First a Conservancy
While many people already know about the Richtersveld National Park, more and more people are catching on about its equally large southern neighbour, the Richtersveld Community Conservancy
10 years ago, the historically disadvantaged people of the Richtersveld united, reclaimed title to their traditional land, and set aside this conservancy to be forever conserved for research and tourism. It offers some of southern Africa’s finest hiking, 4×4 driving, camping and cultural experiences.
Now a World Heritage site
Ten years ago, the historically disadvantaged people of the Richtersveld united, reclaimed title to their traditional land, and set it aside as conservancy to be forever conserved for research and tourism. It is the last refuge of Nama people living what is known as the transhumance lifestyle – to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem.
In recognition of this vanishing lifestyle, and of the rare botanical diversity it helps protect, the Conservancy has been declared the core of a new World Heritage Site.
The The Richtersveld World Heritage Site – previously referred to as the Community Conservancy, includes deep rugged kloofs, breathtaking landscapes, rich biodiversity and high mountains. The WHS is bordered to the north by the Richtersveld National Park, managed jointly by the local Richtersveld community and South African National Parks, and on other sides by communal lands.
This is a harsh and unpredictable land that depends on the life sustaining moisture that comes in the form of early morning fog. Even so, the World Heritage Site is a biological wonder.
From a distance you see only rugged mountains, sweeping deserts, a giant blue sky and glimpses of the mighty Orange River creeping along to the sea. On closer investigation however, you realize that you are standing in one of Africa’s most diverse and rich ecosystems.
The Heritage Site sits in the heart of what is called the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot and an ecosystem with an astounding 4849 succulent plants, 40% of which are found nowhere else.
To be declared a hotspot, an area must have incredibly high species diversity and a high percentage of endemism. It is quite a unique distinction, as there are only 25 hotspots in the world. Even more unusual is that the Succulent Karoo is a desert and is the only arid biodiversity hotspot on Earth.