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Groundbreaking Partnership Set To Establish One Of The Largest Big Five Game Reserves In South Africa

On the 23rd February 2024, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency announced that it has entered into a Strategic Partnership with world renowned NGO, The Aspinall Foundation and its South African subsidiary, WeWild Africa. The strategic partnership will unlock the conservation and ecotourism potential of the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve and the surrounding areas known as the Loskop Cluster, with a vision of creating one of the largest Big Five Game Reserves in South Africa.

This will be the first agreement of its kind in the country where a Provincial Conservation Agency has facilitated a 25-year agreement to unlock investment into a provincial protected area. The partnership will upgrade reserve infrastructure such as roads, fences, staff accommodation and field ranger compounds. Additional strategic staff and anti-poaching units will be deployed with a key objective of providing additional capacity for the reserve. 

Loskop Dam Nature Reserve is approximately 23 500 ha in size and is co-owned by the MTPA and the Dendela, Mamurumo and Dendela Communities. The project promises to unlock high value ecotourism products and supporting services with a key objective of driving economic opportunities for the community landowners of the reserve. The project will further reintroduce species which historically occurred in the area including lion, cheetah, black rhino and elephant for ecological and economic purposes. The end result will be the establishment of one of the largest and most beautiful Big Five Game Reserves in South Africa, a mere two hour drive from the economic hubs of Pretoria and Johannesburg. 

Hekzin Vilikazi, Chief Executive Officer of the MTPA, said ‘The MTPA are thrilled to have facilitated this partnership with The Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa, for the benefit of our Province. This represents merely the beginning for great things at Loskop and its surrounding area. As the MTPA, we are progressive, we pride ourselves in being innovative and most importantly, we are here to make a tangible difference to the communities who live around our reserves and who own land within our reserves.’

The project will unlock at least R 120 million of funding for the reserve and the surrounding areas. Although the initial focus will be on the uplifting of the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, the plan is to expand the reserve to an area of at least 100 000 ha by incorporating community owned and privately owned land, by far surpassing areas such as Pilanesberg, Madikwe and other well know protected areas in the region. The project will hopefully be a catalyst for other similar projects in South Africa and the partners hope that other provincial nature reserves are able to unlock private sector investment, using this project as an example.

Damian Aspinall, the chairman of The Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa affirmed,’ This ambitious restoration and expansion initiative will set a blueprint for other partnerships in other provincial reserves in South Africa, which desperately need investment and private sector support if they are to survive. WeWild Africa, The Aspinall Foundation and the MTPA intend to be trailblazers and the catalyst for countless other reserves to see the potential of public-private partnerships in the country. We are excited to build this mega-reserve with the MTPA and our community partners’.