With rising operating costs and no increases in state subsidies, SANParks needs to find alternative ways to fund its national conservation parks in South Africa. But conservation and entrance fees charged at park gates are usually determined unscientifically, and parks can’t show any hard research to explain visitor cover charges.
This is why Prof Edwin Muchapondwa from the University of Cape Town, Prof Gardner Brown and Prof Dave Layton from University of Washington are leading a research project aimed at determining the optimal pricing of park and wildlife resources in Eastern and Southern Africa.
This is a collaboration between the South African, Tanzanian and Kenya centres, in conjunction with the University of Washington. The aim of the research, funded by SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), is to see what visitors would be prepared to pay to enter the park.
The first phase of the project involved a pilot survey in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Kenya’s Maasai-Mara National Reserve, and the Kruger National Park. Dr Johane Dikgang, from the University of Johannesburg is leading the team conducting surveys in the Kruger National Park, where he carried out a pilot survey in April. The main survey takes place from mid-July.
‘The work I did for my doctorate showed that the parks are often undervalued,’ explains Dikgang, who is also an Associate Research Fellow with the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU).
It looks as though the markets in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya are interdependent, and that tourists decide to visit these areas because of the perceived natural value. Park agencies should recognise this.
The objective of this project is to develop a formal framework that could be used by park agencies to set appropriate conservation and entrance fees.
by Leonie Joubert