23 August 2006
Cheetahs once again explore our wetlands
FOR THE first time in a century, cheetahs are roaming in one of our World Heritage Sites!
Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk released two of four cheetahs into the Umkhuze section of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu- Natal last Friday.
"Cheetahs were shot as vermin by cattle farmers," said ministry spokesman Riaan Aucamp. "
He added that farming affected their natural range lands.
By the early 1900s the cheetahs had vanished from the area.
Last year, wild dogs were also re-introduced to the area. The return of the cheetah took place at the same time as the official opening of a new bridge over the Umkhuze River.
The R9,5 million Ophansi Bridge has created a new tourism route in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, and also gives 20 000 people in KwaJobe their first all-weather access to Hluhluwe.
The route is part of the Lubombo Development Initiative which aims to develop previously neglected areas in the region that crosses the borders of northern KwaZulu-Natal, south-eastern Swaziland and southern Mozambique.
The road means that tourists can go game viewing in the Umkhuze Game Reserve and be diving off the beaches of Sodwana Bay within an hour.
An additional R1.2 million will be spent on a gate and community craft market.
Some 120 people were hired to build the bridge and given on-the-job training in concrete works, brickwork, stone pitching, road sealing, and building stormwater culverts.
Daily Sun - 18 August 2006Aens