Protected Area Expansion

Garden Route to Addo Conservation Corridor

The Garden Route to Addo conservation corridor initiative that aims to link with formal protected areas between the Garden Route, Baviaanskloof and Addo Elephant National Park through the collaboration with conservation-minded landowners.The Garden Route is one of the premier tourism destinations in Southern Africa; evidenced by the fact that more than 25% of all foreign visitors to South Africa visit the area as part of their visit to the country. The area has been subject to unprecedented growth of the housing and resort sectors. Recent efforts, supported by GEF, Conservation International and the South African government has seen localised protected area expansion programmes in the Garden Route, Baviaanskloof and Addo National Park. This initiative will seek to establish the link between these localised initiatives.

Through a conservancy mechanism (20 000 hectares) the Landmark Foundation has effected a corridor connection between the Garden Route conservation areas in the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the Baviaanskloof. This is a first major step in effecting the long held dream (and often described as an impossible ambition) of connecting the protected areas of the Garden Route and Addo. This major initiative is ambitiously hoping to create, through public-private partnerships, an ecological corridor of (perhaps) 2 million hectares to enable and restore historical, ecological and evolutionary migration of genetic material and species along this corridor. Other conservancies are in various stages of development presently.

Skilderkrantz Private Nature Reserve

The Skilderkrantz Private Nature Reserve and Conservation Initiative was conceived in 2003 to acquire land for the purpose of expansion of the Baviaanskloof Mega-reserve, one of South Africa’s newest World Heritage sites. Skilderkrantz, as part of the Baviaanskloof, forms an important component in the Garden Route to Addo Conservation Corridor Initiative, which aims to form a province-wide network of protected areas linking the Addo Elephant Park with the Garden Route protected areas.This project is unique in that a conservation-minded investor acquired more than 40 land title deeds comprising almost 10 000 hectares of (citrus and small stock) farmland and plans a major restoration process whereby an entire river catchment will be restored to it former natural state. The Landmark Foundation conceptualised and negotiated this agreement. The restoration work of natural and cultural heritage is underway and the Landmark Foundation was an active partner to develop this project. Skilderkrantz was a central and primary partner in the Landmark Foundation Leopard and Predator Project and is a prime example of expanding the territory of predators.

This project will in time be a landmark conservation initiative and will prove a popular destination for the discerning conservation-minded traveller.

The historic cottages of the Langkloof are being restored as accommodation units and a wellness retreat is being planned. www.skilderkrantz.com

Amathola Mountains Biosphere Reserve Project

The Landmark Foundation, with the Amathole District Municipality, developed the feasibility study project concept document for the Amathole Mountain Biosphere Reserve. The idea of this biosphere reserve has been formally promoted, amongst others through the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism, since the 1990s.The concept of a biosphere reserve is particularly well suited to the region in question. Of an area that involves in excess of 100 000 hectares, more than a third of the area is already under some form of statutory conservation. Much private and community land is also conservation-worthy and thus suites the concept of a Biosphere reserve well.

The ultimate challenge of establishing a biosphere reserve is to establish systems and structures to enable the conservation of biodiversity patterns and processes, cultural and historical assets and the living landscapes contained in the area of focus, while meeting the material needs and desires of the people that live in the region. The biosphere reserve concept is an attempt to address the sustainable development of an area through a land-use zonation that sets aside areas defined as the core area, the buffer zone and transition areas where different forms of land uses are promoted and tolerated.

Biosphere reserves aim to reconcile apparently conflicting ambitions of the conservation of biological and socio-cultural diversity, while promoting economic and social development. The concepts of Biosphere Reserves originated in the 1960s & 1970s and emanated from the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Conference on the Conservation and Rational Use of the Biosphere. The conference resulted in the launching of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, and the promotion of the biosphere reserves grew from this initiative. Biosphere reserves have to meet set criteria and are nominated by governments for admission to UNESCO’s “World Network” on qualification. This is the ultimate objective of the feasibility study, which is to develop a feasibility of establishing, managing and developing a biosphere reserve in the Amathole Mountain Complex.

The core functions as a dedicated conservation area, which is not dominated by human activity and as such is under formal conservation management and monitoring. The Amathole Mountain Biosphere is likely to have several core areas, some linked and some separate.

The buffer zone is clearly delineated and activities permitted augment the conservation objectives of the core areas. It is an area where research, training, education and tourism are likely to be the major activities. A buffer zone may even have non-core conservation activities, like agriculture and forestry, but efforts are made to conserve the natural assets or impacts on the natural assets. Typically ecological restoration and conservation actions could and should be promoted in this zone, and conservation economy developments should be actively explored.

The transition zone is the area where most of the extractive economic activities occur. This is the zone in which most of the communities, farmers and other commercial activities are currently active. In this zone cooperative strategies are to be developed to utilise natural resources sustainably. In the Amathole Mountain Biosphere Reserve this would entail conservancies, community projects, e.g. the commercial utilisation of wattle infestations as a means to control the alien plant problems.

The biosphere must function to effectively conserve the biodiversity and cultural assets of the area, it must provide for economic and social development opportunities that are sustainable, and it must logistically provide for management, educational, research, monitoring and information sharing that enables to conservation estate’s development locally and internationally.

The Biosphere concept has several benefits. Communities will benefit through enhanced local economic development opportunities and a better-managed environment. The statutory agencies and local governments will improve cooperation and shared objectives in managing areas, and have a governance structure in which to operate collectively. Private enterprise will benefit from a structure that creates opportunities from tourism and resource use that is sustainable. The conservation community will benefit from an area that is effectively conserved.

Biologically the Amatholes is an important area. It is a convergence zone of important biomes and represents a fantastic opportunity to capture landscape conservation opportunities.

The area represents a convergence of the Nama Karoo, Afro-montaine forests, Grasslands, the Pondoland coastal flora, and elements of the Fynbos biome. It has species diversity of spectacular proportions with more than 1200 species identified, and in particular the forests of the region are especially species diverse.

The bio-regional programmes such as STEP, the grasslands programme, relevant issues from the Wild Coast Project, the Drakensberg initiatives, and the relevant aspects of the CAPE programme was integrated into the biosphere plans that the Landmark Foundation drafted.