For 10 years the Park has promised to do something about damage causing animals and it has done nothing. Will it do something now? This is one of many comments raised by stakeholders during several meetings hosted by the Kruger National Park (KNP).
New legislation calls for conservation agencies like South African National Park (Sanparks) to submit a comprehensive management plan to the minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, by the end of the year.
To do this, Sanparks took up an adaptive planning process by engaging its stakeholders in a series of meetings to ensure their input in the various park's plans. The Kruger National Park (KNP) appointed consultants to facilitate its participative process of which a first round of meetings took place in June.
These inputs were consolidated in a draft plan and circulated to the interested parties who were invited for further comments to a second round of meetings, which took place during the last two weeks of August.
The meetings took place in Hazyview, Phalaborwa and Giyani. The inputs varied widely, ranging from licensing open safari vehicles to dealing with damage causing animals and fencing issues. The objectives were to inform stakeholders about the process of compiling and presenting the management plan and to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to provide their input and comment about the desired state for the park.
The draft plan describes the process as to reflect a shared desired state derived jointly by integrating stakeholders' desires and Sanparks' mandate. The meetings ran for almost the entire day comprising presentations during the morning sessions and questions and comments in the afternoon.
Dr Freek Venter, Kruger's head of conservation, introduced the stakeholders to the park management process and Sanparks policy framework. Delegates raised concerns about the new fence being constructed on the western border of the park and the Park's pilot programme to use contractors from local communities to erect the fence.
Who will erect and own this new fence - the KNP or the Department of Agriculture? asked Mashele Malatjie in Phalaborwa. Other high priorities issues under discussion were Kruger's zoning plan, damage causing animals and land claims. Will the management be flexible enough to check on the name [changes] in the Park? asked Steve Ramalepe.
Helen Mmethi from people and conservation said these issues are referred to the relevant provincial government departments. In Phalaborwa, Danie Pienaar, head of scientific services, informed the meeting about the Park's elephant, river and fire management plans, as well as its ongoing involvement in the integration into the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Harry Biggs, also from scientific services, presented similar information to the meeting in Giyani. Lucy Nhlapo and Helen Mmethi concluded the formal session with presentations about the Park's tourism and people and conservation plans respectively.
Some pertinent matters highlighted were economic empowerment, the need to update infrastructure and to market Kruger as a destination and link it with regional packages. Helen said her department identified 600 historic and cultural sites and their preservation will be included in the management plan. Chief Malatjie asked if they would be allowed to remove artefacts from an area in the Park if they could verify that the artefacts was part of their communities' history.
Helen responded that the removal of artefacts is guided by national legislation, especially if the artefacts are found within a national park. All the comments and questions will be incorporated into the draft management plan before it will once again be circulated to the stakeholders for comment.