At 70,000 acres, Samara is the largest private game reserve in the Eastern Cape. It is also significantly larger than 65% of the Eastern Cape’s provincial reserves and 30% of South Africa’s national parks. Located in one of only 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany thicket, and encompassing representative areas of four of South Africa’s eight vegetation biomes, Samara’s conservation significance is considerable.
As well as encompassing under-conserved vegetation types and providing a home for many endemic and endangered species, Samara is ideally located in the middle of a chain of conservation areas, from the Camdeboo National Park in the west to the Mountain Zebra National Park in the east.
A visionary plan dreamt up in 1998 by SANParks and conservation NGOs seeks to link the two parks through ecological corridors. Samara is a key stepping stone in this project, and has served as an important catalyst for this grand vision. This mega-park of 1.3 million acres, not traversed by a single main tarred road, will create a vast mosaic of conservation-friendly land-uses in which biodiversity can thrive.
This ambitious project has already been set in motion. 2016 saw the proclamation of the Mountain Zebra – Camdeboo Protected Environment, placing more than 650,000 acres of land under varying levels of environmental protection. The creation of the mega-reserve could also provide a new model for conservation, since the mechanism for expansion relies on innovative incentive-based schemes focusing on collaboration, cooperation and co-creation.