Tag Archives: #South Africa

Garden of Extinction

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Of all the areas of the stunning Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa – and all the areas are stunning – one in particular stood out. It was probably the smallest section, the least visually impressive, and one where few people lingered.

All photos: PKR

The Garden of Extinction area is just a tiny corner of the Gardens, which spread over 5 sq km (2 sq mi). Against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain, the gardens are lush, and feature all manner of wondrous plant life from various corners of the world. It’s a place to be edified, dazzled and revived.

But the Garden of Extinction is there for education. There are a few plant species, all of them somewhere on the spectrum from endangered to extinct in the wild.

Most of the species are modest, the kind of plant you would walk through on a windy hillside and only notice if they were in bloom.There are informative panels on how extinction occurs among plant species, and some suggestions for what can be done.

The plants aren’t fenced in as the last and final specimens of their kind, they are there to be experienced like all the other (currently non-endangered) species throughout the park.

That’s a part of the message – it’s not just the milestone species that go extinct.

These aren’t the plant equivalents of the quirky dodo or once-iconic passenger pigeon. These are the everyday plants around us, some of them limited in range but once abundant within their habitats, which are in the brink of disappearing forever.

And in that sense, this is the most powerful message of all: Any species, now matter how unusual or common, is vulnerable if the pressure on habitat becomes too great, if it is over-gathered or hunted, if it can’t adapt to altered conditions in terms of temperature or water availability.

Humankind, by and large, has come of age in an extended time of climate stability. A Goldilocks era that was neither too cold, nor too hot, for the veritable Garden of Eden we needed to grow and thrive.

In this Anthropocene age of the Sixth Extinction, it’s optimistic to think that the Garden of Extinction will remain the smallest corner of the larger garden. But we can still do everything in our power to limit its expansion.

Thank you, Dr. Mandela

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One of the many legacies left behind by the great Nelson Mandela will be his attention to conservation issues and his awareness of the role these issues play in society. In honor of his life, I thought I would highlight one of his many laudable projects today, one that brought together the dual challenges of conservation and peace.

Dr. Nelson Mandela, who passed away on 6 December 2013, was a founding member of the Peace Parks Foundation, together with Dr Anton Rupert and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

In Dr. Mandela’s words: “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, no ideology, which does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all.

“In a world beset by conflicts and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future. Peace parks are a building block in this process, not only in our region, but potentially in the entire world.”

Nelson Mandela opens a gate between South Africa and Mozambique, creating a corridor for elephants to freely cross transnational boundaries. Photo: Tony Weaver / PPF

Nelson Mandela opens a gate between South Africa and Mozambique to allow elephants to be moved from South Africa’s Kruger National Park to a protected area in Limpopo National Park..
Photo: Tony Weaver / PPF

Peace parks are also known as transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs). The Southern African Development Community(SADC) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement of 1999 defines a TFCA as “the area or component of a large ecological region that straddles the boundaries of two or more countries, encompassing one or more protected areas as well as multiple resource use areas”.

The Protocol commits the SADC Member States to promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas.

From the Peace Parks Foundation website: “The establishment and development of peace parks is a dynamic, exciting and multi-faceted approach to jointly manage natural resources across political boundaries.

“Peace parks are about co-existence between humans and nature, about promoting regional peace and stability, conserving biodiversity and stimulating job creation by developing nature conservation as a land-use option.”