Fragile, threatened paradise
Fragile, threatened paradise
BY SHELLY COX
Nestled between the Zambezi River to the north and the steep Zambezi Escarpment to the south lies Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley - a fragile wilderness paradise providing shelter and a safe haven to immense congregations of Africa’s large mammal populations, and over 450 recorded resident and migratory birdlife species.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Mana Pools Protection Area covers 2,200km2 of untouched land. The term ‘fragile’ implies that small impacts cause serious damage and the most fragile environments and ecosystems are wilderness areas with the least previous disturbance. Mana Pools is one of Africa’s finest and most fragile environments.
Part of its magic stems from its remoteness and a pervading sense of a wild and natural place, free from human development; but Mana Pools has far more to offer in the way of unique safari experiences.
Whilst the major feature is the vast and open flood plains of the valley floor bounded by the Zambezi River, large parts of the area include rugged escarpment and upland areas, many sites of which have fossil and petrified wood. Few other parks in Africa offer the quality of walking that is available in Mana Pools, allowing visitors the opportunity to explore the diverse vegetation and terrain whilst encountering high concentrations of wildlife and birdlife species.
The awe and wonder of the area is not exclusive to those who explore on foot. Traversing the open flood plain by vehicle leads to tunnels of acacia forests whose boughs overlap as if God delicately created a natural archway for animals to roam through. Mana has become famous for its elephant bulls which have adapted to balancing on their hind legs or using ant mounds to reach the canopies of the ana trees with their outstretched trunks.
Whilst all wilderness areas in Africa have the capacity to leave a long lasting imprint on one’s memory, there is something (more) unique and encapsulating about Mana Pools which goes beyond the sensory experience and which touches the deeper more innate level of the soul.
With the ongoing threat of proposed mining on the Rukomechi and Chewore Rivers, it is now, more than ever, vital that increased pressure is placed on the authorities to protect one of Africa’s last remaining untouched and most fragile wilderness areas.
Besides the unavoidable damage to the flora and fauna that tends to take place when a project of such a nature is undertaken, mining in the area presents many additional problems. If mining activity here is given the green light, it is bound to compromise Mana Pools’ standing as a World Heritage Site - as well as its designation as a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
The Ramsar Convention (formally, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as waterfowl habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands, recognising the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value. Get involved and have your say on the protection of Mana Pools.
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