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NAME Waterberg Plateau Park
IUCN MANAGEMENT CATEGORY II (National Park)
BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PROVINCE 03.16.07 (Kalahari)
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION In central Namibia, 30km east of Otjiwarongo. 20°25'S, 17°13'E.
DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT 1972. Originally established in 1965 as an Eland Game Reserve. Plans to extend Waterberg by annexing portions of Okamumbonde (8520ha) and Otjizongombe (889ha) between the district road and the plateau, Hoogland farm (72ha), and Rodenstein 565ha located east of Bernard de la Bat rest camp. These additional areas are proposed to serve as transition zones around the plateau.
LAND TENURE Government, under jurisdiction of the Directorate Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
ALTITUDE Top of plateau 1,800m
PHYSICAL FEATURES The plateau is an erosional relic of a sandstone casing which covered large parts of Namibia millions of years ago. During the final stages of the Karoo Era, pressure on the earth's crust elevated the Karoo sediments south of an imaginary line that joins Grootfontein and Omaruru in a northwest/southeast direction, giving rise to a plateau stretching westwards for more than 300km. Most of this plateau was carved up over aeons, but the resistant Etjo sandstone prevented the erosion of the Waterberg and a few other isolated mountains in the region such as Omatako and Mount Etjo.
About 200 million years ago, some of the reptiles in the northeastern part of the Omingonde basin left their tracks in the wet sandstone along the shores of scattered island lakes. These impressions became fossilized when covered by further sediments. Erosion has subsequently exposed evidence of dinosaur footprints near Kalkfeld on the top of the Waterberg plateau.
The park comprises the sandstone plateau that rises 100-200m above the surrounding plain with near vertical cliffs on the east and west, forming natural boundaries. In the north of the park, the plateau gradually widens and dips to join the plain. The sandy soils of the plateau have a low water retention capacity, and consequently rainwater flows down seams which have formed in the Etjo sandstone. When water reaches the impermeable mudstone band of Omingonde Formation, it is forced to the surface at the base of the cliffs to emerge as springs (Olivier and Olivier, 1993).
CLIMATE The summer months are hot, with temperatures of up to 40°C, while daytime temperatures are pleasant during the winter months. Although winter nights are generally cool, sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon. About 85% of the region's mean annual rainfall of about 400mm is recorded between November and March.
VEGETATION There are about 60 tree species in the park. The plateau features broad-leaved tree shrub savanna habitat dominated by Terminalia sericea, Burkea africana, Combretum collinum, C. psidioides and Peltophorum africanum. Isolated grass savanna valleys are dominated by Anthephora pubescens and Eragrostis superba. A dense Acacia shrub characterised by Acacia mellifera detinens is found below the plateau.
Flame lily Gloriosa superba, white bauhinia Bauhinia petersiana, the quasi endemic Cheilanthes dinteri and ten fern species are found including Microlepia speluncae.
FAUNA Thirty mammal species have been identified on and below the plateau. Plateau mammals include leopard Panthera pardus (T), cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (V), caracal Felis caracal, eland Taurotragus oryx, wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus and introduced giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis, white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum (breeding)(E), black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis bicornis (E), buffalo Syncerus caffer, roan antelope Hippotragus equinus, sable antelope H. niger, hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus, klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus, topi Damaliscus lunatus, impala Aepyceros melampus, and duiker Cephalophus spp.
Below the plateau, mammals include kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros, steenbok Raphicerus campestris, dik-dik Madoqua kirkii, warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, and rock hyrax Procavia capensis. There have been 23 species of snakes recorded including African python Python sebae, puff adder Bitis arietans, as well as savanna monitor Varanus exanthematicus, Perdioplanis rubens, a Larcenta endemic to the Waterberg area and a number of chamaeleon, gecko, and skink species.
At the base of the cliffs around the rest camp, the water supplied by natural springs creates a "species sink" and over 200 bird species have been recorded in this park, including the only surviving breeding colony of Cape vulture Gyps coprotheres. The park supports healthy breeding populations of peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, lanner falcon F. biarmicus, black eagle Aquila verreauxii and African hawk eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus, as well as Monteiro's hornbill Tockus monteiri, Bradfield's hornbill T. bradfieldii rosy-faced lovebirds Agapornis roseicollis, Ruppell's parrot Poicephalus rueppellii, Bradfield's swift Apus bradfieldi, rock runner Archaetops pycnopygius and Hartlaub's francolin Francolinus hartlaubi.
