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Environment and History

The Royal Natal National Park, Kwazulu-Natal: Mountaineering, Tourism and Nature Conservation in South Africa's First National Park c.1896 to c.1947

Jane Carruthers

Environment and History 19 (2013): 459-485. doi: 10.3197/096734013X13769033133701

The Royal Natal National Park (RNNP) has been overlooked in the history of nature conservation and the origins of national parks in South Africa. It is the purpose of this article to unearth the history of this area as the country's first, formal, national park and to introduce it into mainstream national park literature and into the broader sweep of the region's environmental history. The material discussed here raises questions about why certain natural features, such as wildlife, attained national importance and generated tourism interest, while others - such as mountains and outdoor recreational facilities - did not develop or retain a similarly high profile in South Africa. In addition, by focussing on the Drakensberg protected area in KwaZulu-Natal, a fresh biography of a South African national park is presented which, it is hoped, will enrich the overall South African historiography around landscape, the natural environment and nature conservation values.

KEYWORDS: Natal National Park; Drakensberg; mountain tourism; nature conservation


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