Free access to park to cultivate community interest
The 2009 SA National Parks Week was officially opened at Mopanie Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park on Monday, September 14. Keynote speaker on the day, minister of water and environmental affairs, BP Sonjica, says South Africa's national parks are not just huge expanses of land, "but have a huge impact on our lives in so many ways.""I believe that our national parks speak to the correct use of our resources for sustenance, but with the full recognition of the fact that such use needs to be sustainable as well.'
According to SANParks, chief executive, Dr David Mabunda SA National Parks Week offers an opportunity for all South Africans to experience their national parks and develop a sense of pride which culminates to renewed and improved efforts by all South Africans, towards taking care of the country's conservation resources. "Through this project, we also aim at building stronger constituencies and ambassadors of conservation and the environment."
After the official launch, the delegates were taken on a guided tour of the Masorini Heritage site, situated close to the Phalaborwa Entrance Gate.The week-long celebration of free access to parks by South Africans ran from 14 to 20 September. It does not include Boulders in the Table Mountain National Park nor any of the commercially driven activities in parks, such as open safari guided tours, "as these are driven as commercial vehicles to ensure the sustainability of parks, with some run independently by commercial tour operators."
"The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa and this year we are focusing on involving young people and communities, to cultivate a knowledge of the importance of conservation and an appreciation for the country's natural heritage", added Dr. Mabunda.
The Kruger National Park hosted a senior citizens groups for lunch in Skukuza on Tuesday and another group on Thursday. The concept was launched in 2006, to encourage all South Africans to visit national parks, based on the realisation that the majority of this country's citizens were not accessing parks.