Agulhas National Park acquires historical wetland

Posted on 3 February 2023 By Jordyn Johnson

South African National Parks (SANParks) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) celebrated World Wetlands Day on 2 February, by incorporating a historical wetland into Agulhas National Park.

In 2022, WWF paid a generous donation to take ownership of the Vissersdrift property, which lies 90% of the Soetendalsvlei wetland. They did this with the intention of incorporating it into the Agulhas National Park, thereby adding an extra 2 345 hectares to the park.

Soetendalsvlei is Africa’s southernmost freshwater lake and ‘plays a critical role in recharging groundwater and supplying fresh water for local agriculture.’ The vlei drains into the Heunings river, which is a ‘safe haven for migrating birds and for breeding fish.’ It has been titled a Critically Biodiverse Area and Important Bird Area, supporting over 60 species of water birds.

The Vissersdrift property is home to milkwood forests and has many cultural and archaeological attributes. Having the property under SANParks and WWF ownership will also mean that inland salt pans and rare veld types will benefit from extra protection.

The WWF and SANParks plan on clearing out alien plant infestations, addressing erosion control, and ‘improving area integrity, (looking) at fences, access control and other uses on land.’ Their main goal, however, is restoring the natural habitat.

‘Wetlands are the most threatened and least protected ecosystems in South Africa.’ The two organisations hope to preserve Soetendalsvlei’s ecological functions and promote the importance of wetlands.

CEO of WWF South Africa, Dr Morne du Plessis, said that ‘in the conservation world where we are often up against it, it’s important that we take a moment to celebrate our successes – and the acquisition of this critically important wetland area for incorporation into Africa’s southernmost national park is one such milestone. We are proud to have facilitated the expansion of the Agulhas National Park with a wetland that plays such a significant role in a functioning ecosystem. We are immensely grateful both to our generous donors and SANParks for their efforts in securing this wetland for future generations.’

Pictures: GettyImages

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