Partnership set to establish one of the largest Big Five game reserves in South Africa, serve as exemplar PPP

23rd February 2024 By: Sabrina Jardim - Creamer Media Online Writer

Partnership set to establish one of the largest Big Five game reserves in South Africa, serve as exemplar PPP

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) has partnered with non-governmental organisation the Aspinall Foundation and its South African subsidiary WeWild Africa to create one of the largest Big Five game reserves in South Africa by unlocking the conservation and ecotourism potential of the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve and the surrounding areas known as the Loskop Cluster, in Mpumalanga.

This will be the first agreement of its kind in the country where a provincial conservation agency has facilitated a 25-year agreement to unlock investment into a provincial protected area.

The partnership will upgrade reserve infrastructure such as roads, fences, staff accommodation and field ranger compounds.

Meanwhile, additional strategic staff and anti-poaching units will be deployed with a key objective of providing additional capacity for the reserve.

Loskop Dam Nature Reserve measures about 23 500 ha in size and is co-owned by the MTPA and the Dendela, Mamurumo and Dendela communities.

The project promises to unlock high-value ecotourism products and supporting services with a key objective of driving economic opportunities for the community landowners of the reserve.

The project will further reintroduce species which historically occurred in the area including lion, cheetah, black rhino and elephant for ecological and economic purposes.

“The MTPA is thrilled to have facilitated this partnership with the Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa, for the benefit of our province. This represents merely the beginning [of] great things at Loskop and its surrounding area.

“As the MTPA, we are progressive. We pride ourselves in being innovative and, most importantly, we are here to make a tangible difference to the communities who live around our reserves and who own land within our reserves,” expresses MTPA CEO Hekzin Vilikazi.

The project will unlock at least R120-million of funding for the reserve and the surrounding areas.

Although the initial focus will be on the uplifting of the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, the aim is to expand the reserve to an area of at least 100 000 ha by incorporating community- and privately-owned land, by surpassing areas such as Pilanesberg, Madikwe and other well-known protected areas in the region.

The project aims to be a catalyst for other similar projects in South Africa, and the partners hope that other provincial nature reserves are able to unlock private sector investment, using this project as an example.

“This ambitious restoration and expansion initiative will set a blueprint for other partnerships in other provincial reserves in South Africa, which desperately need investment and private sector support if they are to survive.

“WeWild Africa, the Aspinall Foundation and the MTPA intend to be trailblazers and the catalyst for countless other reserves to see the potential of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the country. We are excited to build this mega-reserve with the MTPA and our community partners,” says Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa chairperson Damian Aspinall.