A fascinating blend of heat, earth, sky and timelessness, the Great Karoo ecosystem covers the largest portion of South Africa. The park covers a small area of this, but plays an important conservation role: black rhino, mountain zebra and now lion have all been reintroduced after their extermination by hunters in the 1800s. Everyone eventually falls in love with this seemingly sparse and arid region, which surprises visitors with spectacular sunrises and sunsets and its diverse array of endemic fauna and flora, including the endangered riverine rabbit. Size: 75 000 hectares. Situated near the town of Beaufort West in south-central South Africa.
June 2011 - July 2012
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The Karoo…ever heard of it? Ha ha…if you live in South Africa, it’s almost unavoidable. This semi-arid landscape covers the largest part of the country, and is the nation’s biggest ecosystem.
But surprisingly, for a long time, hardly any of it was formally conserved. Most of it is still used by sheep farmers, but because the Karoo is semi-arid and rainfall is unreliable, a lot of the veld has been overgrazed. A lot of the so-called sweet veld, which the thousands of Springbok used to graze before they were hunted to oblivion, has been replaced by sour veld…that stuff which isn’t very tasty.
The Karoo National Park near Beaufort West was proclaimed in 1979 in an attempt to conserve a little bit of this massive landscape. It’s now grown to over 80 000 hectares, including the beautiful Read more »
After their re-introduction into the Karoo National Park a year ago, the lions are doing well, according to senior section ranger Johan de Klerk, who gave me some of his photos for my blog, as we haven’t seen them yet. (Although we have seen remains of two zebra – one on the spectacular Pienaar’s Pass, a tough 4x4 route which I can highly recommend.)
If the natural vegetation is conserved, the Karoo can support a healthy population of wild antelope and ungulates. (The Karoo actually has very fertile soil –250 million years ago this area was an ancient floodplain, so the soil is full of nutritious prehistoric sediment and minerals – but because the soil is so thin, and the area is so arid and rocky, it can’t be ploughed or farmed.) The Read more »
The Karoo National Park is more than 88 000 hectares big…with a predator-proof fence around its boundary which is about 175kms long. Every day, the fence is patrolled by the field rangers, who inspect it for weak points and holes. The lions in the park haven’t once ventured out onto neighbouring sheep farms. Senior section ranger Johan de Klerk believes the big cats are more than happy with the amount of prey within the park’s borders.
On our last day in the park (before we move on to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve), I went for a late afternoon walk with 26 year-old Gavin Lottering, one of the field rangers. In the past, before the lions had Read more »
I’ve recently returned from the Karoo region of South Africa, where I was researching and photographing an article for Wild Magazine. My short road trip took me to Karoo National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park, Camdeboo National Park and Anysberg Nature Reserve (a CapeNature protected area). I'll upload blogs and photos on all of them in the next few days.
The Karoo is lekker warm in the Read more »