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SANParks is working towards being a major connector between societies. This has seen the vision of “Custos Naturae” slowly, but surely progressing to the vision of today as “A Sustainable National Parks System, Connecting Society.”
As a leading conservation authority, SANParks is a public entity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Affairs, where inclusive conservation as opposed to previous policies of exclusion, are central to advancing the policies in line with the National Development Framework for Sustainable Development and the national Development Plan. SANParks manages a system of 19 functional national parks in seven of the nine provinces of South Africa with a total area of just over 4 million hectares comprising 67% of the protected areas under state management. The SANParks of today is recognised as a world leader in conservation and protected area management. In the last two decades, seven new national parks have been established, totalling over 700 000 hectares, with much of this being in the under conserved biomes such as the Succulent Karoo and Fynbos.
The National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act mandates SANParks to create destinations for nature-based tourism in a manner that is not harmful to the environment. As SANParks is primarily a self-funding entity generating approximately 80% of its operating budget from its ecotourism business; fulfilment of its conservation mandate is heavily reliant on a thriving and sustainable tourism operations.
SANParks’ business operations are founded on three important core pillars:
- Conservation – the primary mandate of the organisation is the conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity, landscapes and associated heritage assets through a system of national parks.
- Responsible Tourism – the organisation has a significant role in the promotion of South Africa’s nature-based tourism, or ecotourism business targeted at both international and domestic tourism markets. The eco-tourism pillar of the business architecture provides for the organisation’s self-generated revenues from commercial operations that are necessary to supplement government funding of conservation management. A significant element of the ecotourism pillar is the Commercialisation Strategy, which (through the implementation of Public Private Partnerships) SANParks has adopted to expand tourism products and the generation of additional revenue for funding of conservation and socio-economic development.
- Socio-Economic Development – SANParks has taken a strategic decision to expand its role in the developmental support provided to neighbouring communities as an entity of the developmental state. In addition, SANParks is required to build constituencies at international, national and local levels, in support of conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of South Africa through its corporate social investment. It has to ensure that a broad base of South Africans participate and get involved in biodiversity initiatives, and further that all its operations have a synergistic existence with neighbouring or surrounding communities for their educational and socio-economic benefit, hence enabling the broader society to be connected to national parks.
SANParks is on a positive trajectory towards making the management of its conservation and tourism estate relevant to the people of South Africa and the World, by ensuring co-operative governance and the continued flow of socio-economic benefits.
A world class system of sustainable national parks reconnecting and inspiring society.
To develop, protect, expand, manage and promote a system of sustainable national parks that represents natural and cultural heritage assets, through innovation, excellence, responsible tourism and just socio- economic benefit for current and future generations.