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Media Release - 21 July 2004

Rhino release into the Mapungubwe National Park

Fact sheet on Mapungubwe National Park | More background information | Tourism products and activities

FOLLOWING more than nine hours on the road from the Kruger National Park, four white rhinos were released into the Mapungubwe National Park in Musina, in the Limpopo Province during a ceremony in the park today. (Wednesday)

The release marked the re-introduction of this mega-game species into the park.

The rhinos, two males and two females were released ahead of the park’s official opening on Heritage Day on September 24. For logistical reasons and to ensure minimal trauma to the animals, only one rhino was released from Little Mapungubwe - a small flat area in the park.

The symbolical release on the one rhino was conducted in full view of a media contingent and a number of invited guests including South African National Parks (SANParks) Chief Executive Dr David Mabunda. The other three were released separately.

Declared a World Heritage Site in July 2003, the Mapungubwe National Park (previously known as Vhembe Dongola) is home to the famous Golden Rhino - a symbol of the power of the King of the Mapungubwe people who inhabited the Limpopo River Valley close to the confluence with the Shashe River about a millennium ago.

Of great significance to the park, is that it houses Mapungubwe, the oldest known Southern African kingdom, after which it was named. It also boasts the Mapungubwe Archaeological Site, a national heritage site. This location is the precursor to the Great Zimbabwe and Thulamela Kingdoms and it is where the Golden Rhino and other artefacts were uncovered.

In May last year, SANParks launched the R45,3 million Poverty Relief Programme in Mapungubwe and the park became the largest recipient of the funds.

This followed a substantial grant to SANParks from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to help create much-needed jobs to improve the lives of communities surrounding all the country’s national parks.

The main aim of the projects was to establish tourism facilities, and make this very unique park accessible to all South Africans.

The Mapungubwe National Park will form part of a transfrontier park incorporating private and state land in South Africa, as well as land in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The national park will form the core of this big park, to be about 800 000ha in size.

“The developments fit in with the Mapungubwe Tourism Initiative study (funded by the Development Bank of SA), which identified the consolidation of the park and the creation of tourism facilities as key to the success of tourism in the area, and indeed to the success of the transfrontier park.

“We are very excited about the development in the park and visitors can really look forward to an unforgettable cultural experience and revel in the splendour and beauty that is Mapungubwe,” said Mabunda.


Issued by:
Lulama Luti
South African National Parks
Tel: (012) 426-5203
Cell: 082-905-4645

Wanda Mkutshulwa
Head: Communications
South African National Parks
Tell: (012) 426-5201
Cell: 082-908-9252


Fact sheet on Mapungubwe National Park

The Mapungubwe National Park was previously known as Vhembe Dongola National Park. It is situated 60 km west Musina and 230 km north-west of Polokwane, the capital town of Limpopo Province.

The park comprises the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape and the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. It is also located at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers.

Declared a National Heritage Site in December 2001, the park was listed as a World Heritage Site in July 2003. The Mapungubwe National Park covers an area that is well over 28 000 hectares.

The name Mapungubwe means a place of the stone of wisdom. (Ref: Dr M. Motshekga, Kara Heritage Institute, Hatfield, Pretoria).

Until its demise at the end of the 13th century AD, Mapungubwe was the most important inland settlement in the sub-continent and extended over an area of about 30 000 sq kilometres on either side of Limpopo and Shashe Rivers.

The Mapungubwe National Park is positioned on the international borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is envisaged that the park will eventually form part of a Trans-Frontier Conservation Area shared by the three countries.

It is the only geological defined cultural landscape in the region that includes a full set of successive stages in the early history of this process. Its nomination completes an historical triangle from Mapungubwe to Great Zimbabwe and Khami that continues to influence African society today.

International contacts with Islamic traders on the east coast, who were part of a larger Indian Ocean network, led to African gold and elephant ivory, as well as animal hides and hippo ivory, being worked and exchanged for glass beads and ceramics that derived from as far a field as the Indo-Pacific region, including India, Indonesia and China.

The park represents an area with exceptional cultural and natural values. Over the years, it has retained the following values:

Exhibition of vital interchange of human values, between 900 and 1300 AD in southern Africa - on developments in technology, and town planning.

Exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which has disappeared from the Limpopo/Shashe area

An outstanding example of a type of architectural and technological ensemble and landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history and;

An outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use, which is representative of a culture, that became vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

The Mapungubwe National Park landscape has outstanding botanical, ecological, geological and geomorphologic merit, with a range of vegetation types associated with the outcrop of cave sandstone, baobab trees, Karoo fossils and ancient rocks nearly three billion years old.

