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Kruger PArk Times FREE PUBLICATION • Volume 6 Issue 1 • June/july 2010 •

Shocking rise in rhino poaching Six new tuskers identified Inside: car thief nabbed | child trafficking | addo’s biggest tusker dies | fires in Kruger | poachers target summer impala lily | dream job

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2 • kruger park times • june/july 2010

news snippets

On May 27, Mooiplaas section ranger, Johann Oelofse, was travelling along the Mozambican border fence when his wife Jocelyn spotted what she thought may have been a monitor lizard. “I had already passed the spot and had to reverse to see her sighting. What we saw was a bent double section of a large snake that had its head into a deep crack in the boulder. I immediately realised that this was a black mamba and switched off the engine so as not to alarm it. “We did not have to wait long before the snake slowly backed out of the crevice and there it was, the biggest black mamba that I have seen in all my years in the Kruger National Park (KNP). “It took our breath away in both its beauty and ominous aura. We were clearly fortunate that the snake’s head was tucked so deeply down the crevice as this gave us the opportunity to arrive unobserved and to remain dead quiet while it went about its business of scouting out the crevice for prey. We could not believe our luck to take a whole string of pictures before the snake leisurely reversed its direction over the boulder and disappeared behind it without ever showing signs of being aware of our presence. “My conservative estimate of this snake’s size was that it must have been in excess of 3m long with a girth of at least 50mm at thickest point.” Photo: Johann Oelofse

In short .... KNP Rangers Help Nab Car Thief Suspect A suspect was wounded when he tried to run away from the police and Kruger National Park (KNP) section ranger, Rodney Landela, on June 1, 2010. Another suspect escaped and had not been apprehended at the time of going to press. The culprits were driving two stolen trucks through the Phalaborwa section of the park, possibly on their way to Mozambique, which borders Kruger in the east. Rodney and the police reacted to an early morning tip-off on June 1 that the park fence in the Malopeni area had been cut. Moving swiftly, they set up an ambush in case of any activity in the area. The trucks soon approached, with headlights blazing. The drivers stopped and tried to flee as soon as they realised they were busted. “To avoid getting hurt, we would like to warn criminals to stay away from the Park and not use it as a thoroughfare for their illegal deeds; our rangers are always on the look-

out for criminals and will do everything in their power to ensure the Park remains crime free,” cautioned William Mabasa, the KNP’s HOD: Public Relations. The wounded suspect was arrested and is in police custody for further investigations. “The consequences would have been worse as lives could have been lost during this incident,” concluded Mabasa.

Tzaneen greenies get together to form Eco Club Following many requests for an environmental group in Tzaneen, an introductory meeting will be held just after the June/July school holidays. Meetings of the Tzaneen Eco Club will take place about 10 times a year and will take the form of talks and outings.  Subjects will be varied and will cover everything from astronomy to zoology.    Talks will usually take place on a Friday evening and there may be a related field outing the following day. Other outings and weekends to a number of the interesting areas in

the region and further afield will be organised from time to time.      “Tzaneen and the surrounding area has a huge base of skilled and knowledgeable people on subjects as diverse as astronomy, birding, botany, conservation agriculture, entomology, fresh water ecology , geology …  the scope is almost endless,” says Pierre Naude, one of the founder members.  “And we are situated in an amazingly diverse area with bushveld, forest and grassland within half an hour’s drive and with hundreds of birds and trees all around us. We have plains game and Big Five just on our doorstep and the geology and ecology of our area is fascinating.” In addition to meetings and outings purely for interest and fun, the Club will offer occasional special courses for people who want to gain either an introductory or a more specialised knowledge into particular aspects of the environment.  Some possibilities are beginner’s courses like ‘An Introduction to Birding’ and ‘An Introduction to Trees’, and more advanced courses like raptor identification and tracking

and field craft. Activities will be open to everyone and costs, where necessary (perhaps a reserve entry fee or an honorarium for a visiting speaker), will be kept to a minimum.    At present, the initiators of the club consist of Mike Amm, Pierre Naudé, Tony Schultz, Sarel Snyman and Peter Williams who, between them, have a far-reaching base of local and specialist knowledge. Pierre Naude commented, “It is hoped that other people will soon volunteer to join this team!” For more information contact Sarel Snyman (083 449 8200) or Pierre Naudé (083 778 4635).

Keep Kruger Clean On June 9, Kruger National Park (KNP) staff and stakeholders, armed with refuse bags and loads of enthusiasm, targeted their annual clean-up campaign on a five kilometer stretch of the road leading to the Kruger Gate. Kruger management started the Keep Kruger Clean-campaign four years ago, which has led to the nomination of champions throughout the park who drive various cleanup initiatives throughout the year. In 2008, young people from communities adjacent to the park joined the initiative. Working with the Kruger champions, these ‘Steenboks’ promote clean-up activities in their various communities. They are appointed for two years after which they graduate to become Junior Honorary Rangers. This year, the campaign focuses on recycling. Littering in the park is illegal and offenders can be fined on the spot up to R1 500. “People should change their perception about litter; the notion that “litter can create jobs” should not find space in the modern life that we live today. Let us keep the Kruger, our communities and our country clean,” says William Mabasa, KNP head of communications.

Poacher shot in Kruger On June 14, rangers in the Kruger National Park (KNP) wounded a suspected rhino poacher. He was shot in the arm, hip and shoulder. The incident occurred in the Vlakteplaas section where the suspect walked into an ambush set by the rangers. Rangers first noticed suspicious tracks in the section on Sunday June 13 during a routine patrol. On Monday, while tracking the spoor, they heard a gunshot which led them to a fresh rhino carcass with its horn removed. More gunshots closer to the rangers alerted their attention to a man walking in the distance. They remained still until they heard the sound of an axe. They positioned themselves in ambush and waited. After removing the second horn, the suspect left the scene in the direction where the rangers were lying in wait. As soon as he realised he was surrounded, he opened fire, which the rangers returned, wounding him in the process. According to the tracks more people may have been in the area, but they were not found. The suspect was taken to Malamulele Hospital and is under guard while further investigations continue. “We wish to send a strong warning to other poachers that this is war. We are prepared to fight; we cannot allow these heartless and senseless killings of rhino to continue,”said the KNP’s head of department: public relations, William Mabasa. “Please stay away from th e Pa rk a s th e r a n g er s and Environmental Crime Investigations unit will do everything to ensure we mean business in dealing with this. “We would also like to urge the public to report any information that may assist us to stop poachers before they enter the park and this information can be given to the nearest police station.” concluded Mabasa.

the Kruger emergency call centre number is: 013 735 4325

Printing sponsored by SANPArks Paul Kruger, president of the ZAR, proclaimed the Gouvernement Wildtuin (government game reserve) in 1898. It extended from the Crocodile River in the south to the Sabie River in the north, and from the Logies River (Nsikazi River) in the west to the Mozambique border in the east.

conservation concerns

kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Shocking rise in rhino poaching leads to formation of new unit Ruthless and highly organised criminals are butchering South Africa’s rhinos at an alarming and escalating rate. It is not only the rate at which these animals are being killed but also the manner in which this happens that has many South Africans calling for more stringent action. In a recent incident in the Kruger National Park (KNP), poachers hacked the horn from a rhino while it was still alive, leaving the animal to stumble about with its face mangled to a bloody mess until the traumatised animal was spotted by horrified tourists. Since January, the country has lost almost 100 rhinos, with the Kruger National Park (KNP) being the hardest hit in terms of numbers at 33, followed by the North West Province at 18 and 12 from the Gauteng Province. The least affected province has been the Eastern Cape Province with a loss of only two rhinos. The provinces’ protected areas lost 32 rhinos while the private sector lost 27 rhinos. Four black rhinos have also been poached. The South African National Parks (SANParks) and South African

government is facing increasing pressure from the public and other stakeholders to stop the poaching. On the other hand, the criminals are highly organised and have vast resources including highly sophisticated technology at their disposal. In response to the spiralling problem, public and privately-owned nature reserves and conservation agencies joined forces with environmental affairs minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, who has set up a National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU). This unit consists of the SAPS Organised Crime Unit, SANParks Environmental Crime Unit, the Provincial Conservation AntiPoaching Unit and prosecutors at a national and provincial level. It will function with extended powers to include the expertise of the national director of public prosecution to fast track successful prosecution of suspected poachers. SANParks chief executive Dr David Mabunda, said, “This move by the minister will also enable the various conservation agencies, including privately-owned game reserves, to populate poaching incident reports and allow for

accurate national poaching statistics, something that is key to the appropriate management and eventual reduction of this problem.” Dr Mabunda said this means that very soon the country will be able to identify problematic areas more effectively and direct resources accordingly. “We are dealing here with organised crime and hardened criminals linked to notorious syndicates that the SAPS and Interpol are also looking for. We know that our combined efforts will reap fruitful results in the near future and SANParks stays committed to making every effort to wipe out this assault that is threatening our natural heritage.” The KNP is home to between 9,000 and 12,000 white rhinos, a large percentage of the approximately 19,000-strong South African population. Between 580 and 650 black rhinos of the country’s population of 1,670 black rhinos are also found in Kruger. The other national parks with rhino populations collectively have an estimated 124 white rhinos and 107 black rhinos. South Africa has seen an escalating assault on its rhino populations

