Have you herd? Divided ellies may finally reunite
A R200m boost for SA-Mozambique trans-frontier parks could see a 600-strong herd brought back together
Nearly 30 years after the migratory elephants of southern Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal were cut in half by civil war and a hastily-built electric fence, the divided herds are inching closer towards reunification.
This follows the signing of a partnership agreement between the Stellenbosch-based Peace Parks Foundation and the Mozambican government to support the management and development of the Maputo Elephant Special Reserve and the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve.
The Maputo reserve is home to almost 400 elephants that once ranged as far south as KwaZulu-Natal, where a related herd of about 250 animals has been confined inside Tembe Elephant Park since 1989.
The Peace Parks Foundation is working to re-establish animal migration corridors and bolster wildlife-based tourism in 10 trans-frontier conservation projects across southern Africa, including the three-nation Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area between South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland.
The latest agreement, signed on June 7 in Maputo, involves an initial $16-million (about R209-million) donation from the Reinet Foundation, the Wyss Foundation and other donors to support tourism development in two conservation areas that adjoin South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Tembe Elephant Reserve.Elaborating on the agreement this week, the Peace Parks Foundation said there were plans to build at least two new tourist lodges to cater for 100 visitors, along with new camping facilities, 4x4 trails, kayak routes and other nature-based tourist attractions.At this stage, however, the border fence between Tembe Elephant Reserve and Mozambique will remain in place.
Kathy Bergs, the foundation’s chief development officer, said 30 new rangers would be trained and equipped to patrol the Maputo reserve, as well as the Futi corridor section, which could provide a future migration link between the Mozambican and South African elephants and other wildlife.
Several plains game species would also be relocated to the Futi corridor next year, where animal fences would be upgraded.“By demonstrating that this wildlife is well protected and the area is well managed, an environment will be created to further discussions on the vision shared in the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area to drop fences between Maputo Special Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park,” she said.
“This is an ongoing process and it is difficult to put a defined timeline on this, but the shared vision remains to drop the fence to enable animal migration, cross-border tourism and regional economic development as a result.”Bergs said the impending completion of the new Maputo-Catembe suspension bridge and road to the KwaZulu-Natal border was expected to have a major impact on tourism in the region.
“With improved access (one hour from Maputo and the South African border on a surfaced road) there will be an increase in visitors, hence the investment in tourism infrastructure to enable the Maputo reserve to move to become fully self-financing.“There will also be potential negative impacts of increased access to the region and the tourism and anti-poaching units are geared up to manage these risks.”
Mozambican Land, Environment and Rural Development Minister Celso Correia said: “Mozambique is proud to partner with Peace Parks Foundation and we are especially pleased to see continued energy and resources being devoted to the development of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area. The Maputo and Ponta do Ouro reserves have tremendous potential to develop as fully-fledged tourism destinations that will benefit Mozambique.”
Peace Parks Foundation CEO Werner Myburgh said Mozambique’s Elephant Coast was one of the few protected areas in Africa where elephants occur in a park bordering the ocean.
“It has the potential to become Mozambique’s premier eco-tourist destination. This is also the first marine transfrontier conservation area in Africa, jointly managed by Mozambique and South Africa.”
The 1,040km² Maputo reserve contains several coastal lakes, wetlands, swamp forests, grasslands and mangrove forests, while the Ponto do Ouro marine reserve component stretches across 678 km² and is the most important leatherback and loggerhead turtle nesting grounds along the Mozambican coastline.
The Maputo reserve currently has one five-star lodge, Anvil Bay, a joint venture between the Chemucane community and the Bell Foundation, supported through funding from the World Bank.