on land. However, the main focus will be restoration of the natural habitat.

According to Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa the acquisition of this critically important wetland area for incorporation into Africa’s southernmost national park is a great milestone.

“We are proud to have been able to facilitate the expansion of the Agulhas National Park with a wetland that plays such a significant role in a functioning ecosystem. We are immensely grateful both to our generous donors and SANParks for their efforts in securing this wetland for future generations,” says Dr du Plessis.

Dr Dziba, concludes that estuaries and wetlands are the most threatened and least protected ecosystems in South Africa.

“The inclusion of this area into the Agulhas National Park not only expands the park but also contributes towards the protection of a critical wetland ecosystem for the Overberg region and its people.

“It is through productive partnerships such as this that we can achieve great things as we strive towards meeting the ambitious goals in the new Global Biodiversity Framework agreed in Montreal recently. On behalf of SANParks, I wish to express our sincere thanks to WWF for their support in making this dream a reality.”

Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip

To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletters and digital magazines, click on the link https://www.whyafrica.co.za/subscribe/

WhyAfrica specialises in the sustainable utilisation of natural resources in Africa. We publish bi-weekly newsletters (24 per year), four magazines per year, and paid for research reports in the mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, water management, tourism, and environmental management sectors with a special focus on Environmental and Social Governance (ESG), biodiversity risk, conservation, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the political economy of Africa, Pan African institutions, climate change and how geopolitics affect the people of Africa. 

WhyAfrica readers and followers can now become members of WhyAfrica. Having membership for one year allows you access to valuable business intelligence and insight about projects, investments, the sustainable utilisation of natural resources and the political economy of Africa.

WhyAfrica members will be able to publish their own story on the WhyAfrica website and on all its social media platforms (corporate members pay more but can publish four articles per year).

WhyAfrica members will also receive four updated reports per year about developments across Africa in the mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, water management, ESG, environmental management and tourism sectors, as well as the “WhyAfrica Hawks Eye” Africa outlook report for 2023.

In addition, WhyAfrica members will receive an exclusive report with video clips and images about the projects and countries we visit during our annual WhyAfrica Road Trip (in 2023 we will visit the Limpopo Province of South Africa, Zimbabwe or Botswana, Zambia, DRC, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya).

Members will also have an opportunity to join us on certain parts of the road trip and will be eligible for a huge discount to attend the WhyAfrica networking events before the road trip departs in Johannesburg, South Africa in July, and about halfway through the trip in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in August.  

One of WhyAfrica’s goals is to identify the opportunities and challenges in Africa, and at the same time, to stay informed about how geopolitics and the changing political economies in Africa affect your business. As a member you will have access to all this business intelligence. You can now register and pay to become a member by simply clicking on the following link: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/

https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/

WhyAfrica promotes Africa as an investment and travel destination, analyses the continent’s business environment and investment opportunities, and reports on how the politics of African countries affect their development

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. Subscribe here to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter and digital magazine. When it comes to natural resources in Africa, we cover all angles.

To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletters and digital magazines, click on the link https://www.whyafrica.co.za/subscribe/

For more news about Africa, visit our website at www.whyafrica.co.za 

Wetland adds more hectares to national park at Africa’s southern tip

Share Article

Sectors

AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management