Alignment of the western boundary conservation areas to KNP and the GLTFCA

On the 19thJune, a meeting was facilitated by Dr Marisa Coetzee and Greg Martindale at the K2C Offices. Marisa is the Senior Manager of Park Planning, KNP and Greg Martindale is the GEF PA Consultant assisting with regularisation and declarations in the nature reserves adjacent to KNP, as part of the GEF PA Programme.  Most of the wardens of the adjacent reserves on the western boundary of KNP attended the meeting, as well as several other well-known role-players in our landscape such as Dr Mike Peel.
KNP has recently gone through a lengthy and thorough Management Plan Review Process, which included extensive consultation with its neighbours and stakeholders. The revised Management Plan is now in place for 10 years, with only annual refinements to take place as part of the adaptive management practice.
Part of the GEF PA programme, facilitated by the K2C in partnership with SANParks, LEDET and MTPA, aims to assist with either the declaration of new nature reserves (some of which may have been ‘managed’ as a protected area for many years), and / or help regularise the portions of nature reserves not previously declared and to get declarations aligned with the current legislation pertaining to Protected Areas: NEMPAA (National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act). Key requirements of NEMPA are: integrated management plans are developed (and implemented) for each protected area declared and an annual plan of operation (APO) with associated costing be compiled.
The purpose of the meeting was a next step in the collaboration between KNP and the western boundary nature reserves. The specific aims were to: establish the status quo on the management plan development of the individual reserves; ensure alignment of these management plans with the KNP Master Management Plan; and to also inform the wardens of the role of METT (Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool) assessments, and the upcoming METT training to be done with all partners in the landscape. METTs will be conducted by individual reserve entities as well as at a cluster level. 
More than 20 years ago the fences between KNP and the APNR (association of private nature reserves) were dropped, but unfortunately in that process insufficient collaboration and planning took place between the different entities, and so now, with creating greater extents of open systems and new improved legislation, there is a necessity to have better co-operation and alignment. This does not change ownership and the reserve constitutions, but it does mean that the ecosystems are managed at landscape scale, relationships enhanced, and that cognisance of neighbours and their objectives are taking into consideration. Co-operative agreements are in the process of being negotiated between the individual reserve entities, such as Klaserie and Umbabat , and KNP are being negotiated, to formalise these relatoionships.
Marisa emphasised that the Management Plans should not be seen as a burden, but a practical tool to help guide management of these areas and ensure consistency. Nowhere in South Africa has this been achieved before. These Management Plans are an opportunity to be transparent with the greater public so that people are informed of what their objectives are and how the reserve manages its landscape and raises money to fund management activities, especially those relating to security. Similarly, the APOs are a valuable tool to inform management of the expected costs, the income available, and where there will be deficit so that this can planned for accordingly.

The KNP and western boundary reserves form part of the core of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), which extends across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This forms an exciting mosaic of national, private, communal and provincially protected conservation areas. Through the GEF Mainstreaming Programme, the linkages with the biodiverse-rich, and critically important catchments of the escarpment are also being forged. Already the rivers provide this connection between the grasslands and forests along the northern escarpment and the savannah ecosystem of the Lowveld, but improved alignment and collaboration are also being fostered. Landowners in the K2C are setting a precedent!

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