Earlier this year, Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) hosted the second Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun®. The 76 participants were mostly from South Africa, but also from 10 other countries, including Australia, Sweden and the USA. read more
Greater Mapungubwe, measuring 5 909 km2, has become the cultural TFCA. Visitors flock to the area not only to see the magnificent sandstone formations, the wide variety of trees – notably the enormous baobab – and game and birdlife, but also to experience a kinship with past generations. The cultural resources of the Limpopo-Shashe basin are generally associated with Iron Age settlements of around 1200 AD. The similarity of ivory objects, pottery remains and imported glass beads excavated at different sites spread across the modern international borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, attests to the cultural affinity of the people who lived in the Limpopo-Shashe basin during the Iron Age.
The Mapungubwe World Heritage Site is a major attraction park and was home to the famous gold rhino - a symbol of the power of the King of the Mapungubwe people who inhabited the Limpopo River Valley between 900 AD and 1300 AD. At that time Mapungubwe had developed into the largest kingdom on the subcontinent. It is believed that a highly sophisticated civilisation, which traded with Arabia, Egypt, India and China, existed at Mapungubwe.
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in July 2003. With the assistance of Peace Parks Foundation, De Beers, the National Parks Trust and WWF-SA, South African National Parks (SANParks) negotiated with landowners and bought up farmland to consolidate the core area of South Africa’s contribution to the proposed TFCA. Mapungubwe National Park was officially opened on 24 September 2004.
A memorandum of understanding on the TFCA’s establishment was signed on 22 June 2006 and an international coordinator was appointed. On 19 June 2009, Limpopo / Shashe TFCA was renamed the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA.
In 2011, much time was spent to ensure responsible mining operations at the Vele Colliery that lies 5.7 km from the boundary of the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. Prior to operations commencing, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks and Coal of Africa signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA). The MoA seeks to ensure the conservation and integrity of this globally significant natural and cultural World Heritage Site and maintain and strengthen cooperation between the signatories. In 2014, the signatories signed a biodiversity offset agreement for Vele Colliery, obliging the mine to support SANParks’ conservation efforts.
In 2015 Peace Parks Foundation procured tracking devices for the TFCA, for gathering data. To assist with cross-border operations and law enforcement efforts, the foundation also donated a quad bike to the TFCA.
In March 2016, teachers from Botswana and rangers from South Africa conducted a joint clean-up campaign in Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage site. Apart from cleaning, the visitors were also shown the cultural treasures and beauty of the park. Friendly soccer matches took place and stories were shared around the fire as part of an exciting interactive platform for stakeholders working together across the transboundary landscape.
In April, the TFCA’s trilateral technical committee endorsed a joint operations strategy for the TFCA, for implementation by the resource managers committee. A performance evaluation framework for the strategy was also adopted. The resource managers committee oversees the management of natural resources. During the year, several coordinated law enforcement patrol operations were conducted between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which led to poacher arrests and snare recoveries.
The inaugural Mapungubwe Transfrontier WildrunTM took place from 13 to 15 May. Following elephant paths and game trails, this ground-breaking safari-on-the-run event took runners through Maramani community lands and the Sentinel Ranch in Zimbabwe, across the Shashe River onto the savannah of Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve, and over the ancient Mapungubwe citadel in South Africa’s Mapungubwe National Park. Runners crossed the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, running through magnificent riverine forests, passing huge baobab trees, seeing rare San rock paintings and dinosaur fossils, and covering kilometres of ancient elephant trails etched into stone. They came across abundant wildlife, including elephant, zebra, antelope, giraffe and crocodile. Fresh lion and leopard spoor kept everyone vigilant, but the rangers ensured the safety of the group at every turn. The event was the result of two years of hard work by Wildrunner and Boundless Southern Africa, as well as many government officials from the three partner countries, customs and immigration officials, the Maramani community and landowners of Sentinel Ranch, Shalimpo and the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Mapungubwe National Park officials and the SANParks Honorary Rangers. Zimbabwe’s Maramani community was essential to the success of the event and in turn were the largest beneficiaries, working as camp staff and even growing and supplying vegetables for the event. About 95% of the logistical support and suppliers were sourced from the Beitbridge Rural District in Zimbabwe.
Tour de Wilderness, the organiser of the annual Nedbank Tour de Tuli multi-stage mountain bike event, this year celebrated the 12th successful tour, which saw 330 participants cycle across 275 km of challenging and remote terrain in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA, between 28 July and 2 August. The three partner countries are committed to the TFCA’s development through tourism for community development and sustainable conservation. The cyclists experienced a range of incredible wildlife interactions, notably when a herd of elephant walked past the first tea stop. In addition to the beautiful scenery along the way,, one of the highlights was interacting with the children at Lentswe Le Moriti Primary School in Botswana. Many cyclists handed out backpacks with stationery and caps to the schoolchildren who were thrilled with their new goods and especially enjoyed being taken on a few short rides by some of the friendly but dusty cyclists. Children in the Wilderness sponsored the participation of three cyclists from the local communities and involved immigration officials from Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as a keen cyclist from the local community in Botswana. Government officials and the tour organisers demonstrated the highest
level of teamwork and flexibility to ensure that a good time was had by all.
The first Mapungubwe Landscape and Heritage Festival was held in Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site in September. Culture and heritage were celebrated in song, dance and poetry. The event brought together conservationists, academics, the private sector and artists, all of whom left with an appreciation of the beauty and value of the TFCA.
A training workshop on wildlife poisoning forensics was successfully hosted at Sentinel Ranch, from 17 to 18 October. The workshop was motivated by the need to build capacity of resource managers and law enforcement officers and rangers on dealing with wildlife poisoning cases, crime scene investigation, the identification of poisons, the impact of poisoning on the ecology and possible solutions that may be implemented in the Greater Mapungubwe, Great Limpopo and KAZA TFCAs.
In December, Children in the Wilderness hosted a second tri-nations camp at Mapungubwe National Park, in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation and the TFCA’s trilateral technical committee. Involving communities that live in and around the TFCA is of vital importance, with rural schoolchildren identified as its future custodians.
‘The rural learners selected to attend this camp were given the unique opportunity to interact with, and befriend, their peers from neighbouring countries. Through shared experiences, both fun and educational, they learnt that it is only through international cooperation and friendship that we can save Africa’s wild places, and by extension, ourselves’, said Dr Sue Snyman, programme director.