UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Magaliesberg: Against Poaching, Forest Fires and Plant Theft
The management of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve strengthened its guard patrols against poaching, plant theft and forest fires through #SOSAfricanHeritage and collected data for improved protection and law enforcement.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve is located in South Africa between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. It forms the interface between two large African biomes, i.e. animal and plant communities in a larger geographical area, and the remains of a third biome. These are the central grassland plateau, the sub-Saharan savannah, and the Afro-montane forest. A variety of flower species grow here. It is also home to numerous animal and bird species, which account for 46.6% of all bird species in the South African sub-region. The area faces high unemployment and poverty. The main economic activities are agriculture, mining, urban development, and tourism.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The pandemic and subsequent national closures have led to numerous company closures and job losses. Poachers have taken advantage of the situation by trading bushmeat along the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve. This not only leads to an increase in poaching of wildlife, but also to illegal plant extraction and tree felling for the firewood trade. Poachers often ignite several forest fires at once, which quickly develop into wildfires and cause lasting destruction to the vegetation in the Biosphere Reserve.
Remedy through data collection and patrols
The goal of the project funded by the German Commission for UNESCO was to protect the biosphere reserve from an increase in poaching of wildlife, collecting of endangered plant species, cutting of trees for firewood, and environmental degradation caused by forest fires. For this purpose, the management conducted numerous patrols in the biosphere reserve, removed traps and snares, identified hot spots for animal trapping, and collected other relevant data for monitoring the biosphere reserve. Such data was shared with conservation and law enforcement authorities. Already during the project period, a decrease in illegal logging and in the number of animal traps was observed.
Rangers, students and volunteers were also trained to identify native and protected plant species, so that they are able to recognize them at markets and share their knowledge. In addition, the management trained the biosphere reserve's rangers in firefighting.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the COVID-19-pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Magaliesberg
- Country: South Africa
- Type of Site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 2015