The park manager of Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site, Mr Jacobus Conrad Strauss, is very passionate about nature and heritage conservation.
Date: 24 September 2021 By:
“Heritage remains the single most important factor that keeps nations together,” says the park manager of Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site, Mr Jacobus Conrad Strauss. “If we can recognise the horrible past, it will give birth to the development of our society towards one nation that will be stronger together. It is our history that defines our actions today and will influence our tomorrows.”
Strauss (52) is one of those inspiring heritage fanatics whose contributions need to be celebrated as South Africa celebrates Heritage Month. He was motivated to love nature from the day he was born and raised in the small semi-desert town of Calvinia, situated in the Northern Cape, away from fancy facilities. That, he says, made him closely attached to Mother Nature.
Strauss completed matric in 1987, after which he obtained a diploma in agriculture from Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. He then furthered his studies and obtained his National Diploma in Conservation (cum laude) at Technikon SA, as well as his B-Tech degree in conservation (cum laude) at UNISA.
Before joining the Mapungubwe team on 3 January 2015, Strauss worked hard to establish himself in the nature-conservation and heritage sector. “After obtaining my agricultural diploma, I farmed for seven years on our family farm in the Tankwa Karoo, about 110km from Calvinia. In 1998, SANParks decided to establish the Tankwa Karoo National Park and our family farm was part of this big expansion effort. I was then appointed as park manager of Tankwa Karoo National Park in 2000 and was intimately involved in expanding the conservation area from 27 000ha to 146 500ha, as well as developing all tourism infrastructure and building a staff component for the park,” he said. He served as park manager for Tankwa for 14 years.
“I see it as the biggest honour to be part of Mapungubwe, which showcases the immense cultural heritage embedded within an ancient landscape. I am blessed with an excellent team of supportive staff around me, and our most important task is to nurture the experiences of all people in building a closely knit unit that works together in making this park the pride and joy of the people of South Africa. We are, after all, only the custodians of this beautiful place on behalf of our nation,” he says.
He shared with the Limpopo Mirror what he enjoys most about his job. “There is nothing more satisfying for me than engaging with people from all walks of life, listening and learning from their experiences. I have learned that humbleness, honesty and respect cost nothing. My job allows me to interact with many people and it makes me a better person when I learn new things every day. I regard challenges as opportunities through which amicable solutions can be found for the many differences that exist in our society.”
He has some wise words to encourage young people who would like to follow in his footsteps: “We need young people to take over from us, because heritage will always be the glue that keeps a culture, society or nation together. If we lose track of our heritage, it means we are losing track of our belief systems, our roots and basically our existence. Young people must follow their dreams with passion and curate our history with care and make sure we are kept rooted deeply in the soil of our beautiful country.”