The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was declared in 2000, formalising an ecological entity that was already there. Tourists loved it, but this inspiring wilderness has given rise to something more. Now there are ideas of linking this gigantic conservation areas to others nearby. Desert ecology and tourism will be the winners.

Did you know?

This is an excellent area to view birds of prey, especially tawny and snake eagles.

When the first ideas around transfrontier parks linking South Africa with its neighbours were brainstormed, one already existed.

Decades before the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park came into existence, South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana had been united in all but name.

These neighbours were separated by nothing but an unmarked international border, an ecological unit of some 37 000 square kilometres; a semi-desert wilderness of blonde grass, red dunes, enormous peace and space.

All that was needed was to formalise the arrangement and co-ordinate ecology management. So in 2000 this became the first of South Africa's transfrontier ventures.

Authorities on both sides learnt much from the union. But tourists loved it the most, being able to cross into an entirely new park without a passport (unless exiting on the other side, of course).

Managing the ecology of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a single unit has been a great step forward for desert conservation. But the opening of the border crossing at Mata Mata has opened more than just access between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

This gateway has started talk about creating a corridor linking this giant park to nearby Augrabies National Park, due south. And from there, the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Area in the west. Just north of that is Namibia's 26 000 square kilometre Sperrgebiet National Park. That in turn abuts the Namib Naukluft National Park, one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Plans are afoot to link all.

Sustaining the spirit started by Kgalagadi may soon give rise to a mega-transfrontier park, protecting a desert storehouse of some of the most exquisitely adapted plants and animals on Earth.

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