Fence Cutting Ceremony Opens African Super Park

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, South Africa, December 12, 2002 (ENS) - Conservation and tourism ministers from South Africa and Mozambique Wednesday removed part of the fence that divides the two countries' national parks to establish Africa's super wildlife park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP).

South Africa's minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mohammed Valli Moosa and Mozambican Minister of Tourism, Fernando Sumbana, dropped the fence on the Far Northern region of the Kruger National Park to open the largest cross-border conservation area in the world, larger than the country of Switzerland.

Moosa

South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mohammed Valli Moosa (Photo courtesy South Africa info)
"Today the governments of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe are not only celebrating the victory of their conservation effort, but also the rebirth of Africa as we break the barriers which have for years divided us, usher in economic and social development for our people, and contribute to peace and stability in the continent," said Moosa.

The fence removal followed the signing on Monday of a treaty to formally establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park by three countries. South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mozambican President Joachim Chissano and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe all signed the super park into being in Xai-Xai, Mozambique.

The signing ceremony concluded two years of intensive preparations for the establishment of the 35,000 square kilometer (13,513 square mile) park.

The super park will open to visitors one of the world's richest animal kingdoms, spanning South Africa's Kruger National Park, Mozambique's Limpopo National Park and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.

The governments hope the new super park will increase foreign investment in the region and create jobs for local communities.

river

Limpopo River (Photo courtesy South Africa Tourism Board)
Hailing the park as Africa's "miracle" Moosa made good use of his bolt cutters, saying the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is an example of the success of regional cooperation and an important step in regional economic integration.

It is a demonstration of the three governments' commitment to the sustainable development of the African continent through regional co-operation, the cornerstone of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), he said.

Brandishing his own bolt cutters, Sumbana pointed out that the apartheid machinery had put up the fence not to separate animals, but the people of Mozambique and South Africa, and described the fence removal as a victory the stability of African unity.

Speaking on behalf of Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment and Tourism Francis Nhema, the deputy director of his country's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, Vitalis Chadenga, said Zimbabwe is fully committed to the Transfrontier Park and will do everything in its power to ensure the park is Africa's success story.

According to South Africa National Park officials, the elephant proof fence, which runs for 353 kilometers (219 miles) along the length of the Kruger National Park's eastern border with Mozambique, will be taken down in three sections, allowing animals to move across the border.

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Cheetah in the Limpopo Park (Photo courtesy South Africa Tourism Board)
Kruger National Park and Mozambique's Limpopo National Park share a 150 kilometer (93 mile) long common border. Along this border the three gaps, about 35 kilometers, 15 kilometers and 10 kilometers wide, will be made.

Centered on the Limpopo River, this protected land is inhabited by more wildlife species than any other sanctuary in Africa, including 10,000 elephants. Savanna, dry woodland, rivers and floodplains support rare ungulates such as Lichenstein hartebeest, roan and sable antelope, hippopotamus, lions, leopards, and many bird species.

elephant

Elephant in Kruger National Park (Photo courtesy Take 2 Tours)
The African Wildlife Federation (AWF) says this increased habitat is expected to give Krugerís growing elephant population a new lease on life. Late last year, South Africa took down part of the fence and started a three year, $20 million process of relocating 1,000 elephants from Kruger National Park across the border into Mozambique's Limpopo Park.

Conservationists say the move is a practical solution to the management of South Africa's elephants. The AWF expects that the 1,000 elephants will form a nucleus for reestablishing the herds that once followed the natural migration routes among the three countries.

The new Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park doubles the land available for wildlife, and the AWF says the Transfrontier Park is seen as "the core zone of an even bigger Transfrontier Conservation Area which will blend purely protected areas with a surrounding area of multiple use zones that will also develop wildlife as a land use and allow community and private sector investments."