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well drained lush fairways, along with new water features strategically placed on the 3rd and the 9th holes. The golf course is an integral part of the overall well maintained resort landscape, allowing different habitats for many bird species. Other facilities on the resort include3 swimming pools, 5 flood-lit tennis courts, putt-putt, and a driving range on the adjoining property. Bird watching and scenic walks can be enjoyed along the banks of the tranquil Sabie River, or a bicycle ride around the lodge’s extensive estate. Relax in the hippo hide which provides a splendid vantage point for hippo viewing and appreciate the drama of a golden African sunset. Enjoy the resort’s clubhouse which has a restaurant and full conference facilities. Kruger Park Lodge is managed by the prestigious Legacy Hotels & Resorts group.

in the last three years, with the first alarming spike in 2008 with the loss of 83 rhinos, a sharp rise from the mere 13 rhinos lost the previous year. South Africa lost a further 122 rhinos in 2009. This is the highest level of poaching for rhino horn that has ever been experienced by the country. Thus far 25 suspected poachers have been arrested, with 17 having been arrested in the KNP, five in Gauteng and three in Mpumalanga. Dr Mabunda said it is important for South Africans to be vigilant everywhere in the country because this is a problem that is escalating throughout the world and not only a problem in Kruger, as is the impression that seems to be coming through. It must be understood that not only does the KNP house the majority of rhinos resident in any one property in the country, but it also holds about 300km of the eastern international border of the country. This makes it easier for such criminals to elude the arm of the law by escaping into the neighbouring countries. SANParks appreciates the return of the army to patrol this border and it is hoped that with their interven-

tion at least one of the escape routes for these wildlife criminals will be made near impossible to breach. Dr Mabunda said having recently visited Tanzania, he was saddened to hear that a population of over one thousand Eastern African Diceros michaeli sub species of rhino has been reduced to ten rhinos since 1960. “Rhinos are under siege from marauding poachers all over the world. Asia and India are suffering the same trend of these species being driven to near extinction through poaching.”


current concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Open your eyes when crossing the border Mozambique has launched a campaign called “Open Your Eyes” to combat child trafficking and unsafe child migration into neighbouring South Africa as footballers and fans start arriving there for the Soccer World Cup kick-off on 11 June. “This is a unique opportunity for me and the Mozambican sports community,” Manuel ‘TicoTico’ Bucuane, former captain of Mozambique’s soccer team, who also holds the record for scoring the highest number of international goals for his country, told local media in the Mozambican capital, Maputo. Tico-Tico, the country’s most capped player and a local hero, is the public face of the drive to raise awareness of cross-border trafficking, which campaign organisers Save the Children Alliance (SC), an international child rights NGO, in cooperation with local child rights groups and government partners, think might increase during the month-long World Cup. “As sports people, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our children by reminding them of the dangers of unsafe migration,” he said. The campaign organisers acknowledged the economic, cultural and social benefits to the region of hosting this major event, but pointed out that the influx of large numbers of people with money to spend could create the right conditions for a potential increase in child labour and sexual exploitation. The International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) expects some 373,000 tourists to descend on South Africa. “The World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for South Africa and the region ... but it carries certain risks as well, that we want as much as possible to avoid,”

said Chris McIvor, the Advocacy and Programmes Director at SC in Mozambique.

To those leaving “The factors that have always prompted children to l eave Mozambique for South Africa are exaggerated during this period, with increased expectations of employment, casual labour and economic opportunities arising from the presence of thousands of football fans in that country,” McIvor noted. Part of the campaign is designed to remind Mozambican families and children that travelling without proper documents and a safe, genuine guardian could lead to terrible consequences. “We know from our research that Mozambican girls are sometimes trafficked into the sex industry in South Africa, and are worried that the influx of large numbers of foreign visitors could increase this problem,” McIvor told IRIN. While there is no hard evidence to suggest the World Cup would boost the number of children trafficked or smuggled to South Africa, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that approximately one thousand children and women are trafficked from Mozambique to South Africa every year for the purpose of exploitative labour and commercial sex work. Many more make the trip voluntarily; according to SC figures, 80,000 Mozambicans are repatriated from South Africa every year, of which 15 to 20 percent are children. “We know they [children] face many hardships. These difficulties include sexual harassment and rape of girls, poor remuneration, labour exploitation - no payment of sala-

ries by employers, who report them to the police when they have to be paid - incarceration with adults in jails in South Africa,” McIvor said.

To those visiting It is anticipated that many football fans visiting South Africa will m ak e th ei r w ay to Mozambique, where hotels have already received many foreign reservations. “Part of our campaign is to remind visitors to the country that they are extremely welcome, but that they should behave respectfully and not in a way that exploits or manipulates children, especially girls,” McIvor said. Postcards will be handed to tourists at airports and other points of entry, reminding them to behave responsibly and in conformity with international child protection standards. Tico-Tico will broadcast messages on local TV and radio stations, warning families of the dangers of unsafe migration and how best to protect children. The Open Your Eyes campaign will organise community theatre events to sensitise people, and a film about the lives of three migrant

children from Mozambique will be screened on national television, accompanied by debates on key issues. “Training of border guards and police in Mozambique on trafficking and migration issues and appropriate child protection standards,” would also be part of the campaign, McIvor said. “Our programme will continue long after the World Cup has finished.” The main factors pushing children in the region to South Africa were perceived employment opportunities, access to schooling,

and abuse or exploitation at home. “These issues need to be addressed in sending countries if the scale of unsafe migration is to substantially diminish,” McIvor commented. Children interviewed in various SC studies said they were not aware of what they would face once they crossed the border with South Africa. McIvor noted that “More information would have either convinced them not to travel, or at least allowed them to be better prepared.” © IRIN. All rights reserved.

New book showcases Kalahari’s hyena Dr Katy Johnson

KNP to let more day visitors in The management of the Kruger National Park [KNP] announced on June 1, 2010 that they will increase the quota on the number of people allowed to enter the KNP by 10 percent at each of its 10 gates. This increase will take effect immediately.

Kruger Gate, for example, had a limit of 500 individual day visitors per day and this will now increase to 550 people per day. This quota increase will not affect the norm of “first-come–firstserved” that is applied at the gates.

If you watch Disney’s “The Lion King” you would be lead to believe that hyenas are conniving, unscrupulous and rather demented creatures. Indeed their rather ungainly appearance, scavenging nature and somewhat demonic laugh makes it easy to understand why they have been so brutally portrayed as the villain. But if you spend some time getting to know these charismatic creatures, their unfaltering curiosity will quickly change any unwarranted preconceptions you may have and soon they will have you enchanted. Two people who can vouch for this are scientists Gus and Margie

Mills, and their new book Hyena Nights and Kalahari Days is just as enchanting as its subject matter. The book is a beautiful tale of life and work in the Kalahari, as what started as a two-year study ended up a 12-year stay as Gus and Margie became more enveloped in the lives of the animals they studied. Their book, like their research, dispels many misconceived myths about hyena behaviour born from the fact that very little was known about the elusive brown hyena. Gus’s story is one of endless fascinating research, as during their study they got to know intimately the clans they followed and observed events very few will ever be privileged to witness. Margie’s tale

relives the problems and pleasures of family life in the Kalahari. Her section of the book beautifully illustrates that while it is easy to fall in love with the romantic vision of living and working in the Kalahari, living there is somewhat different. This is a beautiful book and a must-read for anyone interested in the Kalahari. It allows the reader to understand the trials and triumphs of living and raising children in a remote desert wilderness, while working with these intriguing animals. Any preconceived ideas of hyena will be blown out of the water, as the reader discovers for themselves what intelligent, powerful and beautiful animals, hyenas are.

Printing sponsored by SANPArks Until 1960, Pretoriuskop was the only rest camp with accommodation available all year. Before that the park was only open between May and October 15.

current concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Addo’s biggest tusker dies On Thursday, April 22, 2010, numerous visitors to Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) witnessed a fight between two elephant bulls that resulted in the death of the Park’s biggest tusker, Skukuza. Skukuza was one of eight Kruger National Park (KNP) elephant bulls relocated to AENP five years ago. His age was estimated at 47, and he was killed by another Kruger bull, Paul. Paul, in his mid 30’s, was also relocated to Addo five years ago, but a few months after Skukuza had arrived there. Kruger elephants were relocated to Addo to improve the genetic quality of the Addo elephants and the eight were chosen for their good genes. Genetic diversity is essential for a healthy population.

Shortly after arrival Skukuza lost his right tusk, which fell off as a result of being damaged during the long journey down from Kruger. He was known to be a placid elephant and never showed aggression towards other elephants or tourists. He also fathered numerous offspring in Addo. During the last few years he preferred living in the southern section of Addo Main Camp, in Wayne’s Valley. Unfortunately, younger bull, Paul, is at an age where bulls will challenge the older bulls for dominancy and especially when in musth during mating season. During musth, elephant bulls can become highly aggressive towards each other. Numerous visitors to the Park saw elephant bull Paul chasing Skukuza around for an entire afternoon before his death. When Skukuza fell down, Paul delivered the final blow by thrusting his tusk into Skukuza’s brain. Although this is an upsetting event for people to watch and to hear about, one has to accept that this is natural behavior in animals.


A record R500 000 was paid for a buffalo cow and calf pair at the annual Kirkwood Auction

Buffalo big movers at Kirkwood Sales Disease-free buffalo from the Karoo and Camdeboo National Parks fetched top prices at the Kirkwood Wildlife Auction held in the Eastern Cape in June. “We earned R500 000 for a buffalo cow and calf pair which is a record price for South African National Parks and for the Kirkwood Auction,” said Addo Elephant National Park manager Norman Johnson.

