KZN's wildlife game reserves under threat

2008-11-17 00:00

Allegations of “mismanagement” and the “undermining” of the integrity of some of KwaZulu-Natal’s most prized wildlife reserves have been made in a confidential report compiled by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The report highlights, among other matters, the “questionable motivations and ineptitude” behind the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the African National Congress-controlled KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in their governorship of Ndumo Game Reserve and the Kosi Bay region of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

Compiled by the IFP’s spokes-person on Environmental Affairs Henry Combrink, and Alfred Mpontshane, IFP chairman of the uMkhanyakude District, the report states that what was being allowed to occur in this “precarious” north-western area of KZN is “threatening and unacceptable”.

The recent decision to excise a 20-hectare section of land off Ndumo Game Reserve for subsistence agriculture could well turn out to be the “thin end of the wedge”.

“Apart from anything else this development is a complete abrogation of the province’s decision in 2000 to transfer ownership of parks to the local people’s hands while land tenure would remain unchanged. Aside from what could well be construed as the provincial government’s aim to exploit this provision of land for political ends, the excision could have incendiary implications, not just for KZN but for all game reserves throughout South Africa.”

Combrink and Mpontshane said that by “tampering” with boundaries of game reserves, authorities are “playing with fire” and throwing every single land claim affecting our reserves into the melting pot.

“What on Earth are our provincial authorities thinking? Do you consider for a moment that rural people living next to other game reserves are going to stand by and say: ‘Oh, this can only apply to this section of Maputaland and nowhere else’?”

Mpontshane said people should not misconstrue his findings. “Believe me, our party’s greatest concern is for the welfare of the people in this region. They are in desperate need of basic services, more land and a realistic chance of improving their lives. But we cannot be so irresponsible as to promise these things at the expense of the country’s great environmental assets. These are irreplaceable. The communities’ needs, on the other hand, are achievable, if only the provincial government would act decisively and honestly.”

The result of this land excision has, according to the re-port, already resulted in more than 100 poacher snares and traps being found deep in Ndumo Game Reserve.

The report’s findings are even more damning of the state of Kosi Bay and the “seeming indifference” of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority to manage this more northern section of the park.

“What is particularly worrying is that the Wetland Park authority appears to give very little support to Ezemvelo Wildlife in the latter’s attempt to apply control and management in the region. Certainly, all is not well in this relationship.”

The reports highlight the destruction of the entire 43-kilometre fence that surrounded the park from Mozambique down to the Mabibi area.

“It’s been ripped up and what this means is a complete free-flow of vehicles down to the Kosi lakes. The impact could result in the devastation of this sensitive area’s ecology — and this is already being witnessed.”

Combrink said that on one weekend he counted 43 vehicles driving through Mabibi.

“I cannot believe the number of new dirt roads that have been created in the area as a result of this uncontrolled influx. The fear, of course, is that this unabated invasion is going to impact on the crucial catchment areas supplying the lakes as well as uncontrolled theft of fish from the lakes,” said Combrink.

Already bakkies have been seen loaded with fish illegally and transporting them to Durban for sale.

The Wetland Park Authority also was accused of doing “absolutely nothing” to look after the Kwadapha and Nkovokeni areas on the western side of the lakes:

“These are incredibly sensitive areas and all we saw was a steady deterioration of landscape that threatens to undermine the Ramsar-accreditation of this park.”

This includes the establishment of illegal campsites (without a sniff of an environmental impact assessment), the construction of so-called community lodges, illegal fires to create vegetable gardens, destruction of indigenous vegetation and “the seemingly inevitable change in land-use”.

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