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Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
26 January 2000 Issue

Petition: National Park Under Threat
Source: MJartisian@prodigy.net (Melanie)

This is to protest against closing a National Park in South Africa that has rare animals (desert rhinos for example). It would be the first time in SA that a National Park is "de-proclaimed", and the reason is to allow for diamond mining.

Please, sign and pass the following petition:
_____________________________________________________

DEPROCLAMATION (CLOSURE) OF VAALBOS NATIONAL PARK: Kimberley Area, South Africa:

Please sign at the bottom and do include your town, country and e-mail address. If you receive this list and it has 100 names on it, please e-mail a copy of it to:
dtours@kimnet.co.za

Even if you decide not to sign, please be considerate and do not kill this important petition. (Choose either the COPY or FORWARD functions depending which is best at keeping the email legible.)

Thank you and kind regards.
Dirk Potgieter (Kimberley, South Africa.)

VAALBOS NATIONAL PARK (VNP) was proclamated by the South African Parliament in 1986 - the primary function of this 23 000 ha National Park was to protect a rare combination of 3 x ecotypes and to set up a safe and secure breeding facility for the highly endangered (desert) black rhino and several other rare species. Larger animal species found in the park on the schedule 1 list of endangered wild animals include the (desert) black rhino, white rhino, African scaly anteater and several schedule 2 endangered wild animals!

It is worth noting that Vaalbos National Park is bordered on the east & west boundaries by approx. 50 km of Vaal River frontage -- this being the only section of the Vaal River protected by National Park status and containing rare barb, rock catfish and the large-mouth yellowfish, not to mention birds, reptiles and insects.

The infrastructure of this uniquely diverse Park (situated 60 km north from Kimberley) was established primarily with a local work force ("by the community for the benefit of the community") recruited from among the impoverished local community along the eastern boundary (Barkly West, Longlands, Delportshoop and Gong-Gong). It is also worth noting that more than R4 million of local tax-payer money was invested in setting up roads and tourist facilities within this Vaalbos National Park. The promise was made from the very beginning and again with the grand opening in November 1996 that Vaalbos National Park would be a major economic boost and tourism asset to this neglected and progressively impoverished / unemployed area. As a young National Park, VNP was making its mark and visitor figures steadily increased with the charming 3 chalets very often fully book out.

But then on 24 July 1998 it was announced by Mr. Mavuso Masimang, Chief Executive of the South African National Parks (SANP) that the SANP in conjunction with the Northern Cape Provincial Government (NCPG) had decided upon deproclamation of the Park (the first Park ever in South Africa to be deproclamated) and that it should thus lose its National Park conservation status and legal protection.

This immediately influenced visitor figures negatively and amazed foreign tourists. According to a press release dated 25/07/98, Mr. Thabo Makweya, the NCPG MEC for agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Land Reform, stated that the interests of beginner miners (small diamond miners) would receive preference in the area's new status of utilization. Deproclamate a National Park for small scale mining of unconfirmed diamond deposits?

According to the SANP the initial aims for establishing a larger Vaalbos National Park were not realized, partly due to the manner in which it was done, which included threats of expropriation and non-consolation; this was to be expected to lead to failure. Other excuses such as not having aesthetic value, nor meeting the IUCN merit system requirements, as well as not being able to carry and sustain the major predators, are misleading -- many Parks, even in South Africa, do not meet these conditions and still exist.

As for SANP and NCPG themselves, there has been very limited communication and no consultation with the neglected and impoverished/unemployed surrounding area communities, as well as a definite lack of transparency and consideration in reaching this decision. Destroying the well-established Vaalbos National Park, with its much needed tourism potential for local communities, and then attempting to establish a new National Park elsewhere in the province, is but a futile dream. The result would be progressive impoverishment of already unemployed communities, and any attempt to establish a new National Park elsewhere in the province would involve great (duplicated) financial cost. The loss of Vaalbos National Park is our real issue here and this being the first National Park to be deproclamated in South Africa, this conservation failure would lay the foundation for further onslaught on other National Parks, in a modern world where conservation is fighting a losing battle.

To quote a foreign tourist once visiting Vaalbos National Park: "Some of the finest classic African scenery I have yet experienced!" We hope to have a web page up within the near future, but presently request your kind supporting vote in our quest to retain Vaalbos National Park for conservation and as a viable development to the benefit of the surrounding communities.

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Go on to Pet Theft Victims - Roland Windsor Vincent
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