The Agulhas Complex, including the SANParks-managed Agulhas National Park and CapeNature’s fynbos areas, have been included as a Unesco (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage site.
The Unesco World Heritage Committee approved the extension of the Cape Floral Kingdom on Friday 3 July, at a sitting in Germany. While the Cape Floral Kingdom was first included as a World Heritage site in 2004, this extension now means vital fynbos found in the Agulhas area enjoys further protection. The region is a renowned biodiversity hotspot, and includes limestone fynbos and Elim (laterite) fynbos.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had visited the area in October last year, to assess its inclusion as a World Heritage site. While the inclusion marks the importance of the region’s biodiversity, it also encouraged strong partnerships in the area. Good conservation management of the buffer zones to the parks, including the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area, had supported the application.
The other sites that have also been included as new World Heritages sites are: the Table Mountain National Park, Langeberg Complex, Anysberg Nature Reserve, Swartberg Complex, Baviaanskloof Complex and the Garden Route Complex. As such, the original Cape Floral Kingdom site of around 553,000 hectares has now increased to just short of 1.1 million hectares.
SANParks, CapeNature and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency had jointly compiled the application to extend the Cape Floral Kingdom boundaries. World Heritage sites are recognised as being of Outstanding Universal Value. They are selected based on the intactness of ecological processes, how likely rare species are to survive in the area, as well as the beauty of the area.