Students of the Southern African WildlifeCollege in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. It is hopedthat National Parks Week will encouragemore people to choose conservationas their career.(Image: MediaClubSouthAfrica.com. Formore free photos, visit the image library) MEDIA CONTACTS • Reynold Thakhuli Sanparks GM: Media, Events andStakeholder Relations+27 12 426 5170 or +27 83 552 2020Janine ErasmusSouth Africans visiting the country’s national parks will get in for free during National Parks Week, which runs from 14 to 20 September 2009.The promotion will kick off with a ceremony in the Kruger Park’s Mopani camp.There are certain entry conditions during this time: presentation of a valid South African identity document is compulsory, although schoolchildren and other youth under 16 will be allowed in for free without proof of identity.However, free access will not be granted to commercial ventures like tour operations. In addition, the free access only applies during the week i.e. until 18 September.It’s also worth noting that Boulders in the Table Mountain National Park is not part of the free access scheme and normal tariffs will apply to all visitors. Boulders is the picturesque home of the famous Jackass penguin colony and is one of only three areas, along with Silvermine and the Cape of Good Hope, in the largely open-access Table Mountain park that asks for a conservation fee.Conserving natural heritageSouth African National Parks (Sanparks) oversees the annual week-long awareness drive, which was launched in 2006 with the ongoing theme of Know Your National Parks.The initiative aims to promote national parks as affordable holiday destinations for local and international visitors, particularly those with families.Sanparks CE David Mabunda said the National Parks Week campaign encourages South Africans, especially those in nearby communities, to visit their parks. This will help to develop a greater sense of national pride in this precious natural heritage, which will translate to more appreciation and conservation of the areas, ensuring their survival for future generations.“Through this project we also aim at building stronger constituencies and ambassadors of conservation and the environment,” commented Mabunda.Besides the free access, Sanparks has planned a host of activities in all parks – including exhibitions; tree-planting; clean-up and conservation drives; interaction with schools, pensioners and other community groups; and walks and talks with game rangers, among others.“The survival of the South African national parks system and our natural and cultural heritage lies in the people of South Africa and this year we are focusing on involving young people and communities,” said Mabunda.Sanparks says it will continue to promote National Parks Week in recognition of the natural treasure under its protection.“National parks provide recreational tourism experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and places of quiet refuge,” said the organisation in a statement. “Through this week’s celebration we want to positively influence and inculcate responsible behaviour towards national parks and the environment as a whole.”Saving ecosystemsSanparks was established in 1926 when the National Parks Bill was tabled in Parliament, replacing the previous game reserve system. The latter placed more emphasis on the protection of animals than the protection of ecosystems as a whole. Also in 1926 the Kruger National Park became the first in Sanparks’s stable and the inaugural Sanparks board was appointed.Today the organisation is responsible for the management of almost 4-million hectares of protected land in 22 national parks.These are West Coast, Table Mountain, Bontebok, Karoo and Agulhas, in the Western Cape province; Knysna, Wilderness, Tsitsikamma, Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra and Camdeboo in the Eastern Cape; Namaqua, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld, Augrabies, Kgalagadi, Tankwa Karoo and Mokala in the Northern Cape; Golden Gate in the Free State; Marakele and Mapungubwe in Limpopo; Kruger in Mpumalanga; and Groenkloof in Gauteng.In recent years Sanparks has largely focused its efforts on making national parks more accessible to visitors to the country, so the tourist drawcards can continue contributing to the economy and help develop the rural areas surrounding them.Queries or comments? Contact Janine Erasmus at firstname.lastname@example.org.