Last year SANParks decided to scale down on its land expansion programme, which resulted in only 9 000 hectares being added to the national park estate in the 2009/10 financial year, comprising mostly thicket, savanna, lowland fynbos and succulent karoo biomes.
Future expansion programmes will focus on the country's grassland biomes. "It must be noted that the grassland biome ranks extremely high in biodiversity composition, second only to the fynbos biome," says Dr David Mabunda, chief executive of SANParks in the 2009/10 annual report.
The escalating rhino poaching war remains a conservation priority. "There is growing evidence that it has ceased to be an environmental crime, it is now firmly in the sphere of organised crime."
Over the years, SANParks has carved a significant scientific research profile on the local and global environmental agenda. In the financial year under review, 425 research projects were registered with the organisation.
A key focus has been the strategic framework for the biodiversity monitoring programme, which was developed in the previous year as a foundation for a set of similar programmes across all South Africa's national parks.
On the tourism front, SANParks had an average occupancy of 73.3 percent, which compares favourably with the rest of the country's 51.3 percent. South Africans accounted for more than 77 percent of all guests to the parks. Growth in black day visitors grew by 17.5 percent and growth in black visitors staying overnight by almost 10 percent.
The concessionaires also felt the global economic pinch and showed an occupancy decline of 4.5 percent compared to last year's figures. To date the concessionaires have contributed about R360 million to the SANParks revenue since their establishment.
Financially, the year under review saw SANParks achieve more than 11 percent growth in gross operating revenue. It will be a tough year ahead with government announcing a further R170 million cut in its allocation of funds to SANParks.
By Lynette Strauss