The buffalo, which originally came from Addo Elephant National Park’s buffalo herd, are traditionally much sought-after as breeding stock due to the absence of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis, corridor disease and foot-and-mouth disease in the herd. Addo Elephant National Park is home to the largest disease-free buffalo herd in South Africa. The top price earned for a family

group of SANParks buffalo on the auction was R280 000 per buffalo, while sales of black wildebeest and red hartebeest bulls from Mountain Zebra National Park reached R3 700 and R3 300 respectively. “We sold 17 red hartebeest bulls and 15 black wildebeest bulls from Mountain Zebra NP and 22 buffalo - bulls, cows and some calves,” says Megan Tapin, communications manager for the SANParks Frontier region. SANParks made over R8.99 million on the auction while the total auction earnings reached over R10.3 million. Proceeds of the sale of SANParks wildlife on the game auction are channelled into SANParks’ Park Development Fund, a fund used to expand and develop the national park system across the country. Kirkwood Wildlife Festival chairman, Johan Swart, said that the Kirkwood Wildlife Auction is now the second largest auction in the country and this year attracted a record 89 registered buyers from all over South Africa.


conservation concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Fires in Kruger It’s the time of year when smoke plumes set off alarm bells to many visitors in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Bushfires are common in South Africa, especially between May and October, which is also the dry season. The Kruger National Park (KNP) falls within the African Savannah biome where fire is extremely important in shaping the landscape. Drawing on many years of fire research in Kruger, park management adopted a new fire policy in 2002, which encourages the setting of early season fires (April to June) to break up the fuel load and allow for lower intensity fires. Every year park management uses data gathered from more than 500 vegetation monitoring sites to determine where and what percentage of the park should be burnt, as well as the preceding two years’ rainfalls determines the target percentage to burn in each section. Areas that have produced grass coverage of over four tones per hectare are considered to be ecologically necessary to burn in the park. When the year’s fire regime has been worked out, section rangers set fires at the beginning of winter in chosen locations to break up the veld into a patch mosaic. This scattering of burnt and unburnt sections acts as a means of preventing

and reducing the area burnt by unplanned runaway fires that may occur later in the season. Burning earlier in the year also makes for cooler fires, which are less likely to turn saplings into multi-stemmed trees and allow for trees to recruit into the next height class. Rangers will generally stop setting fires when the lightning season starts (October to November) to allow lightning a chance to contribute as one of the natural sources of fire. Only a few Savannah plant species are fire sensitive with most being fire tolerant. Animals can hear, feel and smell a fire when it is still very far away and most mammals normally have enough time to escape. Snakes and many kind of insects escape into holes in the ground, where they are safe, because the heat from the fire seldom penetrates the soil deeper than five centimeters. After a fire, animals benefit in many ways from the burnt area. They lick the mineral rich ash and feed on the new shoots which have a much higher nutrient content. The build up prey numbers on a burnt area may also attract predators – so keep your eyes peeled when you drive through burnt areas. photo: Navashni Govender

Early human habitats under scrutiny Pre-humans living in East Africa 4.4 million years ago inhabited

savannas - grassy plains dotted with trees and shrubs - according to a

team of researchers that includes earth science expert Naomi Levin of the Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. This conclusion is at odds with a theory – which holds that these early beings lived in a mostly forested environment – put forth by prominent University of California at Berkeley researcher Tim D White and his team in a 2009 issue of the journal Science. “Our team examined the data published by White and his colleagues last October and found that their data does not support their conclusion that Ardipithecus ramidus lived exclusively in woodlands and forest patches,” said Levin, whose team published a commentary on the matter in the May 20 issue of Science. “The White team’s papers stress the wooded nature of A. ramidus’s environment and say specifically that Ardi did not live in a savanna. Yet, the actual data they present

are consistent with exactly that: a savanna environment with a mix of grasses and trees.” This criticism is important because the claim that the 4.4 million-year-old fossil nicknamed “Ardi” lived in woodlands and forest patches was used as an argument against a longstanding theory of human evolution known as the “savanna hypothesis.” According to that premise, the expansion of savannas – grassy plains dotted with trees and shrubs – prompted our ape-like forebears to descend from trees and begin walking upright to find food more efficiently, or to reach other trees for resources or shelter. Levin, an assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins, was part of a team of eight geologists and anthropologists from seven universities led by Thure E Cerling of the University of Utah. They used the White team’s own data to draw very different conclusions about the environment inhabited by Ardi, an omnivorous, ape-like creature that stood about four feet tall and had a brain less than a quarter of the size of a modern day human’s. This data was collected from ancient soils, plant fossils and other remains in the area now known as Aramis, in Ethiopia. Levin’s team found that tropical grasses, in fact, comprised between 40 and 60 percent of the biomass in Ardi’s world. Levin says her team’s conclusion is

noteworthy because, if scientists are to evaluate the environmental pressures that triggered the evolutionary success of some traits over others, they must clearly understand the environment itself. “In their papers and summaries, White and his colleagues emphasize that A. ramidus had a mix of traits that suggest it was at ease both walking upright on the ground and moving through the trees on its palms,” Levin explains. “If the habitat of A. ramidus was, in fact, a woodland with forest patches, where grasses were rare, then it’s unlikely that the increased presence of grassy environments were the driving force behind the origin of upright walking in early human ancestors. However, if the habitat of A. ramidus included savannas where grasses were up to 60 percent of the available biomass, then we cannot rule out the possibility that open environments played an important role in human origins and, in particular, in the origins of upright walking. The scientific community and the public should not accept an exclusively woodland/ forested habitat for A. ramidus and the origins of upright walking, because the data do not support it.” The critique concludes that although its authors do not judge the validity of the savanna hypothesis, the connection between human ancestors walking upright and the expansion of grasslands remains a viable idea.

printing sponsored by SANPArks The Kruger National Park is home to hundreds of different species: 507 birds, 336 trees, 147 mammals, 114 reptiles, 49 fish and 34 amphibians.

plant peril

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Poachers target summer impala lily Dr Katy Johnson The winter impala lily, (Adenium obesum), is a feature of most Kruger Park rest camps and can be found all over the park. Indeed the winter impala lily is somewhat of a floral icon of the Kruger, yet it is its summer counterpart that is really in demand. Poaching has become a hot topic in South Africa, especially with the dramatic increase in rhino poaching over the last couple of years. But it is not just rhinos that are under threat. If a species has a commercial value, then it is at risk of being poached. From abalone to pepper bark, the existence of numerous South African flora and fauna species are being placed in jeopardy. The summer impala lily, (Adenium swazicum), also known as the Swazi lyli, is one of a growing number of South African plants that are

critically endangered and further poaching could push this species to the brink of extinction. It is a species that has adapted to live in areas of low rainfall by having a large underground tuber, which acts as a storage device enabling the plant to survive in times of drought. Ironically, the same thing that enables the plant to survive also proves to be its downfall. For thousands of years traditional African healers have been using the tuber of the summer impala lily as a cure for numerous ailments. The tuber in its raw form is highly toxic; however once diluted, the extracts are a popular treatment for purging the body and can be found in almost every muti market from Nelspruit to Durban. As the summer impala lily is considered critically endangered and is on the Threatened Or Protected Species (TOPS) list, being in procession of a summer impala lily without the appropriate permits is illegal. So, those selling and buying plants or extracts thereof without permits are breaking the law. However, when it comes to enforcing this it is practically impossible, as the

extracts of summer impala lily bear no resemblance to the original product. It also raises an interesting ethical question, are the people using and selling the extract really at fault? Certainly they are breaking the law, but they aren’t the only ones who are. Horticulturalists are equally guilty when it comes to the illegal collection of the summer impala lily. Rather than taking the tuber they take cuttings, to make hybrids. The hybrid market, especially in some Asian countries, is rapidly expanding as there is a growing demand for plants with novel floral patterning and colouration. While some will argue that poaching for the horticultural market is less destructive than poaching for the medicinal trade, as they just take clippings rather than digging up the whole plant, purists would say poaching is poaching, especially as there are TOPS registered nurseries like the one in Skukuza which can sell certified summer impala lilies legally. Traditional healers have also been utilising wild populations of the summer impala lily for centuries and this has mostly been sustainable. It has only been in the last centur y that the harvesting of the summer impala lily has bec om e unsustainable. T h e nutrient

rich sodic sites that are home to the summer impala lily are also an ideal site for agriculture. It is the conversion of these sites into sugar cane plantations that has caused the damage when it comes to decimating summer impala lily populations. It has left only small pockets of summer impala lilies and it is these which are now being over harvested. Changes in the way summer impala lilies are harvested are also having a negative impact. With the change from rural to urban living, it is often no longer the sangoma who collects plants from wild populations; rather it is commercial gatherers who harvest the plants and then provide the traditional healer with them. There is less motivation for gatherers to collect sustainably, as once one population is exhausted they will either go to another or change the species that they provide. The result of this is that unsustainable harvesting of wild summer impala lilies is commonplace. Indeed, a once thriving population in Managa has now virtually been wiped out by commercial gatherers. Although the future for the summer impala lily - like many species threatened by poaching - is bleak, while it has a commercial value attached to it, there is hope. South African National Parks (SANParks) are providing a safe haven for a number of protected populations and these are constantly monitored to ensure poaching isn’t occurring. They are also working in collabo-

