Animal conservation in South Africa is moving away from safeguarding animals behind fences. Now the trend is expansion, and linking conservation projects and areas along natural corridors. Everyone is involved – from river catchment authorities to private landowners to government parks.

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A 500 000 hectare Karoo mega-reserve is being planned to link more than one national park.

South Africa's animal conservation safeguards much of the world's charismatic megafauna, large beasts that need plenty of space to live and breathe free. Six-ton elephants spring to mind first, of course, and two-ton white rhinos, along with one-ton black rhinos.

A small family of elephants, for example, would feel cramped in a game reserve less than 12 000 hectares in size. Then there are wild dogs, a pack of which eats a buck a day. They need so much space to rove around in that even a 20 000 hectare park presents a risk of break-out .

Space, then, is critical to animal conservation in South Africa. Small islands of conservation are ultimately unsustainable. The larger the area, the more the ecosystem 'manages itself'.

One of the most exciting South African animal conservation projects is the creation of mega-reserves. Addo Elephant National Park was once a tiny area set aside for no more than a handful of surviving elephants. As numbers grew, so did the park.

Now it is becoming a mega-reserve, with provincial parks and private land being included to create an area nearly 500 000 hectares in extent, sweeping from the Zuurberg mountains to the sea.

Not far away is the Baviaanskloof mega-reserve, and beyond that a series of protected areas that make up the new Garden Route National Park. Already authorities are making plans to link these animal conservation areas, each one enormous in its own right, via corridors of privately owned land.

Private parks are dropping fences with neighbouring national parks, benefiting animal conservation. Biospheres and larger marine reserves are being created. And now transfrontier parks bordering South Africa are also adding more land to that increasingly rare planetary commodity - wilderness.