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The launch of “Essence of a Land”
 
Max du Preez, Tim Hauf and Kian Barker from a formidable team, which has resulted in this unique publication on South African World Heritage Sites.
 
Max du Preez, well known South African journalist and author of best selling books like “Of Warriors, Lovers and Prophets” and “Pale Native”, teamed up with Tim Hauf, international photographer, to publish a unique, informative book on South African World Heritage Sites as declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO).
 
“There is no better way to tell the fascinating story of South Africa and its people than through exploring the country's seven World Heritage Sites” stated Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk in his foreword to the book “Essence of a Land: South Africa and its World Heritage Sites”.  This visually attractive coffee table book is currently wide to provide South Africans, young and old, with more insight into the significance of South Africa in world context, given the unique features and rich cultural history portrayed in the World Heritage Sites.
 
The respective chapters have been authored by eminent experts on each site, where they captivate readers with many facts and interesting stories that are completely unknown to the general public.  The book contains 232 high quality photographs by photographer Tim Hauf, which makes for a rich visual experience and allows for a unique learning experience for children as well.
 
On the afternoon of the 9th December 2006, Essence of the Land – South Africa's first publication on all Seven of South Africa's World Heritage Sites was launched in St. Lucia.  This publication has been endorsed by unesco, and is considered has been organized by a significant contribution to the documentation of South Africa's World Heritage Sites. The launch took place on the Advantage Cruiser, after starting the cruise on the St. Lucia Lagoon, speeches were delivered by Kian Barker, a St. Lucia author and Tim Hauf, the photographer.  Guests then had an opportunity to enjoy snacks and view the remarkable scenery, flora and fauna on this tour while they had the chance to receive signed copies of this publication.
 
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park is the only place on earth where the world's oldest land mammal, the rhinoceros, the world's biggest terrestrial mammal, the elephant, share and ecosystem with the world's oldest fish, the coelacanth, and the world's biggest marine mammal, the whale.
 
This  remarkable coastal reserve, involving five major ecosystem.  In Essence of a Land: South and its World Heritage sites, chapter author Kian Barker, who resides in St Lucia, describes these remarkable eco-systems, the marine ecosystem, the coastline with Africa's highest sand dunes, the grassy coastal plains, the Great Lake of St Lucia and savannah.  Barker highlights the fact that the St Lucia area has been inhabited from the earliest days of human existence.  Ancient people and later the San or Bushmen lived in these parts for many millennia, with the first agriculturists arriving around 2000 years ago.  Active trade by Muslims in shows has been recorded since AD 900. St Lucia was first named “Rio de la Medaos do aura (River of the Meadows of Gold) in 1554 by the survivors of the Portuguese Ship Saint Benedict. It was renamed on 13 December 1575, the day of the feast of Saint Lucy as the Delta Area Santa Lucia.
 
The lake, its islands and surrounding shoreline were declared as the St Lucia Game Reserve as long ago as 1895.  More recently the area was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO Protocol in 1999.
 
Barker point to the fact that it is only recently that more attention has been focused on wetlands, their status and importance in South Africa.  Traditionally these areas have been drained and cultivated, however, now they are being restored and protected as they are an important source of clean water.  Since clean water is becoming a scarce commodity.
 
Barker points to the facts that it is only recently that more attention has been focused on wetlands, their status and importance in South Africa.  Traditionally these areas have been drained and  cultivated, however as they are an important source of clean water.  Since clean water is becoming a scarce commodity.
 
Barker, who is passionate about the conservation of the St Lucia Wetland Park further highlights the importance of specific conservation of wetland areas in Southern Africa, pointing to a number of key considerations:

South Africa's average rainfall is 500mm and falls short of the global average of 860mm per annum. By 2025, it will be one of fourteen African countries classified as subject to water scarcity (less than 1000m³ of water/ person/ annum).

Wetlands ecosystems, and the specialized species they support, are part of South Africa's rich biodiversity.  South Africa is ranked as the World's third richest country in wetland species diversity.

Many people are dependant on wetlands for their water and much of their food.  Wetlands have significant cultural value (Kosi Bay community for example) and are popular sites for tourism and recreation.  Beaches are also considered a wetland.

Despite these values, studies in several mahor catchments in South Africa have revealed that between 35% and 50% of the wetlands, and the benefits they provide have already been lost or severely degraded.

Worldwide, wetlands have historically been perceived as valueless wastelands, having little productive use to society and no direct economic value to lands owners.  The needed to be “reclaimed” to enhance the benefits that people can derive from them.  In South Africa, this view has largely been responsible for the extensive drainage and conversion of wetlands for agriculture, dams, infrastructure and urban development.  But now with new legislation and a better understanding has created a new respect for these fragile ecosystems.
 
Tim Hauf, photographer, has excelled in his photo essay about the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park which is contained in Essence of a Land, providing the reader with a rich visual presentation of the diversity and beauty captured in this unique wetland area in South Africa.
 
Other World Heritage Sites covered in “Essence of a Land: South Africa and its World Heritage Sites” include the Vredefort Dome, Cradle of Humankind, Mapungubwe, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, Greater St Lucia and Robben Island.  The book is dedicated to the late Dr Anton Rupert and a portion of the proceeds of the books are donated of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
 
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