Winter Impala lily, Adenium obesum

printing sponsored by SANPArks Ecosystems are dynamic and complex, meaning that although they usually only have a few main drivers, these interact continually to give different outcomes that are difficult to predict.

ration with the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) on a project that hopes to bypass poaching, by providing an alternative source of summer impala lilies to both horticulturalists and the medicinal trade, while empowering local communities. Wild seeds are collected, some of which are being germinated in Kruger’s Skukuza nursery for commercial sale. Others are being used in community projects which hope to re-establish local populations which can then be sustainably used. Whether these initiatives will solve the problem of summer impala lily poaching only time will tell. Plant poaching is as big an issue as abalone or even rhino poaching and while a plant doesn’t bleed the impact of losing any species, in particular a plant species, has many unexpected effects. It is not just about losing the plant. It’s about the knockon ecological impact losing the plant has on other species. This includes the impact on humans. Losing the summer impala lily means losing its medicinal properties too and it is not just the traditional medicine trade that could lose out. These properties could also have value for westernised medicine, as many popular over-the-counter medicines originate from plants. So who knows what future cure we may lose if the summer impala lily or other critically endangered plants are lost? photos: Karin van der Walt and Lynette Strauss


• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Pink gown tradition revived If you had to define the ideal romance novel hero, chances are a ranger will win significant votes. And with good reason – how can a life filled with perfect sunsets, dangerous adrenaline rushed encounters with nature’s most feared beasts and slimy poachers not be idealized? But, all true heroes have flaws, or at least, toes of clay. Many years ago, rangers in the Kruger National Park (KNP), acknowledged this truth with an annual prize given to the hero who fit these shoes. Off course they all qualified, but there could only be one winner. The crown was dusted off recently when regional ranger in the north, Louis Olivier, an old Kruger hand, prompted a revival of this treasured tradition. The process is peer reviewed with nominations that are sent to Nick Zambatis, a neutral overseer and protector of nominator identification. This year’s deserved winner of the pink gown, which was sponsored by Louis, had a few remarkable encounters with dangerous and not so dangerous game, as well as some transport mishaps. One of these came when this year’s champion wanted first pick for him and his staff of new ranger uniforms that had arrived in Skukuza. Being based in the northern parts of the park meant a very early start and being the gentleman that he is,

he decided not to disturb a colleague to tell him that he would be passing through his section. “On the advice of his corporal, he travelled along the western boundary and just before reaching Phalaborwa, decided to take a short-cut along one of the fire-breaks and join the Letaba gravel road. Up to this point, all went well until he suddenly felt that something was very wrong with his bakkie; it was not pulling as it normally does so he stopped to do an inspection. To his amazement, horror and disgust, he discovered that all four wheels of the bakkie plus the two trailer wheels were flat,‘ motivated the anonymous Marius Renke, Shangoni section ranger in the Kruger National Park, is the winner nominator. “ H e t h e n c o n t a c t e d of the Pink Gown. He is congratulated Phalaborwa section ranger, by Johann Oelofse, section ranger at Rodney Landela and told Mooiplaas. him of his predicament, only to find out that he had just driven over a very effective stolen Given, they did have the benefit of vehicle immobilizer. Rodney then hind-sight and knew there was some took [our hero] and his corporal to unexpectedly deep pools lurking, but Letaba, from where they continued our hero did not surprise when he their trip to Skukuza in an open went down with flailing hands after 10-seater game drive vehicle, with his feet failed to find land as he tried the trailer in tow!” to steady himself when crossing the In another incident, our intrepid spruit. ranger was on motorcycle training “After an hour’s struggle to get his when he miscalculated a spruit bike started, he had to leave it and crossing - to the smothered appre- later went back with other rangers ciation of his fellow rangers. to collect it.”

rangers’ diary Malopeni eco 4x4 overnight trail Gallery

photos above: Jay Wingate

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travel treats

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Malopeni eco 4x4 overnight trail


photos: Lynette Strauss

24-hours on the other side of those no entry signs Lynette Strauss It was the perfect day to be in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Crisp, cool but with enough winter sun to leave your jacket in the car until nightfall. We were nine strangers waiting at the Phalaborwa Entrance Gate to share the magic of the park in areas where no visitors are allowed, the places where only rangers and researchers (and poachers) go. I think that is part of the charm of the Malopeni Overnight Eco Trail – especially for old timers who know every bend, big tree, waterhole and windmill in their favourite places in the ‘public’ parts of the park. There are many of us and we relished the thought of adding previously off-limit spots to our memory banks. Only five vehicles with a maximum of four people per vehicle are allowed on the trail. We filled the quota. After a short briefing and meetand-greet for 15 minutes we set off on the main road to Letaba from where we took a left onto the S131. At the Ngwenyeni/Malopeni crossroad we turned off the tourist road onto what is known as a category-D road. Three kilometres on we turned west onto the Malopeni management road. It was mid-afternoon when we made our first stop. A derelict railing was the only sign of the windmill that once fed the cement trough nearby. The veld is pristine, and still lush after the late rains this year. Towards the left end of the clearing was a mud pool where our guide, Donavan Terblanche led Allistair Laughland and Jay Wingate for closer inspection of some rhino activity from the previous day. We scrutinised an old but impressive giraffe bone and some spoor, mostly antelope, before we carried on towards the Malopeni spruit. The Malopeni is wide, sandy and dry this time of year. There were spoor everywhere, including perfect elephant footprints from which Donavan drew a very distinct picture of their movements. We would have stayed longer, but our shadows were outgrowing us

and we had to reach the camp before sundown. Up to that point we did not really need to engage 4x4 but when we approached a small spruit I knew why Donavan said I should rather hitch a ride in his bakkie and leave my trusty Aveo at home. The narrow stream, sandy and dry this time of year, nestles between two very steep inclines and, granted, it looked more daunting than I thought at first sight, but it was still a thrill to follow the bakkie’s nose about half a metre higher than my head as we tracked towards the top. I snatched a few photos of the others, with Francois Opperman’s smile almost as wide as his Landy’s bullbar. Relief or pleasure – I forgot to ask. The sun was getting old and in perfect position to softly silhouette a group of buffalo in a cloud of dust. I glimpsed a magnificent cow before she ducked into the mopane veld, almost as if she knew we could not wait for another showing. Our last stop before camp was breathtaking. Winding past impressive apple leaf and leadwood trees, we reached the Black Heron dam, which is absolutely beautiful and the time of day made it perfect. The dam is in the Letaba River, which stretches wide on either side of the damwall. Standing on the damwall we watched two hippos playing as if in rehearsal for a follow-up Chomp advert. The rest of the hippos, about nine, hid underwater for most of our stay, except for one who did not seem too happy having us there. We left a bit reluctantly but had to use the last light to pitch camp. The site is about half a kilometre away on the banks of the Letaba River and was a pleasant surprise. The terrain is neatly slashed, there are two eco-friendly toilets, a fireplace and an ashdrum. Donavan helped us select an ideal spot and we got down to the business of camping. I had the luxury of a roof top tent, which was a first and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Within an hour we were ready to start dinner, except for Allistair who

Kyle Opperman helping his dad, Francois to prepare dinner

admits to the 10 thumbs he showed. Throughout dinner we heard a not-so-happy elephant not-so-far from us who was not shy to complain. It was the perfect reminder of where we are. Donovan kept the fire going, we solved a few world problems, compared and patented best braai products and laughed – a lot. Leo and Scorpio were watching from a clear night sky as Kyle and Japie flushed a scorpion of another kind from its tree trunk home – glowing an eerily neon green in the ultra violet purple splash. It was cold when we went to bed and still dark when whispers and the sound of coffee mugs marked the new day. After a quick coffee Donavan took us to the banks of the Letaba River where we waited for the sun. It was a splendid sight to see the river appear like a Polaroid picture of old to the tune of southern ground hornbills and a spotted eagle owl welcoming a new day. The following night we agreed to be packed and ready by 08h00 and made good on our intentions. We left the site with almost no sign of being there. The ash was removed, the fireplace cleaned and the trash shared our ride out. We took a different, albeit shorter route back. Our last stop was where

we stopped first the day before and we beamed goodbyes with the Laughlans and Wingates who went on to Letaba Camp. Throughout o u r s t a y, Donavan excelled at all aspects o f g u i d i n g, unobtrusively Kyle and Japie flushed the scorpio from its tree sharing his love trunk home – glowing an eerily neon green in the and profound ultra violet purple splash. photo Kyle Opperman knowledge of the bush, while at the same time but does not have a lot of time to ensuring everyone’s comfort. spare. It is also the ideal start or end This is the perfect trail for some- to a traditional holiday in Kruger. one who lives close to the park and From our comments I also know would like to do something different we will all be back.


conservation concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Six new Kruger tuskers named Six elephants have been added to the Kruger National Park’s (KNP) list of upcoming tuskers, courtesy of the enthusiastic participation of visitors in the emerging tuskers project of the KNP. “In keeping with the policy on the emerging tuskers, these magnificent animals have been named after previous rangers and field rangers who have made notable contributions to conservation and Kruger,” says Kirsty Redman, coordinator of the project in Kruger. The new tuskers are:

MAVALANGA This bull was named in memory of Piet Otto, who served firstly as a helicopter pilot and later as head of flight and game capture operations in Kruger for 25 years. Mavalanga is the Shangaan name for ‘one who has very good eyesight’, which refers to Piet’s exceptional ability to spot game during the annual aerial census, long before anyone else and which earned him the nickname, “Mr Eyes” from those who worked with him. Mavalanga has a very large home range and has been recorded in Pafuri, around Babalala and as far south as Bangu in the Olifants trail area. He has substantially curved ivory and a notable thickening on his trunk that has a “doughnut” appearance with a definite depression in the middle. His right ear has a small R2-sized hole towards the upper edge of the lobe as well as a small v-shaped notch with the bottom part of the notch extending past the end of the lobe line. The left ear has a prominent wide u-shaped notch below the middle area of the lobe as well as a similar-shaped notch slightly above the middle of the lobe that is bisected by a small extension of skin. This is not usually visible unless the ears are open. A small ‘R2’ hole at the tip of the ear lobe is also visible from a frontal or

Above and below: Thandamamba, photo by Jenni Lane

left side angle. This elephant was first recorded by Anja Stolk in September 2008 as part of the emerging tuskers competition. Due to the immense distances between locations of other submissions in 2008 by Johan Marais (author Great Tuskers of Southern Africa) and in 2009 by Robert Bryden (coordinator of guides, Nxanatseni Region) these were originally thought to be of ‘new bulls’. Upon investigation and the recording of the identification features for Mavalanga it is now clear these sightings are of the same bull and have served to highlight the immensely large roaming range of this magnificent tusker.

