The establishment of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park as one of the biggest conservation areas in the world is a dream come true with South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe opening their borders to create the 35 000 km² mega-conservation-area. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is just one of the many cross-border initiatives currently unfolding in southern Africa -- the development of transfrontier parks.
The presidents of the three countries signed the historic Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park Treaty in Xai-Xai, Mozambique in December 2002, officially launching the continent’s biggest game park, bringing together some of the best, most established wildlife areas in southern Africa.
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park includes South Africa's world-famous Kruger National Park, with its extraordinary abundance of wildlife, established infrastructure and tourism base, Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, renowned for its geological splendour, and the newly developed Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
While the total surface area of the transfrontier park is approximately 35 000 km² -- about the size of Israel -- the park is seen as the first phase in the eventual establishment of a transfrontier conservation area measuring a staggering 100 000 km².
Much work remains to be done on the joint park, including the building of infrastructure and the accommodation of more than 20 000 villagers living inside the Mozambican section. The organisers say that villagers who choose not to leave will be protected from wild animals by fences around their villages; under the park’s charter, there will be no forced relocation of people.
Immobilisation and translocation of Elephant and many other species has already started. The recent development of scientific / veterinary safaris -- where clients are actively involved in the immobilization and translocation of elephants, rhino, lion etc. -- is a fast growing sector of the Southern African tourism industry.
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is already taking shape:
Up to 120km of electric fencing separating the Kruger and Limpopo national parks will gradually be removed to allow animals to migrate freely across the borders. South Africa recently launched a three-year operation to release thousands of animals from Kruger to the Mozambican park. The first translocation was conducted in October last year, and 1 130 animals have been translocated to date.
Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou park will be linked to the South African side via a corridor, to be built first for people and only later for animals.
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park's boundaries are in yellow. The brown cross-shaded part of the map represents areas that could eventually be incorporated into the park. (Image: Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park)
Within the new park, tourists will be able to drive across international boundaries in the three countries with minimal fuss. In addition to the usual game-viewing opportunities, visitors will have a broad range of new attractions, including bird-rich tropical wetlands, lake cruises, tiger fishing, rugged 4x4 adventure drives, and much more. A mix of cultural experiences will also be offered, with traditional healers explaining their trade, story-telling, foods, dance, music, handicraft and art to explore and enjoy.
The individual parks will continue to operate as separate entities, but will be branded as part of the transnational park. A joint management committee comprising three representatives from each country will oversee management of the joint park and rationalise its rules.
The new park will boost regional co-operation between the three countries, promote peace and security in the region, and help deal with illegal animal poaching. It will restore the integrity of an ecosystem artificially segmented by colonial boundaries, opening up the natural migratory routes of African elephants, endangered species such as the roan antelope, and other animals.
Tourism will also be a big winner. According to Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Mohammed Valli Moosa, the park “will open to the world the biggest ever animal kingdom, increasing foreign investment into the region and creating much-needed jobs for our people, further acting as a symbol of peace and unity for the African people.”
President Thabo Mbeki said the park is part of South Africa’s attempt to reverse biodiversity loss by 2010 -- a global target adopted at this year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development.