France and South Africa join forces to protect biodiversity in South Africa and on Reunion Island, with the support of AFD

Governance and Human Rights

A bipartite agreement between South African National Parks (SANParks – the public institution managing South Africa’s national parks) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) was signed on Saturday. 

Pretoria, Saturday 29 May 2021. A bipartite agreement between South African National Parks (SANParks – the public institution managing South Africa’s national parks) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) was signed. The ceremony was held in presence of Mr. Rémy Rioux, Chief Executive Officer of AFD, and of Dr. Luthando Dziba, Acting Chief Executive Officer of SANParks. The funding is allocated to support the sharing of experiences between SANParks and the Reunion Island National Park (PNR) to preserve biodiversity in South Africa and Reunion Island.

The implementation of this project is part of the cooperation agreement signed on 28 February 2019 in Pretoria (South Africa) between Reunion Island National Park and South African National Parks (SANParks). The project will benefit from €1.85 million in financial support from AFD, including €1,2 million to SANParks and € 0,65.million to Reunion Island National Park.

“Biodiversity conservation is one of France’s priorities. France will host the World Conservation Congress in 2021. Through this exemplary regional cooperation project, France is providing concrete support for the preservation of biodiversity in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.” Aurélien Lechevallier, Ambassador of France to South Africa.

The project focuses on a territory-to-territory cooperation between Reunion Island National Park (PNR) and Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) in Cape Town. TMNP, nominated as the main project partner, is managed by South African National Parks (SANParks), an internationally recognized reference for protected area management. SANParks oversees the management of 67% of the country’s terrestrial protected areas. TMNP covers 25,000 ha of natural areas located in the heart of Cape Town, stretching to the tip of the Cape of Good Hope. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004 and is the most visited park in the SANParks network with 5 million visitors per year. The PNR was created in 2007 and is a French public institution. Its territory covers 70% of the island’s surface area, with a central zone that houses 94% of the island’s endemic biodiversity. The park attracts around 1 million visitors per year, and manages the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Pitons, cirques and ramparts of Reunion Island”.

The two parks face similar challenges in terms of management and conservation of fragile ecosystems. Both parks are located in urban environments, which stretch from the mountain to the sea, with a presence of invasive and vulnerable species, and high numbers of tourists. Both SANPARKs and PNR will contribute expertise and collaborate on improving park management. In addition, the project will mobilize partner research bodies, including the University of Reunion, CIRAD and University of Cape Town.

According to SANParks Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Luthando Dziba, this peer-to-peer project will allow the teams of the two parks to strengthen their capacity by exchanging experiences around park management. “The main project activities include developing strategic plans and sharing tools for invasive species management, vulnerable species management, fire management and climate change preparedness, training, pilot field interventions, awareness raising activities and joint studies and research.”

Dr Dziba said the expected project impacts include a strengthening of know-how and skills for the biological control of invasive alien species and associated restoration (for example, integration of new detection tools from aerial images), anti-poaching, and analysis of risks. In addition, project outputs will address management of vulnerabilities related to the effects of climate change and its consequences for the territories of PNR and TMNP, governance and dialogue with stakeholders involved in the management and use of the parks, and management of the World Heritage site.

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