Groundbreaking partnership to establish one of SA’s largest Big Five game reserves

Picture: WeWild Africa

Picture: WeWild Africa

Published Feb 23, 2024


In a landmark announcement, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) unveiled a strategic partnership with The Aspinall Foundation and its South African subsidiary, WeWild Africa.

The groundbreaking initiative seeks to develop the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve and adjacent areas into one of the country's largest Big Five Game Reserves, heralding a new era of conservation and ecotourism in the region.

The strategic partnership marks a significant milestone as it represents the first agreement of its kind in South Africa, wherein a Provincial Conservation Agency collaborates with international NGOs to unlock investment into a provincial protected area.

Over a 25-year period, the partnership aims to revitalise reserve infrastructure, enhance conservation efforts, and drive economic opportunities for local communities.

Situated in Mpumalanga, the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve spans approximately 23,500 hectares and is co-owned by the MTPA and local communities.

Through the partnership, the project aims to introduce high-value ecotourism products and services while reintroducing iconic species such as lion, cheetah, black rhino, and elephant to the area.

This ambitious endeavour seeks to establish one of the most extensive and picturesque Big Five Game Reserves in South Africa, conveniently located just a two-hour drive from Pretoria and Johannesburg.

In a press release, Hekzin Vilikazi, Chief Executive Officer of MTPA, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership.

"This collaboration represents the beginning of a transformative journey for Loskop and its surrounding areas. As MTPA, we are committed to innovation and making a meaningful impact on the communities residing around and within our reserves."

The project is expected to unlock a minimum of R120 million in funding for the reserve and its surrounding areas, with plans to expand the reserve to at least 100,000 hectares by incorporating community and privately-owned land.

Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa, hailed the initiative as a blueprint for future partnerships in provincial reserves across South Africa.

"This ambitious restoration and expansion initiative will serve as a model for similar partnerships nationwide," Aspinall said. "We aim to be trailblazers in demonstrating the potential of public-private collaborations to support conservation and community development."

The partnership between MTPA, The Aspinall Foundation, and WeWild Africa signifies a significant step forward in sustainable conservation and ecotourism development in South Africa, with hopes of inspiring similar initiatives across the country.

IOL Environment