5. FACTORS AFFECTING THE PROPERTY
5.1 Development pressures
Threats which potentially affect the integrity of the ecological functioning of the Park include:
* possible land use changes within certain Park component areas,
* invasive alien plants.
The location of the Park within a region where there are several impoverished communities raises the possibility of claims to the land in the Park. For such claims to be successful, it would require that the claimants prove prior ownership or occupation. In addition, the authorities would consider the desirability of restoration of a land right and would have to find in favour of the claimants. It is generally accepted that conservation of biodiversity and the water production potential of this fragile mountainous area is of the highest national priority and therefore it would be improbable that any land falling within the Park would be restored. A successful claimant would instead be compensated. From time to time there are requests from local communities to graze domestic stock inside the Park, to establish water supply schemes, or from developers wishing to establish resorts.
5.2 Environmental pressures
Possibly the most serious threat to the ecological integrity of the Park is from alien invasive plants, although the area currently affected by such invasions is limited. Principal threats are posed by; Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle), A. dealbata (Silver Wattle), Pinus patula (Pine), Rubus cuneifolius (American Bramble), Populus canescens (Poplar), Cotoneaster spp (Cotoneaster). As part of the South African “Working for Water” campaign, areas within the mountain catchments of the Drakensberg have been cleared, or are presently in the process of being cleared, of major infestations of alien tree species. In addition, there is a relatively low level of poaching as well as uncontrolled fires that enter the Park from neighbouring areas or are started within the Park.
It is recognized that there are several important threats to the rock art of the Drakensberg. The main causes of deterioration in rock paintings are natural weathering of the rock and paint, as well as vandalism (Ward, 1997). The principal threat is the irreversible process of weathering, these are the forces that created the rock shelters in the first place and the process is ongoing. Research is presently being conducted on weathering processes to determine steps that may be taken to reduce, if not ultimately eliminate, natural threats to the art. A management plan that focuses on the cultural resources of the Park has been prepared and is included as Appendix 6.
5.3 Natural disasters and preparedness
The Drakensberg is prone to heavy winter snow falls, summer rainfalls which may result in flooding in valleys and landslides on the mountain slopes. A mountain rescue service is in place, fully equipped, and is on stand-by full time. It can draw on the South African National Defence Force for assistance in helicopter search and rescue operations should this be necessary.
5.4 Visitor / tourism pressures
A major threat to all Southern African rock art is human in origin. For example, campers light fires in painted rock shelters, and the smoke blackens the walls and ceilings. Moreover, people often wet the paintings to bring out the colours, sometimes they use substances such as carbonated soft drinks that have an even more destructive effect. The addition of graffiti and malicious scratching is also a threat to southern African rock art.
Fortunately, and indeed uniquely, the risk of these dangers of human origin have been significantly reduced in the Drakensberg region. The KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service has prohibited, with rare exceptions, camping in painted caves, and access to the entire region is strictly controlled. In addition, the locations of most painted sites do not appear on maps available to the public. A few sites (Main Caves, Game Pass, Battle Cave) have been fenced and access to them is permitted only in the company of a guide. In addition, a rock art interpretive centre has been planned for the proposed Didima camp at Cathedral Peak State Forest which would , amongst various other aspects, also deal with the threats to rock art, creating an awareness of its importance and value, and the need to conserve and protect rock art sites.
As a result of these management measures, the Drakensberg rock art is largely unspoilt by human agency and should remain so. Management strategies instituted by the KwaZulu -Natal Nature Conservation Service have also heightened public awareness of the unique value of the art, and public access to site such as Main Caves has been upgraded. Such improvements allow for further protection.
5.5 Number of inhabitants within the property and buffer zone
No private persons occupy the Park. Staff in the employ of the Nature Conservation Service are housed in the Park.
Sustainable consumptive uses of certain natural products is permitted. Included are:
* harvesting of various grass and sedge species for construction of buildings, thatching and handicrafts, and the collection of seed of medicinal plants,
* removal of certain surplus herbivores, for translocation to other conservation areas or to private game ranches,
* collection of biological material for scientific research,
* fishing, fly fishing (trout) in dams and rivers,
* removal of timber of alien species for fuelwood.
Many organisations and people have expressed their support for this nomination proposal. These have included the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa, Bergwatch, Wilderness Action Group, South African Crane Foundation, Mountain Club of South Africa, Backpackers Club and people from a large number of organisations such as universities, fly fishing clubs, staff of nature conservation authorities including the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Rock Art Research Units, farmers and tourism associations and others.