When thinking about conservation, people often picture cheetah or lion being rewilded, anti-poaching operations or innovative projects being introduced into communities. The management of roads, runways and other thoroughfares tend not to come to mind. In fact, keeping an open network of roads and transport links is vital to many if not most conservation efforts.

When it comes to wildlife protection, clear roads are essential when rangers need to quickly respond to potential poaching threats. Translocations on the other hand, mean moving animals thousands of kilometers over difficult terrain and across borders, often delivering them into sanctuaries deep in the veld. Those stationed at remote bases often require goods to be delivered while researchers regularly need to access deeply overgrown areas to do their monitoring or evaluation work.

However unglamorous this sounds, it means that hours and hours are taken up by managing tracks, pathways, runways and all manner of aspects associated with a transport network.

The rangers in Mozambique’s Banhine National Park have to regularly drive the runway to check that there are no breaks in the fence. This is to ensure that wild animals do not end up in front of a landing aircraft. By slowly driving up and down the ground also becomes more compact which makes landing easier. At 1 000 m long, this is quite a task.

All across transfrontier conservation areas, teams are continually at work keeping transport networks clear and when developing new access roads or landing strips, Peace Parks and partners try to work with the natural landscape, always considering the impact of these operations on the wildlife and vegetation that support biodiversity. The effects of developing transport networks can have a significant impact on fauna, community structures and ecological processes and need to be well understood before being implemented.

But, even with the best of efforts, there are times when nature can make it quite impossible for humans to pass. It all goes to show that nature is always there, ready to thrive given the smallest of encouragement.