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Wakkerstroom Wetlands, South Africa

WOW Demonstration Project at Wakkerstroom Wetland, South Africa

Wakkerstroom, a small town in Mpumalanga Province around 200 km southeast of Johannesburg, is a jewel in South Africa’s crown – a region that attracts scores of visitors for its unique landscapes, wetland habitats, plants, animals and abundant birdlife.

Wakkerstroom Wetland is predominantly a mosaic of different marshes. Although the Wakkerstroom wetland contains very little open water, the centre of the wetland (vlei) is permanently wet. Wakkerstroom Wetland is located in the upper catchment of the Tugela River. The site is well endowed with rare species, such as the globally threatened Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea). But as Wakkerstrom tries to accommodate an ever-growing stream of visitors and tourists, the local black community has largely been left behind, not yet experiencing the benefit of tourism-based economic growth.

An additional problem is that the hydrological functioning of the wetland is currently disrupted, largely by invasive alien vegetation in the surrounding catchment. Furthermore, deforestation results in soil erosion, altering the character of the site. Burning of adjacent grasslands to improve grazing for cattle frequently causes fires to cross into the wetland at times of year that are highly disruptive to the ecosystem. The site is also coveted as rich grazing land by surrounding landowners and there is increasing pressure to open up the wetland reserve and allow cattle to graze. This is reflective of a wider opinion that the site generates little income and benefits and is a resource that could be put to other uses.

“BirdLife South Africa has an obligation to play a role in reducing poverty levels through conservation.” - Daniel Marnewick, Project Manager.

In an effort to promote the equitable distribution of tourism income around Wakkerstroom, BirdLife South Africa, through the WOW project, developed the capacity of local communities to manage key wetland sites and protect Wakkerstroom’s birdlife, while also enhancing community livelihoods through environmentally sustainable and economically viable income-generating activities.







Birdlife South Africa is the lead organization in South Africa for everyone interested in birds and their survival. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment, conservation and understanding and study of wild birds and their habitats.


For more information please see:



Darwin Initiative

Darwin Initiative

 Endangered Wildlife Trust





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