Tankwa Karoo National Park
As luminous clouds of dust swirl through the scarred landscape, a Karoo tortoise patiently ambles around in search of a succulent coral aloe. A lizard basks in the sun while suricates and mongoose share the arid plains with orb-web spiders, centipedes and leggy toktokkies.
The 80 000 hectare Tankwa Karoo National Park, proclaimed in 1986 and still in a development stage, is at present in a veld recovery phase and it will be some time before the original vegetation re-establishes itself. Even so, after the occasional shower, the park erupts into a dazzling display of flowering succulents. With an average rainfall of 80mm a year, even a scant shower is reason for celebration.
Nomadic pastoralism first brought sheep into the succulent Karoo about 2 000 years ago, and cattle some 1 500 years later. The European pastoralists (trekboere) who moved northwards from the Cape Peninsula in the 18th century were nomadic, moving with their flocks to suitable grazing. In the 19th century the succulent Karoo became the first biome used for settled European pastoralism (Milton et al. 1997). The extremely arid summers however make much of the succulent Karoo unsuitable for settled pastoralism, even now when boreholes provide perennial water and forage can be imported from other areas (Milton et al. 1997).
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Why the conservation of Tankwa Karoo?
• It has a unique environment gradient from the top of the Roggeveld escarpment in the east to the Cedarberge in the west.
• It is the most southerly explored environment where the Black Rhino has previously being seen in its natural habitat.
• It is also the most southerly turning point of the migrating routes for antelope like the Springbuck.
• The migrating corridor for succulent plants is found through Tankwa Karoo.
• Two temperature regimes are included in Tankwa Karoo National Park.
• Summer- and winter rainfall is included in Tankwa Karoo National Park.