Thanks to winter rainfall, Namaqualand has the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world; more than a thousand of its estimated 3,500 plant species are found nowhere else on Earth.
Home to the Namaqua speckled padloper (Homopus signatus
) – the world’s smallest tortoise – in addition to butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies that dart around among the flowers, this area is so rich in biodiversity that it’s known as the “gem of the Northern Cape.”
The Namaqualand Wilderness Initiative is a bold effort to bring together the existing Namaqua National Park, private and communal land, and coastal land owned by DeBeers Consolidated Mines to create a corridor that extends from the mountains to the sea across a spectrum of vegetation and microclimates.
As a critical first step, GCF and CI’s Southern Africa Hotspots Program brokered a deal with South Africa National Park Trust enabling the trust to buy 7,896 hectares of farmland for incorporation into the park.
With the GCF-purchased properties establishing a crucial link, in November 2008 De Beers and South African National Parks ended a decade-long negotiation process with an agreement whereby De Beers will hand over management of the adjacent 36,000 hectares of important coastal land for further expansion of Namaqua National Park.
The new acquisition, situated between the Groen and Spoeg rivers, brings the total corridor to 156,000 hectares—a major accomplishment completing one of seven top priorities identified in the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Program Strategy developed in 2003 with support from Conservation International’s Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
CI and its partners are now working to develop a renewable energy and conservation-based economic hub on adjacent land, as well as implement agreements for conservation best practices with communal and private landowners that offer new livelihood opportunities and help create a buffer area for the park in the face of climate change.