Umgeni Valley granted nature reserve status

Posted on 12 June 2019

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) recently announced it has successfully achieved official nature reserve status for the Umgeni Valley in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Also stylised as ‘Umngeni’, Wessa first launched the Umngeni Valley Project in 1976. The 900-hectare Umgeni Valley is home to varied vegetation habitats, from forested patches and thornveld savannah to riverine and subtropical thickets. The region is home to the Midlands Mistbelt Grassland, KZN Hinterland Thornveld to the Southern KZN Moist Grassland. Most notably, perhaps, the nature reserve is about a kilometre from the town of Howick, and starts at the base of the splendid Howick Falls.

Efforts to have the valley officially proclaimed as a nature reserve has been seven years in the running, with Wessa and other stakeholders having begun the process in 2012. It was officially gazetted on 16 May 2019, and Wessa views this progress as a ‘significant achievement’ for all involved and for conservation. Important aspects of this process involved developing a Protected Areas Management System (PAMS) for the Umgeni Valley, a system designed expressly for the efficient management of protected areas.

Wessa plans to implement this management system in all operations within the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. Official nature reserve status means that the Umgeni Valley will receive more funding and support from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Department of Environmental Affairs and other related governmental bodies. Wessa will not, however, be involved in implementing any alien vegetation programmes, water quality projects or species protection programmes.

Wessa hopes this official designation will revive the Umgeni Biosphere Reserve Project in the hope of attracting more funding conservation and the protection of biodiversity. Eco-tourism programmes also feature on the Wessa agenda, and the society hopes that the Umgeni Valley will remain a special place to schools and families.

Also read:

8 things to do in Howick

Image: WESSA Umngeni Valley via Facebook

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