Known worldwide as the source of exclusive diamonds, the Sperrgebiet is set to become the gem of Namibia’s protected areas as the result of a recent decision by the country’s cabinet to proclaim the region as a national park.
Following a 1990s deal brokered with diamond giant DeBeers Centenary that placed control of the area under the joint governing body of Namdeb Diamond Corporation, the Sperrgebiet now falls completely under the government’s control. The corporation is owned in equal shares by the Namibian government and De Beers Centenary AG.
A growing tourism industry in the Sperrgebiet is expected to bolster the economy of southern Namibia, particularly in the towns of Rosh Pinah and Lüderitz.
As a mining concession the Sperrgebiet has been off-limits to the public and scientists for most of the last century. Though the trespassing restrictions of mining have helped to keep much of the Sperrgebiet pristine until now, exploration for new mineral riches and “emergency grazing” on its eastern grasslands are just two of the land-use pressures facing this fragile area.
The Sperrgebiet, which means "Forbidden Area" in German, covers some 26,000 square kilometers of dunes and mountains that seem stark but shelter numerous biodiversity gems. The few scientific assessments carried out to date discovered 776 plant species, including 234 unique to the area.
The area boasts the highest levels of biodiversity in Namibia, including a high concentration of unique plants, amphibians and reptiles as well as wild populations of gemsbok, springbok and carnivores such as brown hyena. As such, the area has been identified as a priority area for conservation in the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Plan (SKEP), a 20-year strategy that now guides conservation action in this hotspot.
The strategy was developed and is being implemented with support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The SKEP process included development of a fine-scale plan that identifies important management zones within the Sperrgebiet. The plan was developed together with multiple stakeholders at the invitation of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and with support from Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund.
The SKEP process, together with other efforts, considerably strengthened efforts by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and its partners to secure the national park proclamation.