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Biodiversity key to growing tourism says the DEDEAT

MAY 31, 2017
Biodiversity key to growing tourism says the DEDEAT

The Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) says the protection of the province’s biodiversity will have a positive effect on tourism and lead to increased revenue for communities, tourism agencies and other stakeholders.

The Department, which is holding the provincial biodiversity celebrations in Mount Frere today, is making a concerted effort to ensure that biodiversity in the Eastern Cape is sustainably managed.

Guiding its biodiversity efforts is the province’s biodiversity conservation plan which ensures that the Eastern Cape’s biodiversity is sustainably used and conserved for current and future generations.

The event, says the Department, is an opportunity for municipalities, national and local departments, NGOs, communities and government stakeholders to work together, based on co-operative governance.

It is the first time that the Umzimvubu area is to host to the annual event and has serious bragging rights in the area of biodiversity.

Part of the region falls within Pondoland’s endemism hotspots with over 200 endemic species in the Wild Coast area.  

The area is one of only two areas in the Eastern Cape which is home to the Bearded Vulture, of which there are less than 400 in South Africa. It is also the location of South Africa’s only endemic parrot, the Cape Parrot and three crane species.  It also has the largest Wattled Crane population.

Other bird species of the area include the Cape Vulture, Stanley Bustard, Ground Hornbill and the Oribi antelope.

The Department says that the area’s abundant resources can be utilised to grow tourism and will help to address the unemployment in the area.

However, tourism is reliant on biodiversity.  The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency is investing millions of rands annually in the sustainable management of the province's resources. This year, it is involved in a number of innovative projects in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, Addo Elephant Park and Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve.

One of the area’s greatest landmarks is the majestic Umzimvubu River. The 300km river, which starts in the Matatiele area and flows into the Indian Ocean, has been treasured by communities for centuries, who have lived with its amazing gorges, plant and smaller animal species and reptiles, and abundant water life.

“The government’s plans to build a dam which will shape the river into a powerful economic resource for the communities.  Its ability to store water - a scarce resource for the region and country, provide employment through energy and tourism opportunities, could turn the area into South Africa’s energy powerhouse.  Notwithstanding this benefit, the government is aware that the rich biodiversity legacy of the river needs to be protected and is committed to doing so,” the Department explains.