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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Park Development

A verbal agreement reached in 1948 is the basis of the de facto existence of the Kalahari Transfrontier Park. In recognition of the arrangement no barrier exists along the international border separating the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa, and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The park warden and some of the rangers of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa have been ex-officio honorary game wardens in Botswana since 1964.
In June 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks (then South African National Parks Board) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana set up a joint management committee (Transfrontier Management Committee). This addressed the formalisation of the verbal agreement, and produced a management plan that set out the framework for the joint management of the area as a single ecological unit. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park management plan was reviewed and approved by the two conservation agencies early in 1997.
A bilateral agreement recognising the new Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was signed on 7 April 1999 between Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks and South African National Parks. This agreement established the first formally recognised transfrontier park in Southern Africa.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was officially opened by President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on 12 May 2000. As Africa's first transfrontier park, it served as a symbol of the long anticipated dawn of transnational interdependence and cooperation in Southern Africa.

In May 2002 the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities reached an historic land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa and South African National Parks (SANParks) which restored a large tract of land to the communities that had once roamed or farmed this area. Named the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park Agreement, its outcome resulted in the transfer of ownership of 50 000 hectares of land within the boundaries of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park from SANParks to the two communities, who then leased the land back to SANParks to manage. 
Africa's first transfrontier park was given new impetus when the presidents of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa opened the Mata-Mata tourist access facility on 12 October 2007. This historic access point on the border of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Namibia has boosted cross-border tourism, reunite local communities and enhance job creation. It also contributes to socio-economic development, especially in the tourism sectors of the three countries.
Speaking at the opening, President Festus Mogae of Botswana said "... occasions such as this give our countries the pleasure and pride of presenting the Park to the SADC region, and the African continent, as an example of building blocks for subregional and regional cooperation and integration among the countries of the subcontinent". President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia said the opening was a step towards the removal of barriers and the free movement of people as part of regional integration within the SADC region, while President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa said: "It is a celebration of our shared natural and cultural inheritance and another step towards making our parks more accessible for 2010 and beyond. It is the ever-rhythmic African reality interwoven with infinity. It is conservation for the people with the people."
Landowners on the Namibian side of the border have expressed an interest in joining their land to Kgalagadi and becoming part of this ecotourist attraction.
© 2009 Glynn O'Leary
© 2009 Glynn O'Leary
Earlier in the year !Xaus, a fully catered luxury lodge owned by the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities, opened its doors.
The joint access facility at Two Rivers/Twee Rivieren is jointly manned by customs officials from Botswana and South Africa. Access to Kgalagadi can thus be gained through four access facilities in three different countries: from Botswana through Two Rivers / Twee Rivieren, Mabuasehube and Kaa; from Namibia through Mata-Mata, and from South Africa through Two Rivers / Twee Rivieren. Passports are not required for entry, unless departure is planned through a different gate into another country, in which case a two-day stay in the park is compulsory.
In 2013 a joint management committee was also established to oversee and undertake joint initiatives and activities. In 2014, the transfrontier park's integrated development plan was adopted by both countries and the first steps taken to implement the identified actions.

A Wi-Fi service was installed at the Two Rivers/Twee Rivieren entrance gate and rest camp, Mata-Mata, Nossob, Mabuasehube and Kaa. This has eased communications between the Botswana and South African park management teams, as well as with visitors, especially regarding reservations and information exchange.

Botswana formally established a country-level park management committee to discuss and guide all decisions impacting on their component of Kgalagadi.

The Turner Foundation is kindly supporting a lion-collaring project. The African lion is listed as highly endangered in the wild in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the past 20 years the overall population has declined by 30% – 50%. In Kgalagadi, the lion is an iconic species and key to tourism experiences and expectations.
Staff from Botswana and South Africa now work together to ensure that visitors adhere to park regulations in order to protect the fragile desert environment and its wildlife. During patrols, vehicles are stopped, passports and permits checked and vehicles opened to verify that no illegal substances are being transported. The patrols are overseen by the park’s joint management committee and guided by its joint operational strategy. Other joint activities include the management of the park’s predators; the management of the movement of people, goods and services; road maintenance and the upgrade of the boundary fence. The park’s management committee endorsed the integrated development plan, which will now be presented to other key structures in both countries. World Ranger Day was celebrated at a function on 31 July 2014, involving staff from both countries.
The Ta Shebube desert circuit is a new and exciting tourist destination on the Botswana side of Kgalagadi. It features two lodges, at Polentswa and Rooiputs, which both promote high-quality, low-density tourism.

In 2015 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was ranked ninth in the Top 50 Best Safari Parks of Africa by SafariBookings.com

Thanks to a major donations by South Africa’s National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Rotary International and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park is being developed.