Cape Town - Following its 12th annual National Parks Week campaign that afforded South Africans free access to the national parks, SANParks saw 77 340 visitors to the parks during the Heritage long-weekend.
Made possible with support from First National Bank (FNB) and Total South Africa, according to SANParks, this was a 24% increase from last year’s 62 312.
The top three parks with 202%, 138% and 119% increases respectively were Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage site, Karoo National Park and Marakele National Park.
This campaign under the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’ allowed locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice free of charge.
SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, says the objective of the week was to give all South Africans a chance to enjoy and experience the beauty and majesty of the breathtaking national parks.
“We had an increase of just over 24% this year from last year’s 62 312 visitors. It was good to see smaller parks such as Tankwa Karoo and Bontebok National Park also have an increase in their numbers compared to previous years," she says.
Mketeni says the SA National Parks Week aims to create a culture of pride in all South Africans in their relationship with the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.
"When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe they will start to understand the importance of conservation," she says.
According to SANParks, since its inception in 2006, National Parks Week has seen an influx of 364 275 day visitors in all participating parks.
“These numbers are encouraging and tell us that more people are taking advantage of this free week at our national parks and importantly we are beginning to see parks like Marakele and Karoo National Park show promising numbers,” says Mketeni.
The Cape region (Agulhas, Bontebok, Table Mountain, Tankwa and West Coast National Parks) have seen 85 012 day visitors come through their gates with a total of 14 164 visitors this year. The Frontier Region (Addo, Camdeboo, Garden Route, Karoo, and Mountain Zebra National Parks) has had 74 959 day visitors since 2006 with 20 092 visiting this year.
The Arid Region (Augrabies, Kgalagadi, Mokala and Richtersveld National Parks) has had 15 317 day visitors with 3 837 in 2017. The Northern Region (Mapungubwe National Park & World Heritage Site, Marakele and Golden Gate Highlands National Parks) welcomed 27 815 day visitors in the past 11 years, with a total with 8 578 this year. The iconic Kruger National Park has seen a total of161 172 since the inception of SA National Parks Week, of which 30 669 were visitors in 2017.
All of the parks managed by SANParks excluding Namaqua and Boulders at Table Mountain National Park participated in the initiative to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of the country’s natural heritage.
As each park hosted activities which were aimed at education, Mketeni says SANParks is focused on involving young people and communities to cultivate knowledge of the importance of conservation and an appreciation for the country’s natural heritage.
“Our partnerships are critical because it enables development outcomes that are not only a social responsibility, but also more socially inclusive and cultivate sustainable relationships. Adopting more socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable business operations helps cultivate sustainable relationships that allow us to tackle important national and global issues," says SANParks.
In conclusion, SANParks would like to extend its thanks to all South Africans who took part, especially educators and school groups.
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