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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 13:09 GMT
Africa's biggest game park opens
Impala in Mozambique
Humans and animals will live side by side
The largest game park in Africa - straddling three countries - has been officially opened by the presidents of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The heads of state signed a treaty on Monday formally creating the Great Limpopo Transfrontier park at Xai Xai in Mozambique.

It will link the Kruger National Park in South Africa with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.

Animals will be able to wander freely across the 35,000-square-kilometre (22,000-square-mile) area - roughly the size of the Netherlands or Taiwan - while tourists will be able to visit the trans-national park using one visa.

Resources will be pooled to preserve hundreds of species of elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, giraffes, antelope and more than 300 types of trees in the region.

Tourism boost

Former South African President Nelson Mandela first promoted the idea for the park in 2001.

Organisers hope it will attract tourists who have been put off by Africa's record of civil war, famine and crime.

The reserve's founders say it will be a "world-class eco-tourism destination".

Nelson Mandela in Mozambique
Nelson Mandela launched the project in October 2001
The Kruger National Park and the Gonarezhou National Park are already operational.

Most of the planning has focussed on developing the Limpopo park in Mozambique.

Infrastructure and wildlife in the former Portuguese colony were almost wiped out during Mozambique's 16-year civil war, which ended in late 1992.

However, in recent months, political instability in Zimbabwe has also threatened to delay or derail the scheme.

Short of funds

Major investment in the project is still needed.

A bridge across the Limpopo River at Pafuri in Mozambique is needed to let visitors move across national borders without leaving the park.

An airport with direct flights to Europe has also been proposed.

Thousands of animals, including zebras, elephants and warthogs, were transported to Mozambique in preparation for the park's creation.

The reserve will differ from traditional parks in that permanent human settlements and wildlife will be permitted to remain in the same location.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"The idea is that animals and tourists will be able to wander around it at will"
See also:

05 Oct 01 | Africa
29 Aug 01 | Africa
04 Sep 00 | Africa
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