The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has approved the extension of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site.
Unesco said on its website on 3 July that the Cape Floral Region was inscribed on to the World Heritage List in 2004. At the time of inscription, the site was made up of eight protected areas comprising about 553 000 hectares.
The extension almost doubles the size of the world heritage site to 1 094 742 hectares and includes Table Mountain National Park, Agulhas complex, Langeberg complex, Anysberg Nature Reserve, Swartberg complex, Baviaanskloof complex and the Garden Route complex.
“It is one of the world’s great centres of terrestrial biodiversity,” Unesco says of the Cape Floral Region. “The extended property includes national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas, state forests and mountain catchment areas.”
Compared with the rest of the world, the extended Cape Floral Region is one of the richest in plant life. “It represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora, with some 69% of the 9 000 identified plant species being endemic to the area,” says the South African government.
A country’s pride
“South Africa is delighted to add more protected areas to its portfolio of world heritage properties,” said Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson.
“The country has in the last few years learned a few lessons in management of its world heritage sites and has through its engagement with the committee and the advisory bodies achieved high standards of conservation to levels expected by Unesco.”
Having world heritage sites in the country ensures protection of the areas, and it also has potential to boost economic development, create jobs and develop skills.
There are eight Unesco world heritage sites in South Africa. Properties inscribed on the cultural list are: the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, and Robben Island. Those on the natural list are: the Cape Floral Region, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and Vredefort Dome. The Maloti-Drakensberg Park, a transboundary reserve with Lesotho, is on the mixed list.