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South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe Join Hands in Eco-tourism

Three presidents of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe Wednesday jointly opened the Giriyondo border post at the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park as part of eco-tourism cooperation in southern Africa.


The border post was launched by South African President Mbeki, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.


President Mbeki called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier National Park which links three countries a unique opportunity for Southern African eco-tourism and cooperation.


"Today, our wild animals, including the elephants, rhino, antelope and many others, are once again beginning to roam freely within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier National Park," said Mbeki in a speech released by his office.


"They teach us valuable lessons. And we, the people, now have another possibility to reach out and join hands in partnership, cooperation and interdependence," he added.


The park established in accordance with the treaty signed in December 2002 joins South Africa, through its Kruger National Park, with parks in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, covering an area of about 35,000 square kilometers, and the Giriyondo border post links the three countries.


Mbeki called Giriyondo "just the beginning of a new era when we will bring down the colonial fences, which divided our nations over several centuries."


He encouraged a joint proposal by the ministers of environment and tourism of nine Southern African countries, including South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to develop a Transfrontier Conservation Areas Tourism Route for 2010 and beyond. This would enable travelers to experience the countries as a single destination.


"It is imperative that we fully endorse this proposal and endeavor to render support for the development of additional access facilities and associated tourism infrastructure in all the other Transfrontier Conservation Areas," he said.


Mbeki said the countries should use the 2010 Soccer World Cup to showcase the region and that the park, "branded as the world's largest animal kingdom," would be a major attraction then.


He said Africa's share of the global tourism market was 4.5 percent in 2003 and should be built on. The transfrontier parks and conservation areas offered an "exceptional" opportunity for growth.


Mbeki said six possible sites had been identified for a bridge over the Limpopo River between the Kruger Park and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.


He urged park officials to maximize the benefits of the park, "without compromising operational efficiency and security procedures."


(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2006)


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