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Mpumalanga MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Pinky Phosa, has declared five new protected areas in the province in what has been hailed as a milestone for the conservation of South Africa’s grasslands and wetlands.
This follows the collaborative efforts of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Grasslands Programme, World Wide Fund for Nature and BirdLife South Africa. It is also the result of partnerships that began in 2006 and formed part of the Mpumalanga Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, which aims to secure privately owned land within formal protected areas.
The new protected areas include the Chrissiesmeer Protected Environment (60 203 hectares); the Kwamandlangampisi Protected Environment, which is extended by 3 094 hectares; the Mabola Protected Environment (8 772 hectares); the Tafelkop Nature Reserve (1 208 hectares); and the Mndawe Trust Protected Environment (826 hectares), which is the first community-owned protected environment in the province.
“The protection of these properties under National Legislation, not only secures important areas of grassland biodiversity for future generations but also enables landowners within these protected areas to work collectively to conserve their land, to implement sustainable land use practices and to safeguard against land uses that could end up destroying the area,” said Jacque Modipane, CEO of the MTPA.
“Furthermore, Chrissiesmeer and Wakkerstroom are important tourism hubs within the province and the protection of these sites will enable the continued development of tourism opportunities within these areas,” Modipane said.
“We are excited about this conservation milestone, especially in the light of the development pressures these areas face. The EWT would like to extend its appreciation to our partners and to the MEC for her visionary commitment to biodiversity conservation in Mpumalanga,” said Ursula Franke, Senior Field Officer for the EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme.
Grasslands host a number of endemic and threatened bird species, while wetlands like the Chrissiesmeer pans support large populations of water birds.