The proclamation of the Dorob National Park set the conservation- wheels in motion for having Namibia’s entire coastline proclaimed as one national park – the Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park. This will make it the eighth-largest protected area in the world, and Namibia the only country worldwide that has its entire coastline protected.
Conservationists in Namibia refer to this envisioned protected area as the Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park (NSCNP). It extends for 1 570 km along the coast, from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River in the north. At its narrowest point in the Skeleton Coast, the park extends about 25 km inland, and at its widest point in the Naukluft area, about 180 km inland to the top of the escarpment. Once proclaimed as a protected area, the NSCNP will cover 10 754 million hectares.
However, this is not where it ends. In the south the envisioned park will border the Richtersveld in South Africa, which comprises a protected area of about 160 000 hectares within a multiple-use buffer zone of about 398 425 hectares. This whole area forms the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Area under a formal co-operation agreement between the governments of Namibia and South Africa.
To the north across the Kunene River it joins the Iona National Park in Angola, which covers about 585 000- hectares. The governments of Namibia and Angola have signed an agreement to promote transfrontier co-operation between these parks.
The conservation tentacles of this major park go even further. In Namibia the protected area borders other inland protected areas, conservancies, concessions and private land managed for conservation. A total of 6 235 million hectares is being protected as part of these conservancies. The area occupied by concessions amounts to 800 000 hectares; freehold conservancies and private protected areas extend over 2 050- million hectares; state parks over 2 651 hectares; and marine protected areas 1.2 million hectares. This totals about 14 million hectares of protected land that the NSCNP will be bordering. Together it represents almost 25 million hectares.
However, before Namibia can boast effectively with these impressive numbers, constructive and efficient management mechanisms need to be developed and put in place. These mechanisms need to stipulate how to optimise the environmental and socioeconomic values while allowing historic movements and migration patterns, mitigating the impact of climate change and creating incentives for people to become part of this environmental landscape.
Once proclaimed, the park will extend over the coastal biome and three terrestrial biomes, namely the hyper-arid Namib Desert, the Nama Karoo and the Succulent Karoo. Another interesting feature of the park is its geology. The oldest rocks – the Vioolsdrif Granite Suite and the Haib Group (2 600–1 650 million years old) – are found in the southern Sperrgebiet, and the youngest, comprising the Namib Sands (70 million years old to present), dominate the central Namib sand sea and large parts of the Sperrgebiet.
The NSCNP houses a number of globally significant features, notably:
(Information obtained from the Venture Publications magazine, Conservation and the Environment in Namibia 2009/10, from the article ‘One of the largest parks in the world’ by Peter Tarr.)
This article appeared in the Aug/ Sep 2011 edition of Travel News Namibia.