Relationships between conservators, community partners and urban conservation areas: a case study of nature reserves on the Cape flats
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Cape Town is a unique city. It has a global biodiversity hotspot, in the midst of an urban area. Historically, nature conservation practice excluded and marginalized certain groups of people based on their race and class. This has led to peoples‘ disconnection from nature. Rapid biodiversity loss is a major concern for conservators. In the last three decades, there has been a paradigm shift in conservation practice in certain parts of the world. The Cape Flats Nature programme based in Cape Town followed suit and aimed to stimulate a bottom-up participatory approach to conservation and replace the traditional top-down management strategy. The programme was tasked to reconcile the challenges of complex and conflicting relationships between urban poverty, unequal access to resources and biodiversity conservation. This study was aimed at investigating the relationships between conservation management, community partners and urban conservation areas. These relationships are vital for the progression of new conservation practice in places where people live and work. In addition, the transformative aspects of conservation in relation to social inclusion and the shift in conservation approaches was investigated. The study was conducted at five of Cape Town‘s nature reserves, Edith Stephens Wetland Park, Macassar Dunes, Harmony Flats, Wolfgat and Witzands Aquifer Nature Reserves. Data collection included in depth interviews with key informants from various conservation organizations, the Cape Flats Nature Programme team, the managers of the selected reserves and community partners. Others included observational methods and analysis of secondary data. It was found that relationships between conservators and local communities are not easily created and maintained but relationships regardless of its depth are equally beneficial to communities and the conservators. Balancing social needs with conservation needs is a struggle for conservators but many successes came in cases where this balance was realized. In addition, the transformation of conservators‘ identity has changed community perceptions of conservation practice holistically. Although, many informants feel that transformation continues to remain unequal.
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