Above and below: Mavalanga, photos taken by Anja Stolk

MBAZO Named for Lynn van Rooyen who served in conservation for SANParks for 39 years. Mbazo meaning ‘axe’ refers to Lynn’s early years as a ranger where he was known to lead field patrols armed only with an axe. T h i s bu l l h a s been in the Orpen Gate area, and is also known to frequent the area around Satara and Nwanetsi and slightly north of there towards Balule. Mbazo has very unusually shaped ivory that makes him easily recognisable, with right tusk fairly straight and the left considerably curved. Two areas of thickening on the truck between the tusks are visible in all footage of this bull. No ear notches are easily visible, although a U-shaped notch exists at the extreme bottom of the right lobe alongside the neck area. This bull was first recorded in December 2008 by Nicole Cordes as part of the emerging tuskers competition in 2009, and was noted as unusual. Several submissions followed subsequent to this that clearly identifies this bull’s stomping grounds. He was recently named confirming his status amongst the ‘new’ era.

MCULU Named in honour of Ben Lamprecht who served in conservation in SANParks for 26 years. Mculu is a Shangaan word referring to the manner in which Ben was known to walk with his shoulders pulled up high. This bull seems to have a relatively small home range at present and is seen frequently in the immediate vicinity of the Letaba Rest Camp. He has also been recorded on the tar road towards Phalaborwa Gate. He has notable upright curved tusks. A prominent growth/thickening on his trunk can be observed. His ears also have very distinguishing characteristics. His left ear has a ragged “w” shaped notch in the continued on page 11

Ngonyama, photo by Christiaan Janse van Rensburg

conservation concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Six new Kruger tuskers named however, now that his characteristics have been identified it will become easier to record him from submissions and to determine his home range.

NGONYAMA Named for Uys de Villiers (Tol) Pienaar who served SANParks in conservation for 36 years. Ngonyama is the Tsonga word for ‘lion’. This Mbazo, photo taken by Nicole Cordes nickname derives itself from an incident on July 21, 1956 when Tol was bitten by a lioness along the Timbavati spruit , where continued from page 10 present day Roodewal camp is. Tol was also known for his green middle of the lobe, while the right eyes that could flash like a lion’s ear has a significant u-shaped notch when angry. in the upper lobe, as well as a small This bull has an average sized R2- sized hole towards the middle home range. He is known in the area to lower area of the lobe. between Phalaborwa and Mopani Mculu was first spotted in early (Mayumbeni and Xilawuri Koppies) 2009 by Kirsty Redman in the and stretches to Letaba Rest Camp. Letaba area, but a lack of good The elephant has very widely quality photos and a similarity in ear splayed ivory, with the left tusk apnotches to known tuskers failed to pearing to be slightly longer than the determine if this was a ‘new tusker’ right due to the curve of the tusks. or one of the known bulls. There is a conspicuous lump (or A series of good photos taken lumps) on his left backside as well as by Richard Sowry in August 2009 a tiny hole at the base of the left ear allowed this bull to clearly be identi- lobe. Some thickening on the upper fied as a ‘new tusker’ as well as a trunk can also be observed.   previously unidentified submission He was first sighted by Kobie to be clearly identified as the now Naude on October 5, 2008 on the known “Mculu”. tar road towards Mopani from Mculu is a relatively young bull Phalaborwa. At the time with only and his home range is fairly small one submission it was decided not when compared with other tuskers, to name him.

Above and below: Ntombazana, photos taken by Anja Stolk

He was noted as an impressive bull and monitored to see if he appeared again. This was the last heard of him until December 2009 where a sighting from Christiaan Janse van Rensburg found him in the Letaba region of Kruger. Two subsequent sightings by GVI volunteer Jasmine Brown in February and March 2010 again in the immediate vicinity of Letaba helped cement his status as a large tusker and the decision was made to name him. He appears docile and does not seem to mind the presence of guests providing good sightings.


This unusual name came about during a conversation with Brian Harris, ex-section ranger Stolznek, where Aaron indicated the one thing he loved most about the KNP was the snakes particularly the black mamba. This bull predominates in the very southern area of the KNP and has been sighted in the Malelane/ Stolznek areas of the south, around the Gardenia Hide and the Mlambane confluence and is a regular visitor to the Jock Concession. He has very substantial ivory in weight and given he is a younger bull it is hoped he will continue to develop further. His ivory is fairly splayed with the left tusk slightly straighter and longer than the right. His right ear has several distinguishing ear notches, the most notable being a v-shaped tear in the middle of the outer lobe and a u-shaped notch at the base of the lobe close to the neckline. This bull has been a regular sighting from the aerial census since 2007 and has been recorded by

Stolznek ranger Rob Thompson. However it wasn’t until a sighting in January 2008 by Jenni Lane submitted as part of the emerging tuskers competition that this bull’s distinguishing features could be identified and therefore allow his status as a new tusker to be confirmed.

More information The “Emerging Tuskers Project” is an ongoing project within Kruger. Submissions of potential and known tuskers are welcome in order to improve the database of these animals. Photos can be submitted as follows: Emerging Tuskers Project, Letaba Elephant Hall, Private Bag X402 Skukuza, 1350 E-Mail:Tuskers@ or directly to kirtsyr@ Queries: (013) 735 6664 or if people want more information on these tuskers and others they can go to kruger/elephants/

Named in memory of Bruce Robert Bryden who served in conservation with SANPArks for 29 years. Ntombazana is the Shangaan word meaning ‘young lady’. This name was affectionately bestowed on Bryden by his staff referring to his love of the ladies when he first arrived in Kruger. This bull has been recorded predominately in the Letaba and Olifants area, around the junction of the H1-5 and the S46. He has substantial and thick ivory. Ear notches are particularly prominent with a notable ‘punch hole’ type notch in his left ear with a R2-sized hole slightly above this. His right ear has a ‘w’ shaped notch towards the upper lobe (this is a u-shaped notch with a loose skin piece dividing the area). Several other ragged notches are also evident in the right lower ear lobe. This bull was first recorded in 2008 by Anja Stolk as part of the emerging tuskers competition in 2009 and Above and below: Mculu photos taken by Richard Sowry was recently named. Little is known about this bull as he seems to shy away from cameras. It is hoped over time footage will improve given his recent confirmed status amongst the ‘new’ era.

THANDAMAMBA Named for Sgt Aaron Nkuna who served as a field ranger in the KNP for 37 years. Thandamamba is the Zulu word for “the one who is fond of the black mamba snake” or “the black mamba snake lover”.

printing sponsored by SANPArks Ecosystems are dynamic and complex, meaning that although they usually only have a few main drivers, these interact continually to give different outcomes that are difficult to predict.


rangers’ diary

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Digest of rangers’ diaries August 1941 Kruger National Park Section one

On the 4th Ranger went to the gate to see Badenhorst who was laid up with flu, and dosed him with the usual medicine. Ranger paid gangs and field rangers on the 7th and went to see Badenhorst again, who got up a little while that day and whose wife was attending to the issuing of permits, etc. Ranger sent field ranger George out on the 10th to investigate the origin of a grass fire. Field ranger thought the fire had been started by a cigarette from some tourist. Feeling better from an attack of fever, Ranger went to Skukuza on the 14th. Tourist reported a TK car for going off the road and chasing lions off a hill. Ranger went to spot to investigate and found the report correct. On the 15th Ranger took Mr van Graan to the Barberton Hospital. Mahlabantu picket brought three prisoners for hunting with dogs in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on the 19th and on the 20th they were sent to Skukuza for trial. On the 29th Ranger’s lorry returned from Skukuza and he sent the lorry back. As the speedometer was not working he could not keep note of mileage. He also saw a big fire at Nyongans and found that it was one of the hedges caught alight. On the 30th Ranger patrolled on horse-back. Grazing round Pretoriuskop was better this year in August than it ever was and consequently game was plentiful. Ranger met the Minister of Justice in the camp that morning.

