The Mount Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment's (MZCPE) first phase one of the Karoo Corridor Project has been approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

The Karoo Corridor initiative will see 286 343 hectares of private and public land in the Great Karoo region of the Eastern Cape protected and preserved.

On April 1, 2016, the region was formally declared a Protected Environment and in August the following year, the management plan was approved by the Minister of Environmental Affairs. The Karoo Corridor project incorporates the area between the region’s two national parks – the Mountain Zebra and the Camdeboo National Parks – and the private land in between.

The Protected Environment is in a transitional area between four biomes – Grassland, Nama Karoo, Thicket and Savanna. Being a transition area between biomes allows for an unusual mix of flora and fauna, as well as important ecological and landscape processes. Climate change, detrimental development, mining, inappropriate historical management of herbivores and the risk of fire, are the largest threats to the protected environment’s attributes.

The mission of this joint initiative, which was established by SANParks in partnership with 65 private landowners, is to maintain the current landscape in terms of its scenic biodiversity and landscape through collective action by the private landowners and to legally protect the area from detrimental development.

In the official approval of the management plan, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa said it was a pleasure to inform the MZCPE that the requirements had been met, thereby authorising the implementation of the proposed plan.

“We are very pleased that this exciting project has come to fruition,” says Richard Slater, Managing Director of Mount Camdeboo and Vice Chairman of the MZCPE Landowners’ Association.

“The intention within this initiative is to create a protected environment of good and ethical land management according to a code. Satellite imagery shows that existing land usage in terms of protecting the current status of land is actually quite good. The purpose is to conserve our biodiversity, within with exists a different matrix of land usage – whether managing wildlife or agricultural stock – with conservation at the core.”

Bronwyn Botha, the Buffer Zone Co-ordinator from SANParks, co-ordinating the Protected Environment said: “The reason we have been able to make this a reality is that land use in the area is already very compatible with conservation and the realisation that, to conserve ecosystems, one cannot operate in isolation but needs to work together to conserve the systems that make this area viable. This initiative has only been a success due to the willingness of the private landowners using their passion for the Karoo to stand together and protect it – the MZCPE vision is Conservation through Collaboration.”

Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve has played a crucial role in the Karoo Corridor initiative, being the first property to sign into the Protected Environment in 2012. Since the reserve’s inception in 1995, when the late Logie Buchanan purchased the 14 000 hectare Mount Pleasant farm, the family’s long-term conservation vision included developing the property for conservation and eco-tourism with the view to expand further into the Karoo region.