DURING the “Know Your National Parks” campaign earlier this month, the South African National Parks (SANParks) offered the South African public free entry to most of its parks.The five national parks which participated in the initiative were Addo Elephant, Camdeboo, Garden Route, the Karoo and Mountain Zebra National Parks. There was a 54% increase in visitors compared to last year.The annual campaign, which has been running for the past 14 years, allows locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend the day at a national park of their choice.SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, said the objective of the week-long campaign was to give all South Africans a chance to enjoy and experience the beauty and majesty of the national parks. Nationally, 113 032 visitors enjoyed free access to various parks. “When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe that they will start to understand the importance of conservation,” said Mketeni.Regionally, 30 657 people made use of the opportunity, compared to 19 610 last year. About half of these visited Addo Elephant National Park, which amounted to an increase of just over 52% over last year. “These numbers are encouraging and tell us that more people are taking advantage of this free week at our national parks,” said Mketeni.The annual South African National Parks Week has been made possible with support from First National Bank (FNB) and Total South Africa. “The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa,” said Mketeni.