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Marataba is a public-private collaboration that aspires to be a leading African conservation initiative by sustainably managing ecosystems and keystone species for generations to come.
We are committed to driving a financial model which supports the long-term conservation of the park while maximising sustainable socioeconomic opportunities for surrounding communities.
Everything we do at Marataba is underpinned by our guiding compass and three founding pillars:
Conservation | Communities | Commerce
Marataba is a section of a 700km2 fenced National Park. The core wildlife management objectives of the Park are to mimic natural processes including emigration, immigration and dispersal, which are prevented from occurring naturally by fences. Additionally, the impact of and the population sizes of predator populations that are confined by the fence are also closely monitored. The data from our consistent monitoring efforts is then used to guide interventions such as capture and removal and/or reintroductions.
Marataba is home to several fauna and flora species of special concern, including white and black rhinoceros and indigenous cycads to name a few. All species of special concern are actively monitored and holistically managed in such manner that even small changes in population trends are detectable. When required, special species such as rhino receive veterinary attention. Rhino are the only species in the Park in which we intervene, as each and every individual in the population counts in the current crisis. Our objective is to continue to enhance our important role as a centre for conservation excellence for rhino, which is able to continue to grow the continental metapopulation to the benefit of the species and generations to come.
Over and above habitat loss as a result of human encroachement, wildlife crime presents a major threat to conservation areas. At Marataba, we recognised very early on that a broad approach to combatting wildlife crime is essential and have developed a strategy of collaboration with neighbouring properties, NGOs and Government agencies to enhance security and prevent organised criminal networks from infiltrating local communities and degrading security efforts.
The Greater Marakele Security Cluster is a partnership between Marataba, SANParks and a neighbouring reserve. Through the intitiative, all major access routes to the Park and surrounds are protected by access control booms. The control points are manned 24 hours a day by staff seconded to the initiative by the Biodiversity Special Projects Unit of the Department of Environment Affairs, and supported by License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras. The cameras are part of a national network and intelligence database, and feed directly in to a nerve centre. The nerve centre is also manned 24 hours a day and has direct communications with all the access control points as well as having a full time criminal analyst.
The legislative frameworks for protected areas in South Africa require strict monitoring protocols to measure the health of the environment and monitor the impact of any interventions. Our conservation team collects data on both the wildlife and their habitats, by way of census and survey data and individual identity kits for species such as rhino, elephant and carnivores, whilst data collection on vegetation involves annual condition assessments as well as aerial surveys by drones. In the event of any interventions, a full set of pre- and post-interventions data are collected, and the impacts of the interventions are carefully monitored and recorded.
Marataba, proclaimed as National Park in 2000, is one of the youngest National Parks in South Africa. Prior to proclamation, the Park consisted of commercial livestock and agricultural farmlands. The initial phases of our project focussed on the huge task of cleaning up and removing the redundant farming infrastructure, including thousands of kilometres of fencing and many buildings. We are now at a stage where the clean-up, although ongoing, has been mostly achieved and the team is now attending to rehabilitating the scars of the historical land-use practices. Rehabilitation and restoration is an active and intensive process and includes the establishment of exclusion zones to provide time for recovery under zero grazing conditions, thinning of bush densification, reestablishment of grass and seed beds, erosion control as well as fire and catchment management.
Marataba is primarily a conservation project. Our conservation efforts are funded by the conservation “business units”, which include both luxury and participatory safari tourism facilities, as well as a wildlife business unit which generates revenues from the sale of ecologically surplus wildlife from the Park. Tourism is the main contributor to the project revenues and the diversity of high-end, low-density tourism offerings are specifically designed to meet the conservation objectives without unnecessary impact on the environment.
The sustainability of our project into the future does not only depend on sustainable business units, but also on long-term buy-in and beneficiation of the local communities. The Marataba Conservation and Community Foundation focuses on the stimulation of local enterprise, promotion and enhancement of environmental awareness and supporting community education through life skills training.