Conservation at Mountain Zebra National Park October 6th, 2017
Conservation at Mountain Zebra National Park
The most important function of the Park, along with responsible tourism and maintaining stakeholder relationships, is to manage the unique biodiversity of the area for conservation. The strategies employed for biodiversity conservation are as follows:
• Maintaining, restoring and mimicking ecological processes to ensure a spatially diverse environment. An example of this is translocating a sub-adult male lion from the Park to another reserve to mimic the scattering habit of sub-adult lions once they are ousted from their pride.
• Ensuring freshwater ecosystems function and provide ecosystem services by restoring these systems.
• Ensuring the survival of key species such as the Cape mountain zebra and cheetah by managing them as part of a national metapopulation.
• Providing a sense of wildness and tranquil atmosphere for the enjoyment of all by maintaining the landscapes within and on the borders of the Park.
• Planning and monitoring so that the impacts of other influences or outside pressures are minimised.
The Park’s terrestrial ecosystem is managed through the habitat and vegetation, restoration (erosion, alien plants and animals), herbivore management, carnivore management, disease management and fire management programmes.
An annual aerial census is done by helicopter to monitor numbers of herbivores and provide information for management decisions. Various monitoring programmes are also in place to provide information about specific populations (such as cheetah and springbok) as well as vegetation condition and composition of various vegetation types. Some of the management actions taken involve the off-take of surplus individuals of herbivore species such as black wildebeest and red hartebeest.
As with many other protected areas, Mountain Zebra National Park has incorporated areas that were degraded by previous land use practices. Since 2012, the Park has been actively engaging in rehabilitation efforts to improve the landscape through the Expanded Public Works Programmes.
Labour intensive projects have been designed to apply well-tested erosion control activities in an effort to rehabilitate these areas. Land is also rehabilitated through the control of invasive alien plants, mainly jointed cactus Opuntia aurantiaca and prickly pear Opuntia ficus-indica, by both herbicide and biocontrol agents (mainly a non-invasive insect called cochineal).
Social economic opportunities created through the employment and skills training of participants within the programmes add tremendous value in an area that has limited opportunity for employment.
Erosion rehabilitation activities aim to restore the natural habitat composition, structure and function, thereby enhancing ecosystem services such as: water regulation, purification and carbon sequestration. Reducing the risk of natural disasters by improving landscape stability and resilience. This will further improve biodiversity within the Park as well as on a landscape scale, which directly aligns with one of SANParks core mandates.