Leopards walk freely in the little Karoo
Western Cape conservation authority, CapeNature has recently acquired a new property connecting two of its biggest nature reserves in the Karoo and extending the protected area to 215 044 ha.
"The 12 800 ha Grand Canyon property, was purchased by the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa or WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) with funds from the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust for rare, succulent plant conservation and ecology" said CapeNature ecologist, Dr AnneLise Schutte-Vlok, who was instrumental in securing the property.The purchase of Grand Canyon links Anysberg with the Swartberg Nature Reserve.
"Thus, an almost continuous east-west stretch of land of about 280 km or 215 044 ha is under conservation."
Schutte-Vlok, said: "It's quite incredible to think that a leopard can walk basically from Anysberg all the way to Baviaans - without changing its spots!
"That is quite a distance. What's so great about this new land is that it links protected areas, because in conservation connectivity is crucial, not just for movement of leopards, but for the movement of all animals and also for genetic migration of plants."
"The purchase of the property confirms the collaborative working relationship between WWF-SA and CapeNature, as well as our pro-active approach to mitigate against the effects of climate change" said Natasha Wilson, Programme Manager: WWF-SA's Land Programme.
"We know that one of the greatest threats to wildlife populations is habitat fragmentation, brought about by, for example, agricultural or urban development."
"Landscape corridors like this one restore landscape connectivity and help increase the survival of many species by increasing their home ranges, food resources and reconnecting fragmented and isolated animal and plant populations."
CapeNature's biggest nature reserve, Swartberg lies in the Oudtshoorn district between the Great and Klein Karoo, forming a narrow, but long, stretch of 131 044 hectares, critical for water yield in the region. Situated between Montagu and Laingsburg, lies Anysberg now comprising 84 000.
Anysberg Reserve Manager, Marius Brand said: "The purchase of Grand Canyon will also improve the tourism potential of the Anysberg reserve, already known for its wonderful succulent plant life, stargazing facilities, ancient rock-art and plentiful wildlife such as Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Eland, Kudu and the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra."
Visitors to the reserve could in future also enjoy new and interesting plant and animal life - for miles on end.
"The deal has been signed and the transfer has taken place" Brand confirmed.
Steve le Roux, the previous owner of Grand Canyon said that the property was used mostly for livestock farming and lucerne cultivation. Le Roux contacted CapeNature during 2010 when he realised the conservation value of the land. CapeNature then conducted site visits and biodiversity assessments, and partnered with WWF-SA to purchase the land.