Highlighting the career of Prof Willem van Riet, directing innovative conservation initiatives in Africa, illustrating his experiences and approach through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

An all-inclusive approach to conservation was instigated by numerous adventures on wild rivers in the 60’s and developed through academic research at Universities in Philadelphia (USA) and Pretoria (South Africa). GIS software, data and processes were harnessed throughout his career in support of planning, scientific analyses and fundraising.  Projects and programmes will be illustrated through a number themes. This approach was implemented during his years on the SANParks Board and on transboundary initiatives in Southern Africa during his 10 years as the CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation. Recently he has functioned as a consulted through the Swedish entity (Transboundary Conservation Foundation).

"I hope that the review of these conservation projects, as a journey of discovery through the use of GIS and maps, will be of assistance to conservation development in many parts of the world. I would like to iterate that the content of this site reflects my own personal point of view and is based on my personal experiences."

During the last number of years we have been involved with small studies and mapping exercises of a number of little know African Parks. These studies were completed for Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) during investigations into support for a number of countries in Africa. Each of these studies places the park in its natural and man made environment. It illustrates the influence of the regional surroundings on conservation areas. I will, during the next few weeks, place a number of these studies on my blog. 

Published in African Projects

The recent post on Facebook on the famous sculptor Coert Steynberg by Anna du Toit and the Kruger National Park in South Africa has an interesting backdrop. Back in 1972 there was a heated debate about the famous Kruger statue. Originally the idea was to cut the head of Paul Kruger out of a granite hill some distance south of Skukuza on the Malelane road in the Kruger National Park. The public was up in arms about the visual impact of such a large unnatural structure staring out over the landscape, desecrating the wilderness.

Oom Coert with granite block from Paarl

I was asked by the SANPark’s board to become involved to see if a middle road solution to this tricky problem could be found. So it was that I found myself on a plane with Sybrand van Niekerk, the administrator of the old Transvaal, flying to Skukuza with no idea how to deal with this granite administrator, an ardent proponent of the hill statue idea. After some days in the park talking to all and sundry, my proposal to them was not to creating the statue out of a hill in the Kruger National Park, but to bring the granite rock all the way from Paarl in the Western Cape. The plan was to carve the statue from this granite in Skukuza and then transport it to the Kruger gate, where it is still standing to this day.

The history of the creation of the Limpopo National Park, adjacent to the Kruger National Park, has become obscured with time and with the growth of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It is still relevant as this event marked the start of the establishment and growth of the Peace Parks Foundation, one of the most successful and influential NGO’s in Africa.

It was during the early days of 1991 that the SA Nature Foundation, later to become WWF South Africa, requested Dr Ken Tinley and myself to conduct a report on the potential for this, the first of many transfrontier parks in Southern Africa. Dr Ken Tinley had worked in Mozambique and its conservation areas for many years and became wellknown for his brilliant study of the Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique as the subject of his PHD thesis. He also had specific knowledge of the Catado 16, the controlled hunting area next to the Kruger National Park’s eastern fence, and understood the culture of the region well through his knowledge of Portuguese.

Published in African Projects
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 11:45

1 - African Projects: Introduction

An illustration of a series of projects in Africa covering many divergent challenges for conservation.

Through my training and education, some of the most interesting research and planning occurred within national parks. Conservation covers many types of protected areas. A large number of studies and planning projects that I was involved in has contributed to my approach. These projects have focused on the park, regional, provincial, national and international scale.

Published in African Projects