iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site
Parc de la zone humide d’iSimangaliso, South Africa
MARINE PROTECTED AREA
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iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, about 275 kilometres north of Durban. It is South Africa's third-largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the Lake St. Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km2 of natural ecosystems, managed by the iSimangaliso Authority. The park includes:
The park was previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, but was renamed effective 1 November 2007. The word isimangaliso means "miracle" in Zulu.
The park is due to be integrated into a transfrontier park, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area, straddling South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. This is in turn planned to become a part of the greater Greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Until 1875, the bay has been a proud home of the Tsonga people and their primitive fishkraals. The Tsonga people have lived here for more than 800 years. Records from early Portuguese sailors rightfully point out this area to be occupied by the Tsonga people and further down south. The Tsonga people were forcefully removed from the park when Britain colonised the area in 1875. Despite colonisation and annexation of land, the Tsonga people still live in the northern part of the park, at Kosi Bay. The Tembe Elephant Park, run by Chief Israel Tembe, is a living history that testify to the rich Tsonga history of this wetland park. Chief Israel Tembe is the custodian of this ancient Tsonga land that was taken away during colonisation. The Tembe kingdom, one of the most powerful kingdoms in Southern Africa before colonisation, was a ruling class for more than eight centuries.
St. Lucia was first named in 1554 Rio de la Medaos do Oura (River of the Dows of Gold) by the survivors of the Portuguese ship Saint Benedict. At this stage, only the Tugela River mouth was known as St. Lucia. Later, in 1575, the Tugela River was named Tugela. On 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy, Manuel Peresterello renamed the mouth area to Santa Lucia.
The park was proclaimed a world heritage site because of the rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and natural beauty occurring in a relatively small area. The reason for the huge diversity in fauna and flora is the great variety of different ecosystems on the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas, and wetlands. Animals occurring on the park include elephant, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.
The park is also home to 1,200 Nile crocodiles and 800 hippopotami.
There are large outcroppings of underwater reefs which are home to brightly coloured fish and corals. Some of the most spectacular coral diversity in the world is located in Sodwana Bay. The reefs are inhabited by colour-changing octopuses and squid ready to ambush unsuspecting prey. Occasionally gigantic whale sharks can be seen gliding through the water; mouth agape to scoop up tiny plankton.
Twenty-four species of bivalve molluscs are recorded in St. Lucia Lake, which constitutes a considerable portion of the park.
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