Biodiversity and conservation management NWPB’s responsibility is limited to the management of 15 protected areas in the Province and excludes the management of recreational parks, dams and facilities outside protected areas but allows facilitation and support to institutions. The reserves cover a total surface area of approximately 212 000 hectares. Recently some 6 500 hectares of community land were incorporated into bigger Madikwe Game Reserve and additional 2 000 hectares to Borakalalo National Park. The reserves are located all over the Province, in all of the four different district municipalities. Pilanesberg and Madikwe are the most well-known parks, but included in the reserves estate are also Molopo Nature Reserve in the Southwest of the Province, Kgaswane and Borakalalo in the North Eastern parts of the Province, and Barberspan Bird Sanctuary in the central parts of the Province. A brief outline of the reserves is shown below.
The Parks are also located across a distinct rainfall gradient, with the average rainfall figures of parks in the Northeast measuring approximately 630mm, and Molopo in the southwest at 350mm. The Parks are also located in two vegetation biomes; the savanna biome in the Northern and Western parts of the Province, and the endangered grassland biome in the East and Southern parts of the Province.
The reserves are home to a variety of animal species; including the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo – as well as other rare and endangered species – Oribi, Sable antelope, Roan antelope, Tsessebe. The Parks host more than 25 species of animals, made up of ungulates, pachyderms and predators. According to the 2015 game counts, there are close to 40 000 head of game in all our parks. The total monetary value of the animals in all parks is conservatively estimated at more than R650 million. The animals need to be managed and monitored in all parks which includes aerial game count. Apart from grazing management, the animals also need to be provided with water from artificial resources – i.e. boreholes, - as well as rivers and earth dams in our parks. Large dams managed by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, are located within our parks – Vaalkop Dam, Klipvoor Dam, Mankwe Dam, Boskop Dam and Bloemhof Dam.
The surface area of all the dams included in our parks amounts to a little more than 10 000 hectares. These dams obviously influence the ecological management of our parks, but also offer a variety of opportunities in terms of tourist products. Smaller earth dams provides water to game in other parks, but these dams also needs to be maintained and artificially pumped from underground sources to maintain their water levels. Smaller water points pumped from boreholes provides water to animals in areas where there is no surface water.
All parks are fenced with game proof fence, except for Highveld where we still have to address the issues of illegal squatters and removal of fences with the Municipality and Communal Property Associations (CPA’s). The total distance of fence lines which need to be maintained, patrolled and otherwise managed by the Board amounts to approximately 980 km and will increase with the newly incorporated land in Madikwe with some 20 km. These fences need to be managed and maintained in accordance with the standards as specified in the North West Province Wildlife Fencing Standards. The perimeter fences around Pilanesberg (120km) and Madikwe (129km) need to prevent the escapes of large predators, elephants and other mega-herbivores into neighboring land, and are as such patrolled and maintained on a daily basis.
Park infrastructure can be divided into management infrastructure and tourist infrastructure. Management infrastructure includes fence lines, offices, workshops, staff houses, internal roads, vehicles and management equipment. Roads include management roads and tracks, the perimeter roads as well as tourist roads. The total road network in all parks amounts to 3320km (including the fence roads) of which 2456km are internal tourist and management roads and of these roads, 65.9 km are tarred. To ensure a quality wildlife experience to our visitors, tourist roads need to be managed and maintained to very high standards. Park infrastructure such as staff houses and offices need to maintained regularly.
Tourist infrastructure is made up of private lodges in our parks managed by concessionaires. There are over 40 private lodges in our parks, managed according to concession agreements between the Board and respective concessionaires. In addition the Board also manages guesthouses, camping sites, tented camps, chalets and hunting camps in some of the smaller parks. Tourist infrastructure also needs to be maintained at a very high standard to satisfy tourist expectations.
The Board has reached another milestone through the development of a Professional Hunting course that is fully accredited. The course was developed to target the previously disadvantaged individuals and it is envisaged that the number of enrolled students will grow with time.
The Board entered into a partnership with the Southern African Wildlife College and will establish its own Wildlife College that will be operating under the accreditation certificate of the Southern African Wildlife College until obtaining its own full accreditation.