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... the bush, done properly   

The new, enlarged Greater Limpopo Park, combined with the Biosphere, yields one of Africa's largest protected areas:

Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania): 50,000 sq km

Kruger to Canyons and Greater Limpopo Park (South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe): 40,000 sq km

Okavango Delta, Chobe and the Moremi National Parks (Botswana): 30,000 sq km

The Serengeti, Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Complex (Kenya): 24,720 sq km

Ethosha National Park (Namibia): 22,270 sq km

Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe): 14,651 sq km.

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Rebuilding the Greater Kruger   

In the last two generations, substantial efforts have been made to restore the ecosystem to something resembling its former extent. Some of the land excised in 1923 proved unsuitable for cattle ranching or agriculture, intensive or extensive.

By the 1970s some very large properties, notably Londolozi in what is now the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, had been turned back to nature with the establishment of a new breed of luxury game reserve. Whilst less destructive to the ecosytem than ranching, these areas were nevertheless fenced off from the Kruger ecosystem.

The boundaries of the Kruger National Park itself remained largely stable after the tumultous first quarter of the twentieth century.

The next major change came in 1993 when the western boundary fence was removed from the areas adjoining the private nature reserves.

The largest privately owned nature Reserves in the world exceed 400,000 hectares in size to the west of Kruger.

This fence removal has helped to restore the ecological integrity of the system. The vegetation and the animals that feed on it have had some opportunity to return to their pre-expropriation numbers and organisation.

To the west of the Park, further reserve consolidations have helped this trend. Continuing expansion of the Balule, Blyde-Olifants, Makalali and Selati conservancies is helping the restoration of biodiversity.

The veterinary fence "red line" now effectively delimiting the Greater Kruger has moved seventy kilometres west in places. Thus more than 400,000 hectares of privately owned protected areas have been re-incorporated to form the Greater Kruger National Park ecosystem.

The bush savannah plains within the perennial river systems of the Klaserie, Blyde, Olifants, Makutswi and Selati can now be understood as ecosystem ‘districts’ and not as individual ‘farms’, connected into the Greater Kruger ecosystem once again.

The private nature reserves in the Central Lowveld region, Klaserie, Umbabat, Thornybush, Timbavati, Sabi Sand, Kapama, Balule, Selati, Makalali, Karongwe and the Blyde-Olifants Conservancy now make up the largest privately owned nature reserve complex in the world. Including the recently-declared escarpment protected areas, half a million hectares has now been returned to nature.

Private Reserves (Dark Green) around the Kruger (Yellow) and the Limpopo Park (Light Green) in Mozambique.

It can be seen that the balkanisation of privately owned land, including state owned protected areas, by as much as 100,000 kilometres of game proof fencing, transformed the landscape and created fragmentation, a proliferation in edge habitats, and activated ecosystem decay.

A return to the open system has been embraced by many private land owners, and perhaps 70% of this fencing in areas where the perennial rivers are found, has led to some substantial re-consolidations. What remains are the last critical opportunities to add the remaining strategic protected areas to the ecosystem to re-establish the fragile natural balance.

By the late 1990s an additional 1.8 million hectares of protected areas was included in the Greater Kruger ecosystem.

The turn of the century saw the fruition of the most audacious effort yet to expand the protected Kruger system. Agreement was reached to extend the unfenced area to the east, crossing the border into Mozambique, and almost doubling again the size of the Reserve.

Final, bindings agreement were signed between the Governments of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in 2002 which will lead to the establishment of the world's largest reserve, the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.