The implementation of an environmental monitoring and management system in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
Cryer, Paul Bernard.
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KwaZulu-Natal’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park has historically been prioritized for biodiversity conservation but it also has the oldest protected wilderness area in the country. For 50 years, conservation management, tourism and education within the Imfolozi Wilderness Area have generally been carried out using non-mechanized wilderness principles. The validity of the Imfolozi Wilderness is constantly questioned in terms of efficiency, equity and aesthetics and is consequently subject to a variety of pressures that those different ideologies can exert. The historical development and applicability of the wilderness concept is examined here against evolving South African social and environmental circumstances. Whilst this investigation confirms the findings that colonialism and apartheid resulted in the exclusion of local peoples from protected areas, it also takes note that Imfolozi’s history is characterized by organizations and individuals who ignored the racist laws of the time. Nevertheless, management structures pertaining to both politics and conservation tended to be top-down, such that the Imfolozi Wilderness retained an air of elitism, regardless of attempts to be racially inclusive. Modern trends in protected area management expose the necessity of refining the justification of wilderness areas, to simultaneously recognize localized priorities and the importance of such areas to the planet’s ecological wellbeing. Without attempting to resolve philosophical debates but, at the same time, recognizing their validity, protected area management requirements for the Imfolozi Wilderness are examined in terms of the legal mandate handed to the management agency. This leads to the selection of the Limits of Acceptable Change planning and management system which is implemented as an action research project in conjunction with the Imfolozi Management Team, over a three year period. This involved: defining legal mandates and area issues; defining the zonation categories for the wilderness area; selecting the indicators to measure human impact; compiling an inventory of conditions in the wilderness area; specifying standards; examining alternative zonation category allocations from stakeholders and selecting a preferred alternative. The desired outcome was the establishment of a system in which managers could receive ongoing collaboration from stakeholders and consultatively develop a defendable wilderness management strategy that would meet the legal requirements of the area’s proclamation. Through a descriptive narrative, this dissertation provides an account of the implementation process and discusses to what extent this has been achieved.
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