Northern Drakensberg gets a new nature reserve
15.06.2024 RSA Drakensberg   11
Northern Drakensberg gets a new nature reserve

The North Drakensberg, known for its spectacular scenery and epic hikes, is home to KwaZulu-Natal's newest nature reserve.

The 6,500-hectare North Drakensberg Nature Reserve, which was officially announced on April 18, complements the conservation corridor linking the neighboring UKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal (declared a World Heritage Site in 2000) with the Sterkfontein Nature Reserve in the Free State.

The new reserve consists of 19 properties owned by 11 private landowners who have recognized the value of protecting their land in perpetuity and contributing to the security of the country's poorly protected grassland biomes and strategic water sources.

The North Drakensberg Nature Reserve includes several established resorts that have been has been hosting holidaymakers for decades, and many visitors come to explore the region's natural wonders, mountain peaks and lush valleys.

The new nature reserve will be managed by the North Drakensberg Landowners' Association in accordance with a ten-year conservation area management plan - a legal requirement declarations. It details the development and operational objectives required to ensure that the reserve is effectively managed as it was intended – for the benefit of people and nature.

Northern Drakensberg Landowners Association Chairman Sean Forster commented: “For the first time we started this conversation with other landowners in 2018. We originally intended to protect 12,000 hectares from the Free State border to the Tugela River. But the 6,500 hectares that we have secured are critical because they contain beautiful grasslands and, of course, water flows from these areas into the Tugela River. Besides all the endangered species, the cornerstones of this reserve are the grasslands and water. The news is still getting to us, but we are already seeing the benefits of starting this process.”

Creating a protected area with multiple landowners requires careful negotiation and contracting, legal skill and following the right administrative processes . This was all made possible thanks to the hard work of Conservation Outcomes, with funding from WWF South Africa and the approval of the provincial conservation authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Thembanani Nsibande, WWF South Africa Rangeland Manager, said: “A nature reserve of this size contributes to the expansion of South Africa's network of protected areas and in this beautiful part of our country with incredible biodiversity value, it gives us even more inspiration to see the level of shared conservation ambition and commitment.

“How WWF, we are committed to supporting initiatives to expand protected areas in this region, working with our partners such as Conservation Outcomes and willing landowners. As a result, another initiative is currently underway through a partnership between WWF, WildTrust and other partners to secure community lands in the area. This scope of work is funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and will further enable the creation of protected corridors between communally owned lands, the North Drakensberg Nature Reserve and the UHahlamba Drakensberg Park.”

In South Africa, grasslands are poorly protected. : Reportedly, less than 3% of the grassland biome is currently officially protected. However, these areas are not only important for biodiversity, but also act as giant sponges that absorb large amounts of rainfall in the eastern part of the country.

The reserve is part of the Northern Dragon Strategic Water Source Zone, which means that it also makes a significant contribution to South Africa's water security.


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