Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Major Features

Cultural Importance

© 2009 Tony Weaver
© 2009 Tony Weaver
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. The ‡Khomani San and Mier heritage land is managed as a contractual park by SANParks and the income generated split equally.
The communities retain commercial benefits and rights, as well as the use of the land for symbolic and cultural purposes.

!Xaus Lodge, opened in 2007, further benefits these communities. It thus serves as a prime example of environmental management that also ensures the sustainability of conservation.

In November 2009 South Africa’s National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund donated R4.8 million to support the development of the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park is managed by a joint management board, which comprises representatives from the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities and SA National Parks (SANParks). The heritage park aims to preserve the cultural and traditional knowledge of these indigenous communities, while improving their livelihood opportunities. One of the key objectives is to expose Bushman children to the traditional lifestyles of their ancestors. This is realised through the implementation of the Imbewu programme and traditional veld school, held at Imbewu Camp.

Geographic Description

The Nossob and Auob Rivers cross the area. While these river beds are normally dry, they do flow from time to time after heavy rains. Between these rivers, in an area called the inner veld, there are spectacular red dunes. There are three large pans (in the Mabuasehube) which together with numerous smaller pans (over 1 000) and calcrete flats support a good variety of game.
The area is between 600 and 1 000m above sea level. It is arid, with a mean annual rainfall of between 127mm in the east and 350mm in the west; rain occurs mainly in late summer from January to April with a peak in March. The winters are cold and dry with some frost. The annual average temperatures range from a minimum of 4°C to a maximum of 32°C, but extreme temperatures of up to 45°C occur in summer.

Biophysical Features

The soils consist mainly of deep sands (12 - 60 m) of Aeolian origin, underlain by calcrete (and blue shales of the Dwyka Formation of the Karoo Supergroup).
The area is characterised by spectacular parallel dunes, separated by dune valleys. These dunes consist of both red and white sands.


Shrubby Kalahari dune bushveld predominates and is characterised by scattered shrubs of grey camel thorn, Acacia haematoxylon, camel thorn, Acacia erioloba and the shepherd's tree Boscia albitrunca. A second component of vegetation, the thorny Kalahari dune bushveld occurs along the Nossob and Auob rivers and is characterised by sparsely scattered trees of camel thorn Acacia erioloba, belly thorn Acacia leuderitzii, shepherds tree and silver dunster-leaf Terminalia sericea.


© 2009 Tony Weaver
© 2009 Tony Weaver
The vastness of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park allows the nomadic ungulate populations and their predators to maintain themselves in balance with their environment and there is little need for extensive management intervention.
The 60 mammalian species recorded include large herds of ungulates, mainly gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, eland and to a lesser extent red hartebeest.
These ungulates and an abundance of rodents support many carnivores and the Transfrontier Park has built up a deserved reputation as one on the few ecosystems in Southern Africa where a variety of large predators can be maintained. Leopard, brown and spotted hyena, lion and cheetah are all well represented. Other carnivores include the caracal, black backed jackal, bat-eared fox and cape fox. The endangered wild dog is also occasionally sighted. Other threatened mammals include the pangolin, the honey badger and Woosnam's desert rat.
264 bird species have been recorded, including many species endemic to the arid southwest region of southern Africa. Large nests of the sociable weavers are also characteristic of the region and can contain colonies of up to 300 birds.
Wild ostrich are frequently seen as well as the world heaviest flying bird, the cori bustard. Of the 80 raptors recorded in South Africa, 52 have been recorded in the Kgalagadi.

Global Importance

Arid regions are very sensitive and increasing desertification has led to a global recognition of the importance of plants and animals which are adapted to withstand desert conditions. This area is a very valuable storehouse of plants and animals adapted to withstand harsh environmental extremes.