A: The most sensitive approach would be to restrict driving off road completely and remove any and all damage and disturbance the vehicles provide. Like with all things though, there is a compromise needed and some context to the circumstances and what lengths WE go to in order to mitigate the damage we might cause.
Let’s deal with the scale first. The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park is a conservation area of roughly 100 000km2 / 10mil ha. The Kruger National Park comprises one of its entities as do the associated private nature reserves on its borders. The area covered by the SabiSand Wildtuin for instance is roughly 70 000ha or about 0.7% of the total surface area of the conservation area. The vast bulk of land under conservation is left purely for its biodiversity to wander on and live in as freely and without disturbance as it is possible to get in 2022/3. We don’t have cameras in these areas and neither could we, and so an unfortunate perception is created that vehicles are driving everywhere, whenever and however they want to.
In most of the areas [parks and reserves] we operate there are agreements in place between those that use and manage these areas. Generally speaking these agreements give these reserves autonomy in the management of their areas, but within the limits of an agreed management plan. Accordingly off road driving for certain animals is permitted under certain conditions in certain areas i.e. Djuma Private Game Reserve for high profile animals. Don’t forget that the vast majority of space animals have to roam in do not have any human impact at all. Additionally in these areas and for most of the day [12 to 18hours] these animals are left undisturbed.
These wilderness spaces need to be relevant to today’s problems and, animals’ freedom to live undisturbed is not the only consideration if we want these areas to stay relevant into the future. Things need to pay their way. This is why WildEarth supports management plans which strive to maintain biodiversity in all its natural facets and fluxes, to provide human benefits and build a strong constituency and preserve as far as possible the wilderness qualities and cultural resources associated with the national parks and their associated private nature reserves where relevant. To put it differently, the money tourists spend in the SabiSand and similar reserves for the privilege to go off road and experience what they do, contributes significantly to the overall motivation for the continued conservation of the entire area, all 10mil ha of it.
In spite of this, there is a measure of respect and responsibility needing to be practiced and WildEarth knows that off road driving is a privilege and not a ‘right’. Off road driving should be approached with the utmost respect and sensitivity not only to the bush but also to the perception driving off road creates in those physically and virtually sharing the environment. Our guides are trained professionals whose job it is to make sure that they are taking decisions that limit damage done when and if off road driving is needed.