CULTURAL HERITAGE Rock engravings in the Karakuwisa Mountain provide evidence that Stone Age inhabitants were attracted to the plateau. Pastoralists were attracted to the area and called it Otjozondjupa meaning the Place of the Calabash. The legendary Herero chief, Kambazembi was said to have kept 40,000 head of cattle in the Waterberg area and one of his kraals was situated within a kilometre of the present day Bernade de la Bat Rest Camp.
In 1873, a Rhenish mission station was established at Otjozondjupa, but during the 1880 Khoikhoi/Herero War the mission station was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1891. Five years later the German authorities established a police post at the Waterberg. The ruins of the mission station can be seen today. Built in 1908, the Rasthaus served as a police station until 1955 when it was converted to a guest house. It was recently renovated and now serves as the restcamp restaurant.
The graveyard below the camp is a reminder of Namibia's turbulent history during the late 1800s. Motivated by the fear of losing their land, the Herero people decided to take up armsagainst the Germans. The Herero were devastated during the uprising in August of 1904 and those who survived fled eastward to Botswana. The Germans who died in the battle are buried in the Waterberg graveyard.
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION The only people who are permitted to live within the park boundary are staff workers and their families. There are two staff camps, one at the tourist restcamp and one at the research camp Onjoka.
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES At the base of the plateau, a modern 250-bed restcamp, Bernade de la Bat Rest Camp was opened in 1989. Facilities include bungalows with fireplaces (braais), a swimming pool, shop, restaurant and excellent camping facilities. Various unguided trails can be followed from the restcamp along the base of the plateau. Since 1987, guided trails for a maximum of eight people are organised in the wilderness area. Recently strictly controlled self-guided trails (42km) trail have been laid out on top of the plateau. Overnight shelters with water are provided, but hikers must be self-sufficient in all other respects. The park offers wildlife viewing drives on top of the plateau in an open vehicle with a park ranger.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES Population studies continue on the various rare and endangered mammals and monitoring of habitat change caused by controlled burning. There are limited facilities for visiting researchers. At Onjoka, 16km east of the restcamp is the park headquarters where research staff and the anti-poaching staff, vehicles and horses are based. The park contains a quarantine camp (12ha) and acclimatization camp (1,000ha) for re-introduced animals.
CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT The plateau features an 18,600ha wilderness area where human activities are kept to a minimum. A special conserved area of 753ha is represented by the separated plateau called Omuverume. Waterberg is an illustrative example of a natural boundary reserve, where a natural formation, the plateau escarpment, serves as the border for the restricted area. Park management objectives include species reintroductions that involves the costly process of monitoring and identification of individuals (based on target species, sex and condition), tranquillising, inoculating, translocating, quarantining and acclimatization prior to release on the plateau or elsewhere. Species involved are roan antelope from the Kavango, sable antelope from the western Caprivi, eland and giraffe from Mangetti, blue wildebeest from Daan Viljoen, white rhino from Natal Parks Board, RSA, black rhino from Etosha and Damaraland, and buffalo from Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape, RSA. Each year a wildlife auction is held at Waterberg where "surplus" animals from across the country are auctioned off at Waterberg to authorized organizations in Namibia and southern Africa. Waterberg serves an instrumental role as provider of gene flow to a network of parks and reserves. Recently, land-owning farmers surrounding the park have grouped together in an effort to monitor wildlife and hunting in the area.
MANAGEMENT CONSTRAINTS The maintenance of the reintroduction programme requires active management by continual animal censusing as well as costly and labour intensive anti-poaching controls both by vehicle and on horseback. There has been severe bush encroachment at the base and adjoining farmland due to grazing and disturbance of the natural fire pattern, some of this is being reversed through controlled burning. A biological hormone that targets acacia species is currently being tested to control bush encroachment.
BUDGET US$ 550,000 (1989)
Tryg Cooper, Senior Park Warden, Onjoka, Waterberg Plateau Park, c/o Otjiwarongo, Namibia
Directorate Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Private Bag 13306, Windhoek 9000
Jankowitz, W.J. 1984. A Plant Sociological Study of the Waterberg Plateau Park. PhD Thesis.
Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism. (no date). Waterberg Plateau Park Masterplan, Onjoka, Waterberg Plateau Park, Namibia.
Olivier, W. and Olivier, S. 1993. A Guide to Namibian Game Parks, Longman Publishers, Windhoek, Namibia. 248pp.
DATE 1983, 1989, revised June 1995
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Revision date: 11-December-2000 | Current date: 14-December-2000