After nearly a decade of lobbying and sustained efforts by a committee of dedicated environmentalists‚ including the MCSA, the Magaliesberg has been declared a world biosphere reserve in June 2015.
The announcement was made in Paris by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) on Tuesday‚ according to a statement by the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group.
"This is a Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) programme that aims to build a supportive and sustainable relationship between people and their environments. In effect‚ this means a specific focus on safeguarding natural ecosystems through innovative approaches to economic development‚" the group said.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves‚ which Magaliesberg now joins‚ contains 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries.
Vincent Carruthers‚ past chairman of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group and author of The Magaliesberg‚ said the announcement was the culmination of a campaign that began in 2006.
"I’m most grateful there is now international recognition of this great mountain range that has witnessed the whole span of life‚ from its very origins‚" he said.
"The Magaliesberg is almost 100 times older than Mount Everest and half the age of the earth‚ a unique treasure for us in this part of Africa."
Officials from South African environmental authorities were also at the meeting in Paris when the announcement was made.
"The Magaliesberg Biosphere will be formally registered by Unesco and the Department of Environmental Affairs in October‚" said Mr Carruthers. "But before that happens we need to appoint a board of management for the biosphere."
The board will consist of representatives from 16 interest groups involved in the Magaliesberg.
The mountain range is under intense pressure from urbanisation and has lacked the support of a strong regulatory framework to back its status as a protected area.
"Our hope is that this recognition by a world body, and the renewed local focus it will put on the Magaliesberg, will energise initiatives towards greater protection and balanced and sustainable use‚" Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group chairman Paul Fatti said. "This is the duty the board of management will be taking on."
The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve covers almost 358‚000ha — 58‚000ha make up the core area‚ 110‚000ha the buffer area and 190‚000ha the transition area. Besides the range’s unique biomes — the central grassland plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah — it has a rich biodiversity. The Aloe peglerae and Frithia pulchra are unique to the area that also has 443 bird species‚ almost half the total bird species of southern Africa.
In its report recommending that the Magaliesberg join the exclusive club of World Biosphere Reserves‚ the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves‚ said: "The area is endowed with scenic beauty‚ unique natural features‚ rich cultural heritage value and archaeological interest with the Cradle of Humankind‚ which is part of the World Heritage Site with 40-million years of history".
Souce: Mountain Club of South Africa.