Namibia Proclaims Huge National Park in Former Diamond-Mining Area

12/16/2008

Arlington, VA � The government of Namibia has taken a bold step to conserve some of the southern Africa nation�s unique natural heritage by establishing the Sperrgebiet National Park.

At 2.6 million hectares (more than 10,000 square miles), the new protected area is the largest single protected region proclaimed in Africa in two decades. Under plans involving neighboring states South Africa, Botswana and Angola, the Sperrgebiet National Park eventually will be part of a vast international conservation area.

Conservation International (CI) and its partners applaud the government�s initiative to conserve such valuable natural heritage for the benefit of the Namibian people and the entire southern African region.

�Namibia is leading the way in protecting vital ecosystems and all the services they provide people as part of a strategy for local and regional development,� said Frank Hawkins, the CI Vice President for Africa and Madagascar. �For the past century, the region was the domain of diamond mining and smuggling. Now it is a national treasure and part of ambitious plans to help southern Africa cope with climate change by conserving natural wealth on which local people depend.�

Namibia formally established the park on Dec. 1, with a Feb. 5 ceremony planned to officially launch it.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and CI�s Global Conservation Fund supported partners in Namibia to prepare and plan for the establishment and future management of the park. CI is a founding partner of the CEPF, which includes the French Development Agency, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.

The new park, which is larger than Israel or Massachusetts, supports nearly a quarter of Namibia�s plant diversity on less than 3 percent of the country�s land surface. It includes large tracts of unspoiled dune, plains and mountain scapes, and is home to several species of antelope, brown and spotted hyenas (Hyaena brunnea and Crocuta crocuta), Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus), and a variety of birds, reptiles and invertebrates. More than 1,000 plant species occur in the area, including 130 that are endemic. Several reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates also are restricted to this area or its immediate surroundings, including the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) that is listed as Vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Sperrgebiet National Park is part of the Succulent Karoo Hotspot, one of 34 regions identified by CI as containing high biological diversity that faces significant threat. It comprises a coastal region of southwestern Namibia that has been controlled by diamond mining and off-limits to the public for the past 100 years.

The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Program worked with the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), government agencies, Namdeb Diamond Corporation and other mining interests to secure the Sperrgebiet National Park. NNF also worked to raise awareness of conservation issues and support local communities in developing sustainable livelihoods. The next step is to establish effective co-management approaches for Sperrgebiet National Park between various landowners and custodians across the large landscape to optimize both the biodiversity and economic values.

Protecting nature at such a large scale is crucial for combating the effects of climate change, which is changing weather patterns and average temperatures to force species to migrate or roam in search of cooler conditions and water.

The Namibian government now is examining creation of a network of protected areas, including Sperrgebiet, along its entire coastal region from the South African border in the south to the Angolan border in the north. The possible �Namib Skeleton Coast National Park� would be divided into four management areas: the Sperrgebiet, Namib-Naukluft, Central Coastal, and the Skeleton Coast. If created, the resulting conservation area will cover 10.7 million hectares (more than 41,000 square miles), making it the largest protected area in Africa, the sixth largest terrestrial protected area in the world, and the eighth largest protected area overall.

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Media Contacts:

Sarah Frazee
CI Southern Africa Hotspots Director
Email: sfrazee@conservation.org
Phone: +27 21 799 8655        

Tom Cohen
CI Media Relations Director
Email: tcohen@conservation.org
Phone: +1 703 341 2729        

 

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