The Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park Environmental Overview


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Six landowners, including CapeNature, have recently established this 60 000 hectare conservation area adjacent to the Cederberg Wilderness Area.

To indicate the commitment to the need for scientific sound environmental management principles the owners have appointed an advisory board of prominent and leading scientists of various expertises to advise and assist them to manage the park properly.

The park is important for the following reasons:

  • It is a global biodiversity hotspot that is part of both the Cape Floristic region and the Succulent Karoo. 
  • It forms part of the Cederberg's central corridor and is a very important link between the Matjies River Nature Reserve and the Cedarberg Wilderness Area, as well as for a future intended link to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. The combined area under conservation for all of these areas combined would run into hundreds of thousands of hectares; 
  • It is an area representative of South Africa's biological diversity and its natural landscapes such as river corridors, lowlands – and mountainous areas; 
  • Has been identified as a historically important mammal corridor and home to the endangered Cape Leopard and Cape Mountain Zebra, as well as various fish-, bird-, reptile- and insect species and 
  • It needs to be preserved due to its ecological integrity and biological diversity – containing both succulent and fynbos elements; 

The vision for the Park is to create a sustainable ecology, which ensures the protection of the Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park's ecosystem and surrounding natural areas, enhances the heritage and culture of the sub-region, generates benefit for all stakeholders, helps meet social and environmental requirements, and encourages community lifestyles compatible with environmental sustainability.

Among the many strategic directions of this large landscape scale conservation initiative, it aims to eventually create continuous corridors of natural habitat to counteract the fragmentation of ecosystems and to provide migratory routes for all life forms from the West Coast to the Cederberg mountains of the interior, and beyond the mountains to the Succulent Karoo. Such linkages would be critical in providing a more resilient ecosystem capable of adapting to the changes that will be wrought by our changing climate. The project works actively in a number of key core corridors known as the Sandveld Core Corridor, Groot Winterhoek Core Corridor and the Cederberg Core Corridor.

The biological and structural diversity of this region makes it a very important area for protecting not only the many vulnerable and threatened plants and vegetation types it contains, but also other associated biota like animals and insects, as well as the ecological functions and processes underlying this diversity.

Recent climate change studies have proved that the Western Cape will suffer an increase in temperature as well as reduction in rainfall in the future, placing the survival of the smallest and most diverse plant kingdom in the world, including the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor, Cederberg Wilderness and Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park under threat if not appropriately managed. A key action to mitigate the effects of climate change is the maintenance of species diversity and ability to migrate to new locations as the climatic conditions which they require move across the landscape. For these corridor and refuge migration strategies to be successful opportunities for species movement needs to be ensured at the micro and macro level.

With the establishment of the Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park, a core management philosophy focussed on the conservation of a functional ecological system, can be realised in a broader context. Importantly it also makes possible the preservation of beautiful and undeveloped landscape of the Rooi Cederberg and a vision where ownership boundaries will become obsolete. In this it will retain its true wilderness character and view shed of expansive undisturbed space where humans are welcome but whose impacts are voluntarily restricted to clearly defined footprints and the area as a whole is managed to mitigate any visible impacts or unnatural noise.

Such an expanse of wilderness will nurture and provide a safe refuge to the charismatic and threatened populations of the Cape Mountain Zebra and the Cape Mountain Leopard and by virtue of that conserve the multitude of other life forms from the birds and smaller mammals, plants all the way through to the small and unseen invertebrates, bacteria and fungi that provide the essential services of pollination, decay and the recycling nutrients so essential to the functioning of a healthy ecosystem. Due to the low rainfall, relatively harsh climate, isolated location and difficult entrance routes, it is rather unlikely that the Red Cederberg will ever become pressurised to foster human settlement with the subsequent unsustainable use of its natural resources.

The rich cultural heritage which dates back a hundred thousand years from the initial emergence of a paint and ochre culture through to the heritage of the largest open air art gallery in the world to the settlement of the early European settlers are all represented on the property and indelibly etched into its landscape. Humanity in the full circle of realisation must emerge as an integrated dependent partner of the environment if we are to realise a world where those generations that follow in these footsteps inherit a world that provides for their physical and spiritual needs.

In the short to medium term access will be controlled to individual properties, however in the long term the vision is to remove all internal fences to provide an opportunity for the Cape Mountain Zebra to roam freely in this large protected area.

Although the individual owners will drop their internal fences to allow for the free movement of wildlife, the entrance gates on the borders of individual reserves will be maintained and may be locked (if an owner so wished) to control movement of people and vehicles. This was a crucial condition as part of the formula to establish the park. This actually confirms the individual “ownership” and control of the reserve.

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FOOTPRINT Environmental Services
Biodiversity and Environmental Management Consultancy