It provides a sanctuary to endangered large mammals, such as the black and white rhinoceros, wild dog, and the continent’s flagship species, the African elephant.

The famous Golden Rhino along with artefacts, glass beads and pottery was unearthed from Mapungubwe National Park and is evidence of the capabilities of the people of that time in both mining as well as art.


Tourism products and activities available in the Park

Leokwe Rest Camp

Leokwe is the park’s main rest camp and is situated in a valley flanked by sandstone ridges. The theme of the camp is based on the rich history of the area and the design is derived from the typical Venda village.

Facilities offered in the rest camp include:

A reception complex with a swimming pool, kitchen and a small convenience store.

14 x 2 bed cottages with open plan kitchens

2 x 4 bed family cottages with open plan kitchens.

2 x 2 bed cottages with a shower and toilet for the physically disabled persons.

Limpopo Forest Tented Camp

Situated within the riverine forest of the Limpopo River, this tented camp offers spacious rooms and outdoor areas. It will cater for 16 people and has 8 x 2 bed self-catering units available.

It also has 7 Semi-Luxury Forest tents with 2 bed bedrooms, a kitchen, shower and toilet.

It has a One Semi-Luxury Forest tent; 2 bed-bedroom, a kitchen and shower and toilet for the physically disabled

Tshugulu Lodge

This luxury lodge sleeps 1 x 14 in the guest lodge with 6 x bedrooms, a bath, en-suite swimming pool and an exclusive eco-trail.

Vhembe Wilderness Trails Camp

Based on the successful wilderness trails offered in the Kruger National Park, the Vhembe Trails Camp is situated on the perimeter of the important Mapungubwe Valley.

Trailists will have the opportunity to explore the rich archaeology of the area on foot with a guide and will visit the famous Mapungubwe where the Golden Rhinoceros was found. Visitors will be based at the camp for the duration of the three-day trail. The camp can accommodate 8 people - 2 persons per unit with own ablutions.

The entrance to the Mapungubwe National Park is situated on the Musina-Pondrift Road. There is a viewpoint that offers a breathtaking view of the Limpopo-Shashe Rivers confluence; there are tree-top walks that allow visitors access to the Limpopo River and a bird hide at Manoutswa pan. A newly developed road network allows access to sedan vehicle to all the sites mentioned above.

The facilities at Mapungubwe National Park will be ready for occupation end of August 2004.


More background information

Mapungubwe National Park

The development of the Mapungubwe National Park has been an objective of South African National Parks (SANParks) for many years. It is based on the rich biodiversity of the area, its great scenic beauty and the cultural importance of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe.

The park has numerous archaeological sites dating from the Early Stone Age (1 million to 250 000 year BP) to the present. Many of the sites, which are concentrated in the Shashe/Limpopo (Rivers) confluence area, are of major importance and scientific value and are spread across the modern political boundaries of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Of particular importance are the Zhizo site (AD 700- 900) on the farm Schroda, and Mapungubwe Hill, K2 and the adjoining Bambandyanalo (AD 1100 - 1250) situated on Greefswald. The Mapungubwe site is considered to be of major importance in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the most remarkable Iron Age site in the country. Other archaeological sites occur on the farm Little Muck, at Kommando Kop, in Tuli block, Botswana and on Sentinel Ranch in Zimbabwe.

The artefacts found at Mapungubwe rank among the most important pieces of ancient art yet found in sub-Saharan Africa. They document the rise of the Zimbabwe culture, which was one of the most complex social and political entities in Africa during the 8th and the 9th centuries.

The culture, based partly on gold and ivory trade with the East Coast traders, is believed to have had its origins in the Limpopo Valley and subsequently spread northwards into Zimbabwe. Finds of gold artefacts, beads, burial grounds and other remains indicate that Mapungubwe was one of the major centres of this culture and bear testimony to the way of life of African peoples more than 1 000 years ago.

The whole area also has a substantial amount of San Rock Art sites, dating from 15 000 years back. The significance of Mapungubwe National Park and the areas surrounding it, is further enhanced by the potential role of the area as a sanctuary for viable populations of some of the most threatened large mammals on earth, such as both the black and white rhinoceros, wild dog, and the continent’s flagship species, the African elephant.

The national park is centred on the South African side of the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers.