Editor's note: The Traveler is expanding our coverage of national parks in other nations. We'll soon be rolling out travel features on international park destinations, but we're also christening this weekly roundup on park news from countries other than the U.S. And if you live in one of the 200 countries where our readers reside, send Randy your news or suggestions.
New National Park for Australia’s Capital
A new national park may be coming to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia’s designation for the 910 square mile (2,358 square kilometer) federal area surrounding the capital of Canberra (akin to the District of Columbia, or DC, that denotes the national capital of Washington in the United States).
The effort for a new national park was sparked last year when a Canberra environmental organization asked the government to investigate the idea. The Canberra Times said, “The ACT National Parks Association used a budget submission to the ACT government to urge the development of the park which would rebrand many ACT nature reserves as protected areas.” A handful of adjacent nature reserves dot the eastern regions of the capital.
The new park would run from “from Mulligan's Flat in the north to Wanniassa in the south,” and protect “endangered lowland grassy woodlands, particularly yellow-box red-gum ecosystems.” Among the evocatively named endangered species affected would be “the golden sun moth, button wrinklewort, superb parrot and grassland earless dragon.”
ACT National Parks Association president Rod Griffiths said, “rebranding urban reserves as national park would afford the imperiled ecosystems greater protection. ... Along the northern border of the ACT there is the potential to maintain a magnificent crescent of land that would link up existing reserves and support threatened grassy woodlands.”
Griffiths said, ''One of the key recommendations to come out of the investigation was about improving the condition and resilience of our nature reserves by improving connectivity between them. Without the maintenance of biodiversity corridors that join them, our reserves become vulnerable islands.''
The Canberra Times, said, “If approved, the bushland would be the ACT's second national park.” Canberra is often referred to as Australia’s “Bush Capital.” The “Bush” is an iconic term in Australia, depicting an often grassless area of brushy shrubs with an overstory of eucalyptus.
Nearly half of the ACT is national park already, mostly the Namadgi National Park in the west, which comprises the northern part of a massive preserve that forms the Australian Alps national parks that arc across New South Wales, Australia’s southeastern-most state, from more northerly Canberra, into the southerly state of Victoria toward Melbourne.
Poaching in Africa Continues to Make News
Last Thursday, four South Africa National Parks (SANParks) officials appeared in court in connection with rhino poaching. They were arrested in late February after dead and dehorned rhinos were found in the Pretoriuskop section of the park.
Those charged [/url]were a “traffic officer Doctor Mabusa Mgwenyama, field ranger Tiyanan Mabunda, and two guides, Charles Mabunda and Duncan Mnisi.”
“The case was postponed for formal bail application and they remain in custody,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga. The suspects will return to court on March 14 to face charges of “poaching and defeating the ends of justice.”
Another suspected poacher also appeared in the same court last week. He was among four men encountered in Kruger National Park by South Africa National Park rangers. One of the other suspected poachers was killed and two others were wounded. The group was reportedly ordered to stop while crossing a river where they were spotted, and when they fired on rangers, the officers fired back, killing one, wounding two, and taking Jose Antonio Sitoe, a 29-year-old Mozambican, into custody. Sitoe reportedly admitted killing three rhinos in the park in the prior week.
South Africans to Comment On National Park Expansions
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has asked South Africans to comment on the department's desire to add land to the country's eight national parks.
Molewa posted a notice under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act requesting that the public weigh in on the possibility of expanding the Tankwa Karoo, Camdeboo, Mountain Zebra, Namaqua, West Coast, Karoo, Table Mountain and Addo Elephant national parks.
Former Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk approved SANParks proposal to acquire land for the eight national parks listed above. A variety of local government entities were also invited to comment on the proposed expansions.
Comments were invited within 60 days via e-mail to: [email protected]