Lesley-Ann Meyer’s seat was not yet warm after officially taking over as manager of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) when she was whisked away on a series of site visits, which will continue over the next few weeks, as part of her induction.
Originally from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, Ms Meyer studied tourism at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
She started her career in the private sector, spending about two years there, before joining SANParks in 2002. She was park manager at Mountain Zebra National Park and area manager of the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park before taking up her current position.
She said although there are several differences in the way the TMNP and Tsitsikamma are managed, SANParks’ policies and guidelines would still apply.
“TMNP is a park within an urban setting, so there will be different approaches. However basic management principles will always apply. I look forward to the challenges which lie ahead as park manager and to working with my new team and all stakeholders,” she said.
While there have been several muggings and attacks on park users in the past, Ms Meyer said strategies to combat crime would be reworked if necessary, but she has no immediate plans to change the TMNP’s current approach to safety and security.
“I trust TMNP has been doing a great job with the available resources in the various areas to cover the different safety risks and concerns. I will not come in and drastically change, but if there are areas identified where we need to amend our strategy etc, then such will be shared and properly communicated to the relevant channels,” she said.
Ms Meyer has experience managing both an inland park and a coastal park. She said the Mountain Zebra National Park, where she spent three years, is one of the best places to see wildlife reliably.
“The open grasslands and high plateaus make it easy to see herds of blesbok, hartebeest, eland, black wildebeest, springbok, buffalo and Cape Mountain zebra.
“You can drive on the Rooiplaat Road and will always see something. The animals are also habituated to vehicles, and are very relaxed, providing lots of photographic opportunities,” she said.
Ms Meyer, who is passionate about the protection of abalone, which is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red data list as either vulnerable or near threatened, also has a lot of experience managing a marine protected area (MPA) where pollution and poaching are the two most prevalent threats.
Established in 1964, the 80km long Tsitsikamma coastline is the largest and oldest MPA in the country.
The word “Tsitsikamma” means “the place of many waters” and it is also home to one of the Garden Route’s big trees, a Yellowood that is nearly 1 000 years old.
Two of Tsitsikamma’s hiking trails (the Otter trail and the Dolphin trail) enjoy Green-Flag status and were declared as such by a watchdog for hiking in South Africa, the Hiking Organisation of South Africa (HOSA). Green Flag status is a system that ensures hiking trails in South Africa meet high standards.