With natural resources under growing pressure, it’s important for young people to grasp the importance of national parks so they can support this heritage into the future.
So says Megan Taplin, the new park manager for Table Mountain National Park.
Fire management; baboons; protection of abalone, African penguins and other marine resources; and the safety of park users are just some of the issues in the park needing attention, she says.
Ms Taplin, who grew up in the southern suburbs, took up the position at the start of the month, after working as park manager for the Knysna area of the Garden Route National Park.
Ms Taplin’s joined SANParks in 2003 as a social ecologist focusing on local community liaison and environmental education in Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. In 2006, she was appointed as regional communications manager for the frontier region parks (Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra, Camdeboo and Karoo national parks) and later as communications and marketing manager for the region.
She returned to park operations with the appointment as park manager of Mountain Zebra National Park from 2012 to 2017, transferring to the Knysna region in 2017.
Ms Taplin’s passion for conservation started at a young age, from family visits to the Kruger, Etosha and Kgalagadi national parks and spending time in nature at her grandparents’ smallholding at the foot of the Helderberg mountains. Her family moved around between Claremont, Rosebank, Rondebosch and Kenilworth. She matriculated from Westerford High School and studied at Stellenbosch University.
“I always felt a strong passion for nature and protecting the environment and decided to study nature conservation. To me, protecting our natural areas is a very important and worthy task – if we don’t, then all the other pressures of a growing human population and their needs will take over. This will mean that nature, which supplies us with all we need to live (oxygen, water, food, medicine and a place to relax) won’t be there to make life possible and enjoyable anymore.”
Ms Taplin is responsible for all aspects of park management including conservation, tourism, socio-economic transformation, planning, finance administration and staff management.
Management of an open-access, unfenced national park has challenges that are different to fenced, “big game” parks and it will be important to work with all stakeholders, she says.
“It’s important to respect each others’ roles, wants and needs and to find a way to work together to achieve a common and mutually beneficial goal. It’s also vital to make sure that those groups who traditionally have been unheard or have a ‘softer’ voice are engaged via the right platform.”
Ms Taplin says it is a privilege to be entrusted with managing a flagship park for SANParks, with so many visitors and locals who enjoy using it daily.
“I would love Capetonians to use their passion for their local park constructively so that we can work together to improve the areas that need improvement and tackle challenges jointly in innovative ways. We need to work together to ensure we conserve our natural heritage – the unique plants and animals of this area – so that we still have a place for nature and for people to enjoy nature in the future.”