Tsau ǁKhaeb National Park

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Coordinates: 26°40′30″S 15°05′24″E / 26.675°S 15.090°E / -26.675; 15.090

Sperrgebiet warning sign from the 1940s

The Tsau ǁKhaeb National Park, formerly known as Sperrgebiet[1] (German, meaning "Prohibited Area"; also known as Diamond Area 1) is a diamond mining area in southwestern Namibia, in the Namib Desert. It spans the Atlantic Ocean-facing the coast from Oranjemund on the border with South Africa, to around 72 kilometres (45 mi) north of Lüderitz, a distance of 320 km (200 mi) north. It extends to around 100 km (62 mi) inland,[2] and its total area of 26,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi),[3][4] makes up three percent of Namibia's land mass.[5] However, mining only takes place in five percent of the Sperrgebiet,[6] with most of the area acting as a buffer zone.[5] Members of the public are banned from entering most of the area, despite the creation of a national park there in 2004.[7]


In September 1908,[8] the German government created the Sperrgebiet in its colony of German South West Africa, giving sole rights for mining to the Deutsche Diamantengesellschaft ("German Diamond Company"). In 1915, during World War I, South African forces led by General Jan Smuts and Louis Botha, the South African Prime Minister, invaded the country. The South Africans defeated the Germans, taking control of modern-day Namibia, including the Sperrgebiet.[9] The owner of the mine, De Beers,[10] had total control of the area until the 1990s, when the Namibian government purchased a fifty-percent stake. They formed a joint partnership called the Namdeb Diamond Corporation.[4]


Map showing National Parks in Namibia (Sperrgebiet is #21)
Bogenfels (bow rock), a landmark in the Sperrgebiet. It is a 55-metre-high (180 ft) rock arch on the Atlantic Coast.

The mining area close to Bogenfels is called "Pocket Beaches" which is one of Namdeb's northern coastal mines. The Sperrgebiet has a diverse range of flora and fauna, due to little human intervention in the area for 100 years. Forty percent of the landscape is desert, thirty percent is grassland, and twenty-eight percent is rocky.[11] Roter Kamm, an impact crater in the southern Namib Desert within Sperrgebiet, has a diameter of 2.5 km (1.6 mi). The area includes the Tsaus Mountains, Mount Aurus, Mount Heioab, Mount Höchster, the Klinghardt Mountains and the permanent water spring Kaukausib. The highest point of the Sperrgebiet is 1,488 m (4,882 ft).[11]

There are 776 types of plants in the Sperrgebiet, with 234 being endemic to southwest Namibia, despite the Orange River being the only permanent water supply in the area.[4] A study has shown that climate change will affect the plant life in the area, specifically in the Succulent Karoo. Drier winters may lead to the extinction of these plants, as they are endemic to the Sperrgebiet.[12] According to Morgan Hauptfleisch, a scientist who works at the Southern African Institute for Environmental Assessment, the Sperrgebiet "is the only arid biodiversity hotspot and this makes it a very special area".[3] It has more biodiversity than anywhere else in Namibia, supporting animals such as the gemsbok, springbok, and brown hyena.[13] Bird species resident in the Sperrgebiet include the African oystercatcher, the black-headed canary, and the dune lark.[11]

National park and recent history[edit]

The Sperrgebiet was designated as a national park in June 2004, and is now named Tsau ǁKhaeb National Park.[1] De Beers still controls the area, but will relinquish control to the Namibian Ministry for Environment and Tourism once a management plan for the park has been completed. It is also a proclaimed diamond area which needs thorough control so as to keep possible diamond theft at bay.[3] In April 2008, the 500-year-old wreck of a ship named Bom Jesus[14] containing Iberian coins, bronze cannons, copper, and ivory was found in the Sperrgebiet.[15] Under Namibian law, the Namibian government is entitled to all the items found on board. These items will be showcased at a museum in Oranjemund once the museum has been constructed.[16]

There are several ghost towns in the Sperrgebiet, built in the late 19th century, the best known of these being Kolmanskop and others including Pomona and Elizabeth Bay. The wind has partially excavated a number of half-mummified bodies at a graveyard outside one of these ghost towns.



  1. ^ a b "Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park". Ministry of Environment and Tourism (Namibia). Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  2. ^ "Sperrgebiet". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  3. ^ a b c Absalom Shigwedha (2008-03-06). "Scoping the Sperrgebiet". The Namibian. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  4. ^ a b c "Namibia Declares Sperrgebiet As National Park". Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. June 2004. Archived from the original on November 8, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  5. ^ a b McNeil Jr., Donald G. (27 April 1998). "Oranjemund Journal; Find a Diamond in the Sand? Just Don't Pick It Up". New York Times. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  6. ^ Hardy, Paula; Firestone, Matthew D. (2007). Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia. Lonely Planet. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-74104-760-8. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  7. ^ Hardy, Paula; Firestone, Matthew D. (2007). Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia. Lonely Planet. p. 358. ISBN 978-1-74104-760-8. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  8. ^ Santcross, Nick; Ballard, Sebastian; Baker, Gordon (2001). Namibia Handbook: The Travel Guide. Footprint Books. ISBN 1-900949-91-1. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  9. ^ Hardy, Paula; Firestone, Matthew D. (2007). Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia. Lonely Planet. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-74104-760-8. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  10. ^ See The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds, 1987 TV documentary.
  11. ^ a b c "BirdLife IBA Factsheet NA019 Sperrgebiet". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  12. ^ Absalom Shigwedha (2008-04-10). "Plants in Sperrgebiet Area At Risk". The Namibian. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  13. ^ "Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme". Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  14. ^ See German page Bom Jesus
  15. ^ John Grobler (2008-05-04). "The body and loot of Dias?". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  16. ^ Chamwe Kaira (2008-04-30). "De Beers Finds Shipwreck, Treasure From Columbus Era (Update2)". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2008-05-24.

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