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From Game Reserve No. 3 to Namib-Naukluft Park
The proclamation, on 22 March 1907, of Game Reserves 1, 2 and 3 by the Colonial Administration in German South West Africa, had far-reaching implications for conservation in Namibia.
Today, both the Etosha National Park and the Namib-Naukluft Park are world-renowned. The Namib-Naukluft Park has grown in size to almost 50 000 km², to be the largest formal conservation area in Namibia.
This growth has taken place over a period of a hundred years, but most of this was after 1950. Today, this park encompasses some of the most visited areas in the country and protects huge expanses of unspoilt desert scenery.
Game Reserve No.3, Namib-Naukluft Park, Namib Desert Park, Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park, Sandwich Harbour, Bernabe De la Bat, conservation, Division Nature Conservation and Tourism.
One hundred years ago, a decision reached by colonial civil servants, was to have a lasting impact on the environment and conservation in what is today the Republic of Namibia. Dr. Friedrich von Lindequist, a representative of Governor Theodor Leutwein, the Imperial Governor of the Protectorate of Deutsch-Sudwestafrika (German South West Africa), issued a proclamation on 22 March 1907, relating to the establishment of three game reserves in the territory.
These protected areas became known as Game Reserves No. 1, 2 and 3. Game Reserve No. 1 was north-east of Grootfontein and protected the game in the Omuramba Omatako, an ephemeral river. Some references wrongly place Game Reserve No. 1 in the Caprivi (Bridgeford 1997). In 1958, Game Reserve No. 1 was deproclaimed in exchange for land to the west of Etosha (De la Bat 1982). Game Reserve No. 2 was the Etosha Pan and surrounding area. The last one, Game Reserve No. 3, is the subject of this paper.
Game Reserve No. 3
Game Reserve No. 3 was situated south of the Swakop River and east of the British enclave of Walvis Bay. In the proclamation by the German authorities, the borders of the area were not accurately defined, but use was made of the few known landmarks. The boundary of this reserve was five kilometres south and parallel to the southern bank of the Swakop River, as far as the farm Salem.
This was probably because many people lived and farmed in and along the river. In addition, the Baiweg (Bay Road) ran parallel to and close to the river, disturbing wildlife and depleting the grazing. The eastern boundary was from Salem, through Onanis, south to Blumenthal and then in a south-westerly direction to the Kuiseb River over the Hope Mine. From the mine, 10 km south and parallel of the Kuiseb River until it reached the Walvis Bay boundary again. By making the boundary south of the river, it protected the animals moving between the river and the dunes. To hunt in the Game Reserve required written permission.
During and after the First World War, when the South African Military took over the administration of the territory in 1915, the status quo concerning the Game Reserves remained unchanged for many years. However, there was a law passed in 1916 to protect that unique plant, Welwitschia mirabilis (Proclamation 10 of 1916>, many of them growing in Game Reserve No 3. This was the first law in the Territory to protect a plant. It is interesting to note that the proclamation ended with the words: "God save the King" and signed in "Windhuk" by the Administrator, E.H.L. Gorges.
The South African military administration reconfirmed the existence of the three game reserves proclaimed in 1907, when they published the Prohibited Areas Proclamation (Proc. 15 of 1919) (De la Bat 1982). This decree controlled entry into Ovamboland, Rehoboth and "in the several game reserves defined in the order of the Governor of German South West Africa ... dated 22nd March, 1907".
The civilian South West African Administration (SWAA) was established in 1925. This Administration repealed the laws relating to Game Reserves 1, 2 and 3 proclaimed by the German colonial government. However, Proclamation 26 of 1928 immediately reproclaimed these Game Reserves. Using points of longitude and latitude, kilometres and established points such as farms or mines, the borders were for the first time, accurately defined. The new borders of Game Reserve No. 3 closely followed the ones drawn in 1907.
Between the two World Wars, conservation was concentrated on Game Preservation and most laws passed, related to hunting and the protection of animals, birds, reptiles and plants (Cosburn 1980). A Game Preservation Proclamation passed in 1921 (Proc. 13 of 1921), based on German laws, regulated the hunting and protection of game (Joubert 1975). In the early years, the South African Police were responsible for maintaining these laws. In 1927, the above Proclamation was repealed and replaced by a new Game Preservation Ordinance (Ord. 5 of 1927). Ten years later, another ordinance was gazetted, known as the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Ord. 19 of 1937).
The first hesitant steps towards formal conservation took place with the appointment in 1947 of A. A. Pienaar as game warden for the Territory. He was an author, also known as Sangiro, who wrote adventure stories set in the wild. Another author of similar stories, Dr. P.J. Schoeman, followed him. During his tenure, a tentative start was made to develop Etosha.
An important milestone was the passing of the Game Preservation Ordinance in 1951 (Ord. 11 of 1951). This detailed the establishment of a Game Preservation and Hunting Board of not less than five members. Their task was to advise the Administrator on matters concerning the preservation of game. The appointment of game wardens as honorary or public service officers was included. Dieter Aschenborn was appointed as assistant game warden and stationed in Etosha in 1952. He later became a well-known wildlife artist.
A year later, Bernabe De la Bat, a young biologist, joined the fledgling group. Both were appointed on a contractual basis. Only in 1955 did the SWA Administration establish a permanent unit, the Game Preservation Section, to oversee the Territory's game and undeveloped game reserves, with De la Bat as the first chief warden (Schoeman 1996). In 1957, 'StoffeF Rocher was appointed as assistant ranger at Namutoni and he rose through the ranks to become the chief warden of Etosha National Park in 1963. He was transferred to the Windhoek head office in 1967 and retired after a 31 -year career as Deputy Director of Parks and Wildlife.
Schoeman (1996) states: "The history of formal conservation in Namibia revolves largely around one man, Bernabe De la Bat who ... saw the birth of the country's first official conservation body and served as its Director until the early eighties. With remarkable vision, courage and foresight, he created a rich legacy of game parks, reserves and resorts, on which conservationists could build in years to come. He also laid the cornerstone for tourism in Namibia, today one of the country's fastest growing industries". There is no doubt Namibia is today reaping the fruits of this man's vision.
In 1958, the "Parks Board" replaced the "Hunting Board" and had similar functions (Ord. 18 of 1958), but included civil servants from agriculture, police, native affairs, the chief game warden and members of the farmers' and hunting associations. It also gave the Administrator the power to declare any area a game park and to amend the boundaries of a game park. Provision was made for the establishment and proclamation of private game reserves.