Cheetahs get St. Lucia project off to flying start
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Business Day (Johannesburg, South Africa) by Nicola Jenvey
Two cheetahs will be released into the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park as part of a programme to restock SA's first World Heritage Site with wildlife.
The move comes days ahead of the World Parks Congress in Durban next week. The congress is held every decade to discuss issues relating to wildlife conservation and park management. About 2500 delegates are expected to attend the congress.
Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa said the unique nature of the St Lucia Wetlands Park meant the world's oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) shared an ecosystem with the oldest fish (the coelacanth) and biggest marine mammal (the whale).
"These will soon be joined by the world's fastest land mammal (the cheetah)," he said.
The release signals the culmination of the meeting between scientists and community leaders on conservation in the St Lucia area.
Scientists conducting research and community leaders, who have land or land rights in national parks, are meeting in the region ahead of the weekend's congress to discuss ways of co-operating to protect the region's biodiversity while using nature for sustainable development.
The event brings scientific research and the traditional knowledge together and has been organised by a coalition of conservation and development organisations.
The first of its kind in SA, the conference aims at linking applied natural and social sciences research to the needs of rural people who are using conservation and tourism to reconstruct their local economies.