SANParks, people and adaptive management: Understanding a diverse field of practice during changing times

Louise K. Swemmer, Sandra Taljaard
Koedoe | Vol 53, No 2 | a1017 | DOI: | © 2011 Louise K. Swemmer, Sandra Taljaard | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2010 | Published: 11 May 2011

About the author(s)

Louise K. Swemmer, Savanna and Arid Research Unit, South African National Parks, Phalaborwa, South Africa
Sandra Taljaard, People and Conservation Department, South African National Parks, Northern Cluster, Golden Gate National Park, South Africa


Biodiversity conservation is often measurable and achievable and has been reasonably successful within the boundaries of national parks. However, the concept of parks providing tangible benefits and hence being seen as ‘valuable’ to the majority of the nation has been more difficult to define, measure and, importantly, deliver on. This function has traditionally fallen under what is currently known as the People and Conservation Department, which has a rich history in South African National Parks (SANParks) of change and adaptive learning in terms of defining core functions and associated management strategies, spanning from its original inception as the Information Services Department over 80 years ago. Learning from and in some cases, adapting to change, is evident throughout this broad scale national evolution of the department, from an initial focus on information sharing and education in the 1930s, to what we see today. This includes the primary focus areas of cultural resource management and indigenous knowledge, community relations, environmental education, awareness, youth outreach, interpretation and training. At a more local, park scale, there is a current drive to formalise the adaptive management and learning process for the people component of protected areas through the alignment of relevant project, programme and park objectives with those at a corporate or national level. Associated with this is an attempt to further align the associated monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes, thereby completing the formal adaptive management loops in order to facilitate and stimulate co-learning within and between relevant responsible departments within the organisation.

Conservation implications: Benefit sharing through biodiversity conservation has been shown to be crucial for the long-term success of protected areas, but the practicalities of implementing this are thwart with challenges. Despite this, SANParks is attempting to facilitate and promote benefits through conservation, specifically in the sense of benefits that support livelihoods whilst reducing vulnerability. With this in mind, we acknowledge the importance of the concepts of scale, resilience, complexity and adaptive learning for, and during, this process.


people; benefits; environmental education; implementation


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Crossref Citations

1. Co-defining program success: Identifying objectives and indicators for a livestock damage compensation scheme at Kruger National Park, South Africa
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doi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2015.05.004