Section two

On the 4th and 5th Ranger patrolled upper Crocodile River area. Farmers in Boulders district reported improvement in hippo position and few of these animals then caused damage to crops. Ranger went to Komatipoort on the 7th to see the SA Police about reports of poaching in the Crocodile River valley near Hectorspruit and set special patrol of field rangers to watch that area. On the 8th Ranger patrolled Lower Crocodile River area. No sign of poaching in the Park, but field rangers reported the killing of an impala by white man near Hectorspruit, outside the Park. On the 14th the Ranger took the Board Secretary to Skukuza. Ranger again went to Lower Crocodile area where special field ranger patrol reported that a most thorough search revealed no traces of poachers having crossed the river into the Park. On receiving message from Mr J Wiid that he had destroyed a hippo in his tomato field that previous night, Ranger took a gang of men over on the 19th to collect the carcass, but found that the dead animal was lying in Mr Wiid’s land, and was therefore, his property. On the 25th Ranger went to Riverside farm on hippo work and put a field ranger with a shotgun there to drive hippo away from crops at night. Ranger went to Luagahli picket area on the 31st. No traces of poaching in the Park.

Road patrols in the afternoon. All OK. Again revenue from tourist traffic a record for the month of August. Veld dry but game still in fair condition. A fire was accidently started (probably by tourists) on the 3rd instant on the Malelane-Skukuza road, but was put out before much veld was destroyed. A patrol road nine miles in length has been cut by prison labour along the Beamise, Hlambabadula and Mhulu Rivers, and should prove a popular road when opened to tourist traffic next season. Buffalo frequently seen here, also klipspringer. Other game animals common to section two are plentiful. Scenery fine. Lions killed an ox on Mr Wiid’s farm at Hectorspruit but he shot one lion and probably killed another by poisoning. This is the only case of lions having given trouble to farmers on the Park border for a long time. Hippo still do damage to crops at various points along Crocodile River, and two field rangers are still engaged driving them out of lands at night. One shot by farmer at Hectorspruit. Rain badly needed.

Section three

On the 3rd one hippo bull was killed fighting. Board of Trustees inspected Crocodile Bridge Camp on the 13th. On the 16th field ranger Matches brought a prisoner from the border and reported that he was fired on but succeeded in capturing one person bringing meat from Portugese East Africa (PEA) to Transvaal. On the 19th Ranger proceeded to Komatipoort and interviewed SA Police about complaint by Matches. Two more prisoners taken and also got news of the whereabouts of ring leader, known as Slem. Patrol to Lower Sabi. Warden called. Ranger patrolled Crocodile River on the 21st. No sign of poaching. Mirror stolen from Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp by tourist, car chased to Malelane, mirror recovered and case sent to Warden. On the 26th the following sentences were passed at Komatipoort: Slem five months, Sangese one month (gave evidence for crown), Vambi three months, Mansinge (female) nine pounds or three months, all including hard labour. Charge: trespass, carrying meat from PEA and firing a shot at field ranger Matches. On the 31st all quiet. Rainfall for month: 0.05 inches.

Section four

1-2 patrol western border. The hunting party is behaving well. 17-23. Hunting parties on western border have all left. They came close to border from Gowry, but never gave cause for action against them. Special constables deployed on eastern border did not detect anything noteworthy and they are well organised. Reported that game is scarce in general, but they have sighted a few buffalo on the Manzetoulon River and had a few elephant sightings, a group of five, as far south as the Munweni River. To Skukuza. 24-31. Visit western border. Road patrol – used grader on Skukuza Tshokwane road. Dr Broom of Pretoria Museum visited section. Ranger took him to Mamariwa mountain site where fossils had been found. He estimated fossils are at least 50 000 years old and were probably a collection of bones taken into a cave by an animal of some kind. The cave probably collapsed and the bones calsified. There was evidence of game movement, but not much – sable antelope, wildebeest, and zebra to the east. Ranger ascribes little game movement to the long drought.

Section five

On the 13th Ranger inspected border guard. On his return to Satara at 12:15 am, he came across four elephant cows near the Nwganetsi River bridge on the Isweni-Satara road. Ranger camped in Umbabale near boundary on the 24th , 25th and 26th.

Section six

On the 2nd field ranger Simon returned from Skukuza stating that both field rangers George and Solomon were sentenced to three months each for poaching. Ranger was constructing new deviation road and patrolled Letaba loop road on the 15th. On the 20th ranger patrolled north road. Rain: 0.04 inches. During the night of the 22nd an elephant damaged rest camp fence. On the 24th ranger repaired rest camp fence. Cleared trees from Olifants road. Elephant smashed road – danger sign near Olifants river. On the 26th Ranger proceeded to Gravelotte to investigate damage caused to car at Rubbervale by lorry TP 19706 on 23/7/1941. Cleared trees from road.

Section seven

On the 7th Ranger went to Upper Shingwedzi. The warden called in on his way to Punda Maria.

Section eight and nine

On the 1st ranger took border guards to Malonga Pan travelling across country. This pan or fountain is situated about 12 miles east of Klopperfontein. The first seven miles are very flat country. From there you strike narrow mopani belts and small pans. All pans are dry. After crossing the mopani belts you get into sandy uninteresting country which continues to within a couple of hundred yards of the fountain rising from the foot of a hill. A lot of buffalo, nyala and kudu are to be seen in this area with an odd sable, tsessebe, zebra and giraffe. The fountain is not too strong and seeps through a lot of mud for a distance of about 50 yards. Elephant are also drinking here. On the 6th ranger patrolled to Pafuri River through the hills at back of Punda Maria and was very disappointed in number of game seen. Prisoners on road work. New road passes a strong fountain but little game seen drinking from it. Mr Orpen returned having finished the Punda Maria western border. On the 7th members of the board arrived at Punda Maria. On Sunday the 10th Mr Ludorf and party arrived – Mr Ludorf had a general look round and said he was pleased with the section and number of game seen on it. Went to Shingweddzi in the afternoon – saw three elephants on the way down and a good variety of lesser game. Ranger patrolled to the Letaba River picket on the 11th and saw a few zebra, impala and kudu. Part of that area has been burnt out by fires started outside the park. On the 12th ranger went to Pukwane, saw no game at all. A large area of grass burnt out. Fire started in Trust lands adjoining the park. Ranger went to Malonga on the 14th and then on to Makuleke. If brush is to be cut to fence the Makuleke location lands it will mean the cutting out of all bush in the near vicinity. Ranger also went to rest camp and called at field ranger post. When patrolling to lower Bubupe on the 18th, ranger saw very little game – two lots of seven and one single sable, three lots of two, four and eight tsessebe, one lot of kudu, six troops of zebra. Parts of that area were burnt out but a lot of grazing still remains. On a visit to Malonga on the 28th ranger saw few head of game

people in conservation

A dream come true Dr Katy Johnson Dead man’s curve, treetop flying and one of the highest rates of aviation accidents in South Africa, can this really be anyone’s dream job? For a small group of highly specialised, nature loving helicopter pilots that is exactly what it is. For them, working as one of South Africa’s game capture pilots is ‘a dream come true’. “Being a SANParks pilot is more than just a job, it’s a passion. You have to love your work, because even when you leave the hangar at night you’re never off duty. There can always be an emergency call, poachers in the park or an accident, you just never know”, explains SANParks chief pilot Grant Knight. Alongside Charles Thompson, they are responsible for servicing all the helicopter pilot needs of South Africa’s 22 national parks. A formidable undertaking. “There is never a typical week for a helicopter pilot in South African National Parks, every week, every day heralds new challenges. That’s why I love this job”, explains Grant, “but there are various components that remain the same, for instance anti-poaching/law enforcement, game c a p t u re, a e r i a l census, emergency call outs. Another aspect of the job is the variety of national parks we work in. Last week I got to see five of South Africa’s 22 national parks. Something most South Africans might take a lifetime rather than a week doing. I am very privileged; I have an amazing job. “I had to conduct a census in Mountain Zebra National Park on Monday and Tuesday. So I left Skukuza early on Monday morning, picked up fuel at Golden Gate National Park before heading on to Bloemfontein Airport and then to Mountain Zebra National Park. The census we were undertaking was a full wildlife census, which meant we

