Press Release

NamibRand Becomes Africa’s First International Dark Sky Reserve

By SpaceRef Editor
May 25, 2012
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Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of Africa’s largest private nature reserves, has expanded its conservation role to include preserving the star-filled nighttime skies that shine above its dunes and mountains. These efforts in night sky conservation have earned the reserve high honors as the International Dark-Sky Association has just announced that NamibRand Nature Reserve is the world’s newest International Dark Sky Reserve.

The International Dark-Sky Association’s night sky conservation efforts include working with groups to form International Dark Sky Reserves (IDSR) and other dark sky places. International Dark-Sky Association’s Executive Director Bob Parks explains, “The night sky over the NamibRand Nature Reserve is exceptional, as are the efforts the reserve has taken in modifying its lighting for the sake of its wildlife and visitors.”

Dr. George Tucker, a retired professor of physics from the USA, who identified the NamibRand as a potential Dark Sky Reserve and led the certification effort, says, “Viewing the pristine night sky over the NamibRand is an unforgettable experience. Being recognized as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Reserve will serve to promote and protect this valuable resource. Achieving this status is a significant accomplishment not just for the NamibRand, but also for Namibia and all of Africa.” Gold Tier is the term used to describe reserves with nighttime environments that have little to no impact from light pollution and artificial light. NamibRand’s nearest neighboring communities are small and lie some 60 miles distant, so the reserve’s sky is one of the darkest yet measured.

In the core of the new reserve is the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) Center, which runs environmental education programs that teach about the Earth and sky. Astronomy programs do more than explain about the physical universe — they focus on the importance of the night sky in the cultural heritage of Namibians. Overnight guests, usually groups of schoolchildren, even have the opportunity to sleep in “open air” units where they can view the night sky from the comfort of their beds. The NaDEET Center’s programs are open to all Namibians and visitors from around the world. For the Namibians who cannot reach the Center in person NaDEET offers extensive outreach programs in the schools and communities of their region.

Viktoria Keding, NaDEET’s Director, explains: “Prior to the NaDEET astronomy activity, even the most basic knowledge about the night sky and the threats posed by light pollution were completely unknown to most Namibian children. This recognition therefore makes our participants aware of just how unique it is to have a dark night sky.”

Nils Odendaal, the Chief Executive Officer of the NamibRand Nature Reserve describes the importance of receiving the IDSR designation, “The conservation of the night sky and the mitigation of light pollution is an area of conservation in Namibia that, to date has unfortunately not enjoyed much attention. We hope to use our influence as a leader of tourism and conservation, not only in our area, but also on a national level to change this and raise the awareness of this important environmental concern.

He continues, “The NamibRand IDSR is the first in Africa — as well as the first in any developing country in the world. We hope that this IDA designation will generate international support, publicity and targeted research both for the NamibRand and for Namibia as a whole, further reinforcing the country’s leadership role in environmental issues.”

Contacts:

Scott Kardel
International Dark-Sky Association
[email protected]
+1 520.293.3198

Nils Odendaal
NamibRand Nature Reserve
[email protected]

Viktoria Keding
Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust
[email protected]

George Tucker
[email protected]
+1 518.766.2424

About the IDSPlaces Program

IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Exmoor National Park, located in Devon and Somerset Counties in England and Mont Megantic in Quebec, Canada are the other International Dark Sky Reserves. Since the program began four communities and ten parks have also received International Dark Sky designations.

Learn more about the IDSPlaces program: http://www.darksky.org/IDSPlaces

About Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET)

The Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust is a small non-profit organization located in the Namib Desert that empowers and educates Namibians to live sustainably. Built in a dune valley, NaDEET Center is a model and experience in sustainable living where activities and daily living needs are joined to create a truly environmental education program.

Learn more about NaDEET: http://www.nadeet.org

About the NamibRand Nature Reserve

The NamibRand Nature Reserve is a private nature reserve established to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the southwest Namib Desert. Conserving the Pro-Namib, the area along the eastern edge of the Namib Desert, is critically important in order to facilitate seasonal migratory wildlife routes and to protect biodiversity. It is one of the largest private nature reserves in Southern Africa, extending over an area of 172,200 hectares.

Learn more about the NamibRand: http://www.namibrand.org

Biodiversity and ecosystem management on the NamibRand Nature Reserve is financed directly through tourism. Tourism operators collect a park fee from visiting guests on behalf of the reserve. These funds are used to cover costs to run the nature reserve as a self-funded environmental conservation project.

Visitors who are interested in experiencing the exceptional night skies over NamibRand can book lodging ranging from camping and self-catering, to five star luxury accommodations by clicking on the links to any of the tourism operators at http://www.namibrand.org/Tourism.htm

SpaceRef staff editor.