The Wilderness Foundation is proud to announce the declaration of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site. This listing, which was formalised on 22 June 2014, is the 1 000th World Heritage Site listing in the world and we are delighted that this critical wilderness area finally has international conservation protection.
The Okavango Delta northwest Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the Okavango river occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronised their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes. The Okavango delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. For the past seven years, the Wilderness Foundation SA, the Wilderness Foundation UK, and the WILD Foundation (USA) have been involved in efforts to assist the Government of Botswana and stakeholders in realizing a long-cherished dream: the listing of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site.
Dr Karen Ross, who headed up the project for the Wilderness Foundation, shares the elation at the listing: “It is with great pleasure to advise you that at around 6 pm last night the Okavango Delta was inscribed as a World Heritage Site at the 38th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha. It was great to be part of a jubilant Botswana delegation here, many who worked hard on this process, headed by Minister T K Khama who was visibly emotional excited by this nomination that was also warmly welcomed by the other country delegates. Much cheering and waving of flags”.
The seven year process included consultations with key stakeholders including local communities living in and around the Okavango Delta in 36 villages, the National World Heritage Committee, OKACOM, BaTawana Tribal Authority, Dikgosi, NW District Councillors, Members of Parliament, HATAB, NGOs, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the Okavango Basin Steering Committee. Dr Andrew Muir, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation says “We are proud to have been a part of the Okavango Delta becoming the 1 000th site inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Wilderness Foundation is a conservation organisation with firsthand knowledge in the declaration of world heritage sites and has been intimately involved in the listing of two sites. A World Heritage Site listing is the highest level of protection and status that a protected area can obtain, which speaks to our vision of ensuring that the world has sufficient intact natural ecosystems and wilderness areas that are valued and effectively protected for the benefit of all species.”
ABOUT THE WILDERNESS FOUNDATION
The Wilderness Foundation works in many countries from its base in South Africa to protect wildlife and wilderness in partnership with local communities. Whether it is direct action anti-poaching in the field, large landscape wilderness management, or developing rising young leaders from disadvantaged communities for a career in conservation, the Wilderness Foundation has over 40 years of results.
The Foundation was established in 1972 by conservation pioneer Dr Ian Player, who led the team that saved the white rhino from extinction in the 1960’s, an action-legacy that the Wilderness Foundation continues today, working against wildlife crime and combating the rhino poaching crisis.
The Wilderness Foundation focuses on four main programme areas: Wildlife and Wilderness Conservation, Social Intervention, Leadership & Education, and Advocacy & Awareness. The Wilderness Foundation is also an active partner in the globally-focused “Wilderness Network,” a close-knit and talented group based on the values of: a passion for direct conservation action; respect for all living things; a deep commitment to conservation education; and with operations that demonstrate integrity, transparency, sustainability, and innovation.
“We envisage a world that has sufficient intact natural ecosystems and wilderness areas that are valued and effectively protected for the benefit of all species.”
Dr Andrew Muir, CEO
Tel: 041 373 0293