This was announced by Pieter Burger, WESSA's KZN regional chairman, who added that WESSA's national office and principal education centre is also located at uMngenin Valley.
"WESSA seeks advice, ideas and proposals from experts, including consultants, hospitality and tourism specialists and property developers in relation to the economic utilisation of uMngeni Valley for the benefit of WESSA and the successful proposer."
Burger added that WESSA would consider "the total sale" of uMngeni Valley, saying that in recent years it had become increasingly clear that the financial burdens of ownership of uMngeni Valley might "jeopardise the financial health of the whole of WESSA". He emphasised however, that the preservation of uMngeni Valley for conservation remains the prime objective of WESSA.
He said the annual operating costs of the reserve alone are far in excess of the income generated by the reserve. "The bottom-line," said Burger, "is that if WESSA were to include more than mere preventive maintenance, such as the much needed road construction and repairs, the replacement of game fencing, the refurbishment of camps, the purchase of vehicles and equipment, the employment of game guards and additional staff to manage the reserve and combat ongoing poaching, the costs would be three to four times the minimum amount we are currently spending. The financial strain is far too onerous.
"To this end," he added, "WESSA seeks outline conceptual proposals with a view to realizing the potential of uMngeni Valley, both environmentally and economically".
Commenting further, Burger said that in the late 1970s hundreds of members of WESSA contributed to the purchase of uMngeni Valley. "The purpose of this purchase," he said, "was to support environmental education and conservation in this magnificent 600 hectare nature reserve. Since then hundreds of thousands of school children and adults from all over the world have benefited from environmental education programmes conducted in the reserve – and in the tranquility and diversity of the natural environment. Unfortunately the income generated from the valley no longer covers the costs associated with maintaining the reserve."
WESSA (The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa NPC - www.wessa.org.za) is a South African NGO that has been engaging with the challenges and opportunities presented by South Africa’s natural heritage and the social – and economic systems that depend on it - for over 85 years.