State of Lim reserves come under spotlight

Limpopo’s nature parks are not always in such a pristine condition.
During an informal meeting, the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) came to this realization when they visited the Blouberg Nature Reserve near Vivo.
The meeting, held on 26 September, was organised by the local non-profit environmental group, Friends of Blouberg, and their chairperson, Mr Barry Fourie. Head of LEDET Mr Solly Kgopong attended the meeting and was accompanied by the Capricorn District manager for state-owned nature reserves, Mr Kaizer Mdluli.
A major concern raised during this meeting was the poor living conditions, in some cases non-existent, of staff accommodation available on provincial reserves. “Poachers build nice houses on income derived from their illegal activities, while field rangers must live in temporary structures,” said Fourie. “How can field rangers be expected to focus all their attention on anti-poaching operations if they have to live under such poor conditions?” was his question to Kgopong and Mdluli.
Further issues raised during the meeting included LEDET’s lack of specific budgets for the 43 provincial reserves that fall under their administration. The lack of proper administration has led to some reserves’ not having access to money to buy the diesel they need to pump water for game, said Fourie. In addition, Fourie added, local reserves are seriously understaffed, with less than 50% of available vacancies filled.
The conservation manager of BirdLife South Africa (BLSA), Mr Erns Retief, also attended the meeting, and got the opportunity to explain to LEDET the key role that Blouberg and all other nature reserves play in bird conservation. “BLSA offers an Important Bird Area (IBA) concept, which feeds directly into LEDET’s administration, therefore we are also very concerned about the state of the province’s reserves,” said Retief.
For Kgopong and Mdluli, the meeting served as an eye-opener. Reports that reach his table, he said, normally depict a better picture on reserves. Kgopong committed to pleading for more funding for the province during the upcoming medium-term expenditure framework meeting. He also envisages some structural changes within LEDET that will also help to improve development at parks. (LiN News / Zoutpansberger)