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Gemsbok mass capture in Mountain Zebra National Park

needed to count everything. Census flying, whether it is full counts or counting a particular animal, for instance the rhino censuses we conducted in Kruger recently, takes precision flying. The census has to be repeatable to reduce bias, so we have set routes, speeds, and height above ground level. These vary depending on where we are flying. So for Mountain Zebra, we use the boundary fence and produce a map, where the coordinates can be fed into our GPS. Then we follow the GPS to the dot, ensuring we stay on the correct transect lines. The speed we fly at also varies. It is very dependant on the vegetation cover of the survey area, so in the Karoo National Park where it is relatively flat and sparse we can fly faster than we would in Addo where the vegetation is more dense and difficult to observe the wildlife. For the majority of the surveys we fly about 150ft from the ground, flying so low you have to be particularly careful. “On Tuesday we also assisted with a cheetah collaring and that required some intense flying and goes to show that you can never predict what

animals will do. Due to the terrain the helicopter had no space to land so Dave the vet had to climb out as I hovered, one skid on a rock, balancing precariously while he lifted the now sleeping cheetah into the helicopter. This kind of flying you can’t learn from books or courses, 99 percent of the flying we do you have to learn on the job. There just isn’t any other way. There is a horrific

statistic that over 50 percent of the aviation helicopter accidents that occur in South Africa are as a result of game capture. It’s because to catch game you have to fly low. You are either herding the animals into the boma, or need to get close enough so that a vet can dart an individual animal and then you need to herd it to the awaiting ground team. Dead man’s curve Flying that low means you enter what’s called ‘the dead man’s curve’. It is dictated by the height you’re flying and the speed you’re travelling. Below a certain height and under a certain speed means you fall within the curve. Falling within the dead man’s curve means that if your engine does fail it will be virtually impossible to start an autorotation, the only action left which might save your life. Autorotation is when the rotor blades start to rotate due to the wind from the helicopter falling vertically after the engines failed. As you come closer to the ground, you then start pulling the helicopter’s nose up by pulling back on the cyclic. This action is called flaring and reduces the rate of descent and forward ground speed so that you can land safely, but, it is all about timing. If you start flaring too soon there is a chance you could stop the blades from autorotating too soon and then you would start dropping again - the consequences of this are likely to be fatal. Likewise if you leave it too long to flare, then you will also impact the ground too hard and the likelihood of surviving uninjured isn’t great. So it is all about timing, and autorotation is something all pilots need to know about. However as game capture pilots we are often flying too low and too slow to be able to set up a stable autorotation, so it’s called flying in the ‘Dead Man’s Curve’. “Most of the flying we do falls in the dead man’s curve, as a game capture pilot we have to rely on our own abilities and our machine. Our helicopters are continually being checked by Teboho Ntabe, our helicopter engineer, he is always on hand maintaining the helicopters. There is just is no room for error doing the job we do.


A cold morning in Mountain Zebra National Park

Conservation and flying “On Wednesday we left Mountain Zebra for Addo to help scientists with an elephant research project. It is always great for us to be involved with scientific research, because when I first started in the Kruger Park it wasn’t as a helicopter pilot, it was as a conservation student. My two passions have always been conservation and flying, when I was at school I never realised you could combine them so I went for conservation. Only when I came to Kruger for my practical year when I was studying nature conservation, did I realise being a SANParks helicopter pilot would enable me to combine my dreams and here I am – living the dream! I get to fly and because of my flying I get to play a role in many conservation projects. Game capture flying also requires the pilot to start understanding animal behaviour, predicting what it will do next. There have, however, been some moments where living the dream has got my heart pumping and not for the right reasons. I think complacency is a common mistake made by all pilots. You get so used to being up in the air, flying regularly, performing operations, flying within the dead man’s curve, game captures and going on law enforcement expeditions. Then every now and then, something happens, and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. When that happens, it is like a wake up call and I think it is something you need – just not that often! Luckily the elephant research went well and wakeup calls weren’t needed as everything went to plan. “This was very different to my first ever game capture operation. That I will never forget. Many years ago I was catching gemsbok in the private capture industry, so I took off from the boma and started looking for a suitable herd. I flew for a while before seeing the herd I wanted, but now came the sickening thought ‘where is the boma?’ The game capture guys build that thing so you can’t see it and guess what, I couldn’t see it! I had been so focused on finding the gemsbok. So I had to fly back, find the boma before setting out again. This time I found the herd and I knew where the boma was, but I went in too hard. My desperation to get the gemsbok into the boma as quickly as possible meant I pushed the herd too quickly and rather than

Printing sponsored by SANPArks To conserve for biodiversity we need to manage for patchiness and change. We cannot aim to achieve specific and unchanging ecosystem conditions, but only to encourage variation and process.

25 gemsbok clustered in a nice herd, they were now scattered over about a kilometre. But, that’s how you learn. The second group I went after, I went in slowly, herding them gently until just before the boma mouth where I pushed harder to make them gather speed and run straight into the boma with out realising they were trapped. “ Fr i d ay i t w a s q u i c k l y t o Camdeboo to help with another wildlife census. When it comes to census, I love doing them, especially the annual buffalo and elephant censuses in Kruger. However, by the middle of the third week you don’t want to see another elephant very soon! You find yourself driving past a herd of buffalo or elephant and automatically counting them. After completing the Camdeboo census it was back to Addo to inspect the infrastructure on Bird Island. Being a SANParks pilot isn’t all about game capture. In fact, especially in Kruger, we play a big role in law enforcement and anti-poaching operations. The helicopter gives the anti-poaching team another dimension or tool in their fight against environmental crime. The biggest benefit of the helicopter is that it buys time for the guys on the ground. Kruger is enormous and a lot of it is inaccessible from the ground. So we can act as their eyes in the air, transporting people, helping to coordinate searches, as well as covering much greater distances in a shorter time period. After any of these operations, especially the successful ones, there is always a heightened sense of worth. Although all the work we do, in all the parks, is of equal importance. You can’t help but smile when you’ve aided in the capture of a poacher or helped in a medical emergency. “It was an awesome week last week, full of many great memories and experiences, but after a week away, it was time to head home, back to the base in Skukuza, friends and family. Servicing all the National Parks is a bit of a double edged sword. Although you get to work in some of the most incredible places in South Africa, it does mean stints away from home for two/ three weeks at a time. Both Charles (the other pilot) and myself have understanding wives. But, it’s part of the job and there is no job I would rather do. I am so incredibly lucky, I am living the dream and my job is my passion – what more could you want?”


people and parks

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Mphongolo Backpack trail

Explore Kruger’s northern wilderness areas Following the success of the Olifants backpack trail, the Kruger National Park (KNP) has now also introduced the Mphongolo Backpack Trail which starts from Shingwedzi Camp and is conducted in the large wilderness area between the Shingwedzi and Mphongolo Rivers. Two experienced trails rangers lead a maximum of eight guests into the wilderness area where guests can set up camp as and when the trail leader decides. There is no set route for the fourday, three-night experience. “Guests are expected to provide their own camping equipment and food for the duration of the trail. There are no overnight huts on this trail. As the safety of hikers is of major importance, all participants have to bring tents and sleep in them every night while they are walking the trail. Participants are responsible for setting up their own tents and for cooking their own food. No rubbish bins or toilets are provided at any of the overnight stops and the trail operates on a strictly “take it in, take it out” basis and strictly adheres to a “no trace camping” ethic. We only use biodegradable products – soaps and detergents – on the trail,” says Andrew Desmet, Kruger’s activities manager. Around the Bububu River

“That morning we climbed one of the hills and explored the stone walls/ ruins, where we found some pot shards and bone fragments from an old ash heap.”

Below is an excerpt from Andrew’s report about a trail that took place from May 9 to 12, 2010. With him were fellow trails ranger, Julie Wolhuter, and eight guests from Cape Town. “We were dropped off at the intersection of the middle firebreak and Bububu River from where we walked to Phonda Hills where we spent our first night. We walked through some stunning areas consisting of large sodic open areas with beautiful pans. Most of the pans were still full of water. One of these was quite large and had a huge nyala tree growing at its edge and we watched a large troop of baboons feeding off the nyala tree berries and mopane tree pods. “We saw a fair amount of general game on the first day, including a small herd of wildebeest and our trek was accompanied by the constant chirping of armoured ground crickets. We also picked up some vehicle tracks at the first large sodic area that we came across, and two sets of field ranger boot tracks heading east.

“The reservoir at Phonda Hills windmill was almost empty and there was not much water coming out of the tap at the windmill itself. We managed to get water and had a wash at one of the large pools in the river. That evening we heard lion, hyena, Mozambique and fiery necked nightjars, giant eagle/ scops/ pearl spotted owls and were woken up by the various francolins as dawn broke. “That morning we climbed one of the hills and explored the stone walls/ ruins, where we found some pot shards and bone fragments from an old ash heap. We continued heading east following the Bububu River and came across some dagga boys (old buffalo bulls) lying in a pan at one of the many large sodic areas and saw lots of general game - impala, warthog, zebra, giraffe.

Siesta Time “We had a siesta in the shade of a large jackalberry in the sandy river bed after collecting water from a very muddy little pan. Incidentally, we did not find any more pools in the actual river bed of the Bububu east of Phonda hills until its mouth but found plenty of pans that had water in them. “That afternoon we continued for another two kilometres before setting up camp on the edge of a large sodic area with a couple of large fever trees as company. Again we had to collect water from a muddy pan which had recently been visited by a large herd of elephants – lovely chocolatecoloured water that our friends from Cape Town were not that used to drinking after always drinking out of crystal clear mountain springs. But the water, despite its appearance, turned out fine and no one had any ill effects – we did use chlorine tablets. We had two water purification pumps with us but these did not work well in the muddy water as they clogged up very quickly and therefore were not practical to use - perhaps if we added a flocculent to the water first they would have worked better. That night was a little quieter than the previous night except for a couple of hyena that were whooping close to camp – we had clear and dark night sky which was excellent for star gazing. “The following morning, as Julie was diligently cleaning up

the fireplace she heard a grunting noise from the west and we soon confirmed that there was a large herd of buffalo in that direction. We got the group together and quickly set off to investigate and found the tail end of the herd enjoying themselves at one of the pans. We watched them for a while and bumped into a few more stragglers before returning to camp to continue our packing. We followed the Bububu as it wound its way eastward and again found a fair amount of general game, including an ostrich, a small herd of wildebeest, one vervet monkey and a troop of baboons and a few buffalo bulls. “We visited Shipandi windmill and found the reservoir dry and also noted how the vegetation was changing as we entered the basalts. We had siesta in the river bed under the shade of a large sycamore fig and close to a large pan, surrounded by big trees including a beautiful nyala tree. The pan had relatively “clean” water in it. We had a good sleep, managed to use the pumps to good effect to get crystal clear water and most of us had a bath close to the pan out of the buckets. “We continued for another three to four kilometres that afternoon heading east along the Bububu and walked along some very big sodic open areas with pans. We came across a large dagga boy resting in the middle of one of the pans, but who could not easily see us because of the setting sun which was directly behind our backs and therefore we got a good look at him. sightings “We decided to continue a little further before setting up camp and had hit some thick mopane woodland with tall grass, which we were planning to walk through with the idea of camping at the next open area that we came across. We had walked for about 20 minutes into this relatively thick bush when rather unexpectedly we spotted an elephant calf who was totally oblivious to us and feeding about 15m away from us with his mom not far from his side. “We slowly backed off and soon realised that we had walked into the midst of an elephant breeding herd. There were some tense moments but we managed to get out of there without the elephants ever realising how close we were and then backtracked continued on page 15

