National parks protect, create revenue and jobs

Last week’s movie review was certainly an eye-opener for me and has sparked a lot of ideas which I hope to discuss in more detail at a later date.

This week, however, I want to talk about one of the first things that popped into my head while watching – the importance of our national parks.

According to South African National Parks (SANParks), there are 18 national parks spread across SA.
Here in the Eastern Cape, they are the Camdeboo, Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra and Garden Route National Parks.

The most obvious benefit of having these parks is that they play a major role in protecting the environment and biodiversity of our country. I’m not just talking about stopping poachers either, although that is vital.

National parks provide a protected space where nature is allowed to run (mostly) wild, free of the disrupting and destructive influences of human civilisation’s destructive influences.

This has allowed many species of flora and fauna to continue existing even when they have been pushed out of their habitats elsewhere. In addition to their natural beauty, these parks also serve as important historical sites.

Take the Kruger National Park for example, one of the world’s most famous.parks in the world.

The history of Kruger goes all the way back to 1898 when it was first called the Sabi Game Reserve. From there, its story becomes entwined with that of the Anglo-Boer War, with the first warden being a captain in the British army.

Even its name comes from Paul Kruger, one of the most prominent individuals in South African history whose bust continues to watch over the entrance to the park.

CONSERVATION: A mother elephant crosses the road with her child at the Kruger Park. Nature reserves like Kruger have played a vital role in protecting species like the elephant from poachers
Picture: MATTHEW FIELD

This brings us to our next point, which is that national parks are a vital source of first-hand education.

Going back to the Kruger example, the guides responsible for taking visitors out on tours of the park are highly knowledgeable on the many species living there and are always sharing that information or answering questions from guests.

Outside of the tours, all camps provide access to educational resources and supplementary material for those looking to dig even deeper.

It’s not just the guests who benefit either. National parks are constantly collaborating with universities and research organisations in order to further our collective understanding of our natural environment.

By preserving nature as much as possible, the parks allow us to study the world in the purest state available.

Finally, there’s the economic benefits the parks bring. that national parks bring.

National parks are a major tourist destination, pulling in millions of visitors every year.
According to SANPark’s latest annual report, nearly seven million people visited national parks in 2016/17 which marked a growth of 14%.

They also expect visitor numbers to grow by 60% in the next decade.

These sort of numbers translate into lots of revenue being made. In the same report, SANParks said revenue from tourism had reached R1.4bn billion in 2016/17, up by 15% in the previous year.

In addition to helping sustain the parks, this revenue pumps much-needed cash into the national economy and goes a long way to helping local communities.

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