Cape Town - The Mountain Zebra-Camdeboo Protected Environment (MZCPE) located between Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra National Parks in the Eastern Cape, has officially been instated by the department of environmental affairs (DEA).
High on the conservation agenda for the corridor is grassland preservation, said to be one of the least conserved biomes in the country when compared to the Nama-Karoo and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt biomes - as well as the protection of the threatened Cape mountain zebra, with less than 1 190 of these vulnerable species roaming freely, according to 2015 aerial count figures.
The DEA said the vision for the future is ultimately to link Camdeboo National Park at Graaff-Reinet with the Mountain Zebra National Park at Cradock - thereby creating a single conservation area over 120km in length and including up to 520 000 hectares of land under conservation.
The DEA confirmed that the conservation initiative is being done with the help of 67 landowners with land totaling 268 428 hectares, who have voluntarily agreed to the Declaration of the Protected Environment.
Upon hearing the news of the established Mountain Zebra-Camdeboo Protected Environment, Cradock resident and farmer Tracy Michau said on Facebook, "[We have] been waiting a long time for this! We are proud partners of the Camdeboo Corridor Project".
And Michau's enthusiasm exists within the rest of the local farming community, as more landowners have indicated their willingness to sign up during Phase Two of this project - all of which is being managed by a special Landowners Association with the aim of broadening opportunities for socio-economic development.
According to Megan Taplin for the Mountain Zebra National Park, "It’s not about taking down fences and national parks taking over the land, it's rather about working with existing land owners on their property with the greater aim of conservation in mind".
Taplin says the corridor will serve as a preventative measure for the deterioration of the grasslands and other diverse plant species in the area, including the recently identified Sneeuberg Centre of Endemism, part of the Amatole-Sneeuberg Montane Belt.
SANParks' role in these protected environments will be a supportive and advisory one, and the responsibility of land upkeep and farming methods would still rest on farmers.
"Being part of the protected environment would also mean that the land is legally protected against any Fracking initiatives," Taplin told Traveller24.
There has been considerable opposition to plans to explore for what are believed to be considerable deposits of shale gas in the Karoo, including concerns about contamination of the region's scarce water resources.
According to News24 columnist Andreas Wilson-Späth, the Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson Setepane Mohale told a parliamentary committee in February 2016 that “shale gas is still seen as a game changer” and that the first fracking licences are expected to be issued this year.
Phase Two of the Corridor Project has already been rolled out, and will be completed within the next four years. The corridor is a joint partnership between SANParks and the Wilderness Foundation, with funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund.
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