The role of local indigenous communities in the management of natural resources in and around South Africa's national parks.
South Africa's protected areas are at the forefront of the county's efforts to conserve it's unique flora and fauna. The setting aside of these vast tracts of land has been the main thrust of Western conservation efforts for over two centuries. Despite the significant financial and human resources allocated to the protection of these natural areas, the extinction of many plant and animal species continues to occur on a daily basis. This study sets out to explore one of the crucial weaknesses of traditional protected areas management - the failure to incorporate and empower the people with the greatest knowledge and need of the natural resources in their areas - the local indigenous communities. In the past, the legislative focus was aimed at the total exclusion of these communities from protected areas. In South Africa, these 'preservationist' laws have been bitterly flavoured by the apartheid ideology, resulting in widespread environmental inequity and injustice for those societies targeted by racist and discriminatory policies. The thesis traces the history of the national parks concept, from its preservationist origin in the late nineteenth century United States, to modern day national parks that operate in terms of joint-management agreements in Australia and South Africa. It also exposes the detrimental effect that the establishment of national parks has inflicted on local indigenous communities around the globe. The experiences of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Canada and Australia are of particular relevance and value to South Africa in this respect. An overview and assessment of the current legal regime governing protected areas in South Africa reveals that further legislative transformation is required in order to integrate human development and wildlife conservation ideals. In particular, greater emphasis is needed to ensure the participation of local indigenous communities in the management natural resources in and around national parks. A failure to meet this objective may seriously undermine the future well-being of all of South Africa's inhabitants.