The park was proclaimed on 29 June 2002 for the purpose of conserving the rich diversity of succulent plants. NNP is in the process of development, having grown to its current size of 141,000ha (including the coastal contract area between the Groen and Spoeg rivers) in nine years, thus expanding the park to include more succulent habitats and an important coastal section. The park has one access-controlled route; the main entrance gate at the Skilpad section. The use of this gate is normally restricted to between 06h00 and 18h00. The Groen-Spoeg River section can be entered at the Groenriver where a marine SANParks official is based.
Geography of Namaqua National Park
The bedrock within the Namaqua NP largely comprises Quartzo-feldspathic Gneiss of the Kookfontein subgroup within the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex. Bedrock outcrops occur on koppies or mountains as smooth rock faces or large rounded boulders typical of the Namaqualand Hardeveld. Of further geological significance is the Soubattersfontein Quartzite that occurs as low laying ridges or koppies in the south and south-western sections of the park. Wolfhoek se Berg is the highest point above sea level in the park at 948m above sea level.
Sand movement corridors are a characteristic of the coastal plain landscape and form an integral part of the ecological dynamics of the vegetation and animals that inhabit this landscape. They are regarded as important medium to large scale ecological processes that need to be explicitly considered in conservation plans. Elsewhere in South Africa sand movement corridors have been truncated or destroyed by inappropriate coastal development and stabilization by alien plants. The Namaqualand coastal plain presents the only opportunity in South Africa to conserve these ecosystems.
The park covers an altitudinal range from sea level (western boundary) to 948m on the eastern boundary. The topography is dominated by the low-lying Swartlintjies River valley in the west with its catchment in the mountains of the escarpment to the east. On the Skilpad section the Wolwepoort River drains to the northwest ultimately flowing into the Haasrivier, a tributary of the Buffelrivier. The Namaqualand coastal plain and the escarpment (Hardeveld) are both features of the area. The area between the Groen and Spoeg Rivers include a 60km stretch of coastal line and 30km inland of coastal plain sandy material of aeolian origin.
The Namaqualand region of South Africa falls within the Succulent Karoo biome, identified as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots (one of three hotspots in South Africa), and is the focus of both international and national groups/organisations to conserve this globally unique living landscape i.e. the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Lesley Hill Succulant Karoo Trust, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Conservation International (CI) with initiatives such as the SKEP and Arid Eden Project.
The Succulent Karoo has approximately 6,356 plant species, 40% (2,542) are endemic. Namaqualand alone has about 3,000 species (1,500 are endemic) made up of 648 genera and 107 families. Seventeen percent are listed as Red Data species (International Union for Conservation of Nature 1994). When compared to regions with similar semi-arid environments the richness of this biome is exceptional. Namaqualand is further distinguished from other desert regions by the presence of the following families: Mesembryanthemaceae (vygies); Iridaceae (irids); Hyacinthaceae (lachenalias) and Crassulaceae (crassulas). There is a strong pattern of dominance by succulents and bulbs.
Birds & Mammals
The movement of birds within the biome appears to be related to the availability of resources, both food and nesting material. Fluctuations in bird and mammal populations (especially rodents) are related to major rainfall events or changes in rainfall seasonality. Historically, mammal numbers would have fluctuated with resource availability and the activity of predators. The animals that historically occurred in the area and which are now locally extinct include elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, wild dog, eland, red hartebeest, gemsbok, springbok and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Many of these species were probably not resident but would have moved through the area related to the availability of food and water resources. The largest predator in the park is the leopard (Panthera pardus).
Existing populations of small mammals still occur within the present boundaries of the Namaqua NP. They include: common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), steenbok (Raphicerus camprestis), bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), caracal (Caracal caracal), baboon (Papio ursinus), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), Cape fox (Vulpes chama), aardvark (Crycteropus cafer) and African wildcat (Felis silvestris). Seventy-three mammal species occur within the Succulent Karoo with three endemic. Of these De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni) and Van Zyl’s golden mole (Cryptochloris zyli) are insectivorous and the Namaqua dune molerat (Bathyergus janetta) is herbivorous.There are, however, five species known only from the dunes of the central Namaqualand coast. Some of these species are likely to occur in the corridor and coastal section of the park.
Springbok, Red Hartebeest and Gemsbok has been reintroduced by SANParks.