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Friday, 10 November, 2000, 11:10 GMT
Giant game park for Southern Africa

The governments of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are to sign an agreement on Friday creating one of the largest conservation areas in the world.

It will be Africa's biggest wildlife park covering more than 100,000 sq km - an area bigger than Portugal.

It will straddle the borders of all three countries and will join up three game and nature reserves that were previously separated.

The aim is to create a reserve that will include an unprecedented range of biodiversity, and within which tourists will be allowed to travel freely.

Size matters

The full name of the new conservation area will be the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park.

One of its aims will be to attract more tourists to the region.

Elephants need large areas to roam in
It is also hoped that it may help to create healthier breeding groups by reopening natural migrational routes which were blocked by the introduction of colonial borders in Africa.

In theory, animals such as elephants, buffalo, lion and rhino will roam freely across the borders, allowing Kruger National Park in South Africa to halt its culling and translocation programmes.

It is expected that Kruger National Park's excess animals will gradually repopulate areas in Mozambique whose animal populations have been decimated by natural disasters, war and poaching.

About 72% of the park is in Mozambique, 21% in South Africa and the remaining 7% in Zimbabwe.

New hope

The Mozambican area will need substantial infrastructural investment and animal restocking.

Some conservationists hope the area will eventually be extended to the Mozambican coastline so that marine animals like whales and dugongs will be included in the park.

Just a few years ago, the opening of this kind of park in the region would have been inconceivable.

South Africa, under apartheid, was in a near state of war with its neighbour Mozambique and regional co-operation was at an all time low.

The plan now is that the three countries will share the revenue from entrance fees to the park, while each will keep the profits from hotels and other outlets on its own territory.

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