Statement by Dr Anton Rupert, Chairman and Founder of Peace Parks Foundation

8 December 2005

Dr Anton Rupert, Chairman and Founder of Peace Parks Foundation, welcomed the announcement that the Giriyondo Access Facility between Mozambique's Limpopo National Park and South Africa's Kruger National Park became operational on 7 December 2005. Giriyondo will facilitate the tourism flow within this peace park. The announcement was made by the Joint Ministerial Committee of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Reacting to enquiries, Dr Rupert said that it was fifteen years ago that he first met with President Chissano of Mozambique to discuss the cross-border concept, "He grasped the opportunities immediately and agreed that we could take the concept further,"Rupert said. "Unfortunately, the civil war between Renamo and Frelimo continued for a further 5 years and we could only discuss the details of the concept further in 1996. When Dr Nelson Mandela, then South African State President, also put his weight behind this idea, the process really started."

Many joint ministerial meetings between the countries followed since then 3 268 animals of different species were translocated from Kruger National Park to populate the Mozambique side of the park.

Asked whether 15 years is not too long a time to wait for such an event, Rupert said: "We never expected that cross-border parks would be operative overnight. Although there were many frustrations one must remember the many aspects that need attention in this process. To mention only a few: veterinary policies, management training, roads and accommodation construction, and as far as Mozambique is concerned, their communities living in and around the park had to be consulted. In the end the wait will be worthwhile for all the stakeholders."

He went on to say: "Let me remind you of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve near Sun City. When we started this reserve in the late 70's, people criticised the park authorities after two years saying it would be a disaster and that nothing would happen there. Now, 25 years later this park holds the third largest rhino population in the world and it receives 500 000 visitors per annum, half of what Kruger National Park gets annually, and that on an area that is one-twentieth the size of the Kruger National Park."

Rupert went on to say that the local communities in the Pilanesberg area benefit from the tourism opportunities that come their way. "I have no doubt that Mozambique will eventually experience the same," Rupert said and continued "Part of the elephant culling problem faced by the Kruger National Park authorities now may be softened by this cross border park thanks to the re-establishment of the natural migratory routes originally followed by the elephant"

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