South Africa: Back to Basics – Addo Elephant Park’s Conservation Corridor

by Jun 7, 2011Elephants

Recently, we’ve become more and more aware of the impact that the human race is having on the planet, and are realizing that our actions can be incredibly effective on the earth’s biodiversity and eco-systems. Although it’s becoming quite difficult to change our ways, we need to take drastic action if we want our surroundings to survive the pollution and destruction that we’re spreading.

South Africa creates relatively little green house gases compared to major northern hemisphere countries such as China, Russia and America, however we do have an incredibly precious eco-system and fauna and flora which we need to ensure is saved and protected at all costs.

Addo Elephant Park has joined forces to create a conservation corridor which will ensure that the wildlife and nature of the Eastern Cape is preserved, allowing animals to go back to their natural environments.

A conservation corridor links existing protected areas to allow them to ecologically unite for different species, communities, and processes. Although this sounds quite complicated, in actual fact it’s incredibly simple: it’s joining existing protected areas to create one very large protected area.

Although separate areas do a good job at restoring and protecting the environment, the patterns and processes that are required for ecological functioning require extremely large areas and a variety of land and species.

According to Eden to Addo, the organisation behind this conservation corridor in the Eastern Cape, “fragmentation of the landscape causes the death of species and therefore a decrease in biodiversity”. By separating land with fences and wire, a reserve cannot protect or enhance ecological functioning and the patterns which lead up to it on a regional scale.

The change that is needed cannot be bought or created, it’s literally taking away the elements that could harm animals or plants, or which would potentially work against the already existing conservation projects. It’s more about making an effort to protect and restore original characteristics and properties which will take the land back to its most natural state.

Once the rehabilitation and restoration process has been carried out, give time for the plants and animals to return to the area, taking away unnecessary fences and human influence in the area.

By creating fire breaks and having controlled fires, a land can return to its original state, untouched by alien flora or aggressive hands. Bird perches and gravel roads should be maintained, and commercially purchased plants should be avoided as they often contain alien soil.

You may be asking why one would want to put in so much effort to restore a piece of land to its most basic state; however a conservation corridor has many functions which may answer your questions. The most prominent reason is that a conservation corridor enables migration and interbreeding of plants and animals from different “reserves” without people getting in the way.

The corridor allows animals and plants to spread freely from one area to another, but all the while they remain safe and within the optimal environment for their needs and characteristics. Both large and small animals will be allowed to wonder as they please, and plants can disperse easily without fences getting in the way.

Amongst other reasons, the conservation corridors also serve as fire escapes and enhance the long term chances of carnivore and herbivore survival within the area by safe guarding their food sources and homes.

Lastly, the corridors “enhance the flow of the ecosystem services that contribute to the overall ecological sustainability of an area”. This means that the conservation corridor will eventually be able to fully sustain itself without any human aid whatsoever.

Although many of us live in cities and can’t see the effects that global warming and the human species has had on South African soil, we need to realize the damage we are creating by simply not being aware.

Conservation corridors let locally protected areas mingle with each other, allowing the spread of animals and plants through the corridor without being prohibited by fences or man. The corridors ensure that the land is taken back to as close as possible to its original state, away from human hands and pollution.

By acknowledging and participating in conservation efforts, we’ll be able to help our land gain back the richness that it had long ago and will be able to offer animals healthier and safer breeding grounds.

By Kimberley Myers