|Sitting at the south-western tip of Africa, the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) encompasses the incredibly scenic Peninsula mountain chain that stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south – a distance of some 60km. This narrow finger of land with its many beautiful valleys, bays and beaches is bound by the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean in the west and the warm waters of False Bay in the east.|
|The Cape Peninsula’s dramatic topography and Mediterranean-type climate has produced an enormous array of habitats which in turn means the park offers an incredibly rich variety of plants and animals.|
|South Africa is the only country in the world to have within its borders an entire floral kingdom (only six such kingdoms exist). The Cape Floral Kingdom – of which the TMNP forms an extremely significant part – is recognised as the world’s most prominent “hot-spot” of plant diversity. The Peninsula has more than 2,285 species of plants – more than the entire British Isles (1,492 species) and New Zealand (1,996 species). Of these, 90 are considered endemic.The predominant vegetation – mountain fynbos (fine bush) – is characterised by three main plant types or growth forms: the Cape reed or restiose grasses; the small-leafed, heath-like ericas and the larger, leathery-leafed proteas. You will also find a large variety of bulbs, rhizomes and tubers which form an important part of the fynbos group as well as many types of ground orchids.
Click HERE for a detailed vegetation distribution map.
Although most of the indigenous large animals have become locally extinct (the last lion for example was killed in 1802), the park still supports viable populations of many medium sized and smaller animals, such as Bontebok, grysbok, caracal, mongoose, otter and baboon.
A large variety of birds also call the park home, some of which, like the beautiful Cape Sugarbird, have evolved to live exclusively on the flowering fynbos.
There are at least 111 endemic invertebrates and one endemic vertebrate (the Table Mountain Ghost Frog) resident in the park. Many of these endemic invertebrates, such as the extremely rare white peripatus, are found in the deeper recesses of sandstone caves in the park.
|Many of the species found here are endemic to Southern African waters. Of the 2,008 marine invertebrate and vertebrate species identified along the southern African coastline from Namibia to Mozambique, 660 (33%) occur on the Peninsula (three percent of the total coastline).All 24 species of rock pool fish that occur on the Peninsula are endemic to Southern Africa. On top of all that, of the 259 continental-shelf fish species which occur around the Peninsula, 88% are endemic to southern Africa. The large number of seaweed species found along the southern African coast reaches its highest density around the Peninsula.
Conserving this unique natural heritage was first mooted in 1929 when the South African Wildlife Society proposed the idea of declaring Table Mountain a national park. The establishment of the TMNP has been a long and often arduous road. In the years preceding the establishment of the TMNP, Table Mountain was proclaimed a National Monument, several local authority nature reserves were established and the natural areas of the Cape Peninsula were proclaimed a Protected Natural Environment. The problem however was that these areas were under the ownership and management of 14 different public bodies and over 200 private landowners. After numerous attempts, over many years, to consolidate this land ownership under one single conservation management authority, the first portions of the TMNP were proclaimed in May of 1998, giving the area the highest legal protection as a conservation area and placing it under a single management authority, the South African National Parks .
However, managing the park is no easy task. Many crucial aspects still need to be addressed. One of these is the establishment of the park. Intense negotiations to incorporate parcels of strategic, conservation-worthy land, into the park, is still underway. Some of this land is privately owned and some it is still under the control of state, provincial and local authorities. It is also the intention to extend the park into the marine area.
Click HERE for Land Tenure Map.
The TMNP is involved in numerous strategic initiatives to address these, and other, threats and opportunities. These include establishing a partnership with the neighbouring communities; devising and implementing visitor management strategies to deal with the expected increase in the number of recreational users and tourists, and; conservation strategies which can enable natural areas to be effectively managed in the urban context.
It is however critical that the park attracts funding to support these strategic initiatives. The park secures funding from a multitude of sources with its primary objective to ensure its financial self-sustainability.