We want more Cradle visitors - minister

2015-09-11 14:21
Homo naledi (National Geographic, AP)

Homo naledi (National Geographic, AP)

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Scientists believe they’ve unearthed a new species of human relative, Homo naledi. WATCH

Johannesburg - Government wants to encourage more visitors to the Cradle of Humankind and its Maropeng Visitor Centre.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Friday they were investing R22m as a result, with the hope of making the World Heritage Site more attractive to visitors.

Speaking during an interview on broadcaster 702, Hanekom said in light of the discovery and the announcement of new human ancestor Homo naledi in the Cradle, the site should be "enhanced".

"We are supporting all the eight World Heritage sites [in South Africa], to make them more attractive. These are our iconic [sites]," he told the broadcaster.

"This specific R22m, we are just going to enhance Maropeng and the Cradle...We want to encourage more families to Maropeng."

Features such as an interactive laboratory for young learners and a planned 500-seater amphitheatre in the area were just the beginning. 

"I'm sure over the years we will be giving them a lot more support," he said.

At Maropeng on Thursday, the discovery of Homo naledi was announced to the world. 

"Today I am pleased to introduce you to a new species ... they are an extraordinary species," said Professor Lee Berger.

Some 1 550 fossils were found in a cave, and there are thousands more still there. The find includes 15 individuals - eight children and five adults.

The most interesting part about the discovery was that these bodies were carried into the cave or thrown there.

This meant that Homo naledi had an understanding of death, Berger said at the Cradle of Humankind on Thursday.

The discovery unveiled on Thursday was found at the Rising Star cave in October 2013. The fossils were found in a remote chamber, about 90 metres from the entrance.

A team of cavers had to fit through an 18-centimetre wide hole and climb down a 12-metre vertical passage in very dangerous conditions to remove the fossils.

Hanekom said part of the investment would ensure the displays at Maropeng and the Cradle itself were up to date, so it remained a place adults and children could enjoy.

"I think they have ... succeeded. Older people that have happened to have been there say it's a fantastic visit but the kids really have fun, but we can add to it and that's what we [are] trying to do," Hanekom said.

He believed the discovery would prove to be a boost to tourism to the Cradle, which also happened after it was declared a World Heritage Site.

Read more on:    lee berger  |  derek hanekom  |  mahikeng  |  homo naledi  |  paleontology

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