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people and parks

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Mphongolo Backpack trail


We got the group together and quickly set off to investigate and found the tail end of the herd enjoying themselves at one of the pans. We watched them for a while and bumped into a few more stragglers before returning to camp to continue our packing. continued from page 14 through this thick bush back to an open area close to where we saw the buffalo bull. “On the way back we sighted a nyala ewe and I almost stood on a puff adder who hissed at me in the tall grass. It was basically dark by the time we got to this site but everyone was in good spirits. That night we heard the usual night sounds – lion and hyena. “On the final morning the weather had changed slightly as it had been very hot on the first few days but now it was cool. There was a breeze and it was a little overcast. The last five kilometres to the pickup point at the Bububu mouth (its confluence with the Shingwedzi) was quiet in terms of animal sightings, except for a chameleon which we almost stood on and impala, although stunningly beautiful.”

We asked guests, Andy Wright and Lisa Mulligan for their impressions Andy Wright We did not know what to expect as I had never walked amongst wild animals before. On the drive out to the start with our rucksacks packed and ready to go we encountered a big bull elephant super-charged on testosterone, which gave us a bit of a scare and set the tone for the adventure. First off we were given a detailed instruction on the rules of walking in the bush (ie, no talking while walking, that is hard for the girls) and emergency procedure should any beast get too friendly. The walking was over relatively flat ground meandering along the river. The evening colours setting up tents at camp were beautiful. Gathering around a small fire and

learning about the stars later was very interesting and because there is no light pollution you felt you could almost touch them. The alarm clock was the pheasants at first light of dawn, a quick coffee and then a walk-about sans rucksacks in search of game in the early morning coolness was great fun. Watched a herd of buffalo enjoying an early morning drink quite unaware of us. Back to camp, pack up and head off for a breakfast and tea at around 09h00. Walk on till around 11h00 and a midday siesta, long slow lunch, more teas, and then head on around 14h00 hours to the next camp. En route our rangers stopped and showed us animal spoor and fielded all manner of questions from ourselves about the flora and fauna. We gathered our water from pans which to our trepidation looked very silty but no illness befell any of our group. We did boil the water or alternately added a chlorine tablet and had a good wash after water collection every night. The three nights in the veld passed far too quickly and greeted by a ranger with the collection vehicle, a huge smile and a bulging cooler box of beers and cooldrinks gave us a fitting end to the trail. We will be back next year.

when we climbed up one of the Pondo Hills where we found evidence that people had lived and built stone-walls to keep their animals in many years ago. Andrew chose our camp sites, which were generally in an open flat area and we also had to put up our tents in a row. At night a fire was lit for camaraderie or to let the animals know we were there, as no one had to sit guard like on trails in the Umfolozi. The following morning the guide carefully removed all evidence of the ash and made sure that absolutely nothing was left behind. For some of our friends having to drink water from one of the pans in which animals had possibly swum was something they didn’t really want to do, but with 33 degrees heat one had to drink even though the water looked like chocolate without the milk. It would have been perfect if we had a flocculant to separate out the solids as I had brought along an MSR water filter, but it struggled with the silt. However the water was perfectly clean and great tasting once filtered, although it took great effort. The best part of the hike was being close to the earth, smelling the

plants, and even animals that left a strong smell, as well as looking up in awe at the majestic Nyala and Sycamore fig trees, and resting up in the dry river beds in the heat of the day. One has a better understanding of why the animals do the same. It was really great to be quiet while walking as one could truly experience the sights, sounds and smells of the veld. There was no noise from vehicles, not even aircraft and I felt like I was experiencing wilderness as it should be. photos: Andrew Desmet

Lisa Mulligan The best part about the Mphongolo trail is that it doesn’t follow any set route, it was up to Andrew to decide where he would like to take us. It seems that they have eight wilderness areas, which make up what is called the Mphongolo trail. They choose a different area each time. You feel as if you are the first person to walk here as there are no signs of anyone having been there recently, no campsite etc. Except

Printing sponsored by SANPArks To conserve for biodiversity we need to manage for patchiness and change. We cannot aim to achieve specific and unchanging ecosystem conditions, but only to encourage variation and process.


• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

kids and conservation

Young neighbours discover Kruger treasures What better way to celebrate world environment day than through first hand exploration of earth’s treasures in the Kruger National Park (KNP)? Pupils and teachers from Mthayiza Primary from the Nsikazi circuit close to Numbi Gate joined nine other schools which were on the annual Kids in Parks programme in the KNP. “The Kids in Parks programme aims to promote a conservation ethic in the youth by responding to environmental issues, through environmental education. This is done within the framework of outcomes-based education and the school curriculum and is supported by curriculum materials developed by Delta,” says Kirsty Redman, interpretive officer, Nxanatseni region of Kruger and one of the programme coordinators. This year 497 learners and 20 educators from 10 schools based in communities close to the Park attended, with each school staying three days and two nights in Skukuza. The activities kicked off with a teacher s’ workshop facilitated by Martha van Zyl of the Mpumalanga department of education. “Educators from the selected schools were put through their paces in the new curriculum and were exposed to the type of learning that their students could expect in the programme,” says Kirsty. The programme, largely activitybased, aims to expose the learners to the Kruger National Park - an opportunity that would otherwise not be available to them.

Adopting the world environment day theme of “Many Species. One Planet. One Future” the programme focused on activities that were directly linked to plant biodiversity conservation and included a visit to the Skukuza nursery including the seed bank; a talk on the importance of indigenous flora; a tour of the wetland at the nursery; a lecture on how to plant indigenous plants at your home; a visit to the alien biota research centre; a presentation on how to identify alien biota and the dangers of alien vegetation to an ecosystem and how to remove alien biota and the removal of alien biota in your community. ‘Kids in Parks’ was launched in Kruger in 2007, a joint initiative between Pick ‘n Pay, SANParks and the departments of education and environmental affairs. It is a fully sponsored programme. Learners and educators benefit from meals and transport provided by Pick ‘n Pay for the duration and accommodation and the educational programme provided by the People and Conservation department. Each learner also receives a ‘goodie bag’ which can be taken home, containing a T-shirt, cap, and waterbottle. Schools that participated this year include Mahlathi Primary (Eglington), Ndabeni Primary (Tintswalo Village), Eckson Primary (Buffelshoek), Hluvukani Primary (Xanthia), Songeni Primar y (Mbumba), Phumalanga Primary (Matsulu), Letsakuthula (Matsulu), Magcekeni Primary (Mzinti), Rhandzekile Primary (Lillydale) and Mthayiza Primary (Nsikazi). photos: Kirsty Redman

global conservation

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Many species, one planet, one future photo: Dr Katy Johnson

This year, World Environment Day, which is celebrated on June 5 every year, focused on ‘Many Species. One Planet. One Future.’ This theme supports the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, a global campaign designed to encourage worldwide action to safeguard biodiversity, the intricate network of life. Biodiversity loss affects ecosystem functioning, which affects not only wildlife, but also human well-being. At least 34 000 plant and 5 200 animal species face extinction today and this will increase dramatically if current trends continue. In the less than 400 years following the industrial revolution at least 484 animal and 654 plant species have gone extinct. This is primarily as a result of human activities. There are five main and ongoing pressures preventing a meaningful reduction in rate of biodiversity loss: habitat loss and degradation; climate change; excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution; over-exploitation and unsustainable use; and invasive alien species.  Urgent action is required to slow the escalating rate of biodiversity loss, and every individual is part of the solution. What you can do to make conservation part of your day, everyday:   Stop using pesticides and other chemicals, or switch to natural alternatives. Why not try living with the ants and beetles? In this way you allow natural symbiotic relationships to develop, and allow nature to take care of your garden. In South Africa, oxpeckers have become locally extinct in some areas due to environmentally harmful wildlife and livestock dips. Oxpeckers feed on the ticks that in turn feed on the dipped animals,

so causing oxpecker mortalities. By simply using environmentally responsible dips, farmers allow oxpeckers to help rid their animals of these parasites. Participate in the EWT’s saddle-billed stork photographic census. The last saddle-billed stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis survey conducted in the Kruger National Park in 1993 suggested that there were less than 60 of these birds left in the Park. The species is classified as endangered in South Africa. If you see one of these birds, please photograph both sides of its face and bill and record the date, time, location, name of nearby water source, bird’s gender, juveniles present and any other notes that might be relevant. Please send all sighting details and photographs to Report colour-marked raptors and cranes. The EWT’s Sasol Vulture Monitoring Project implements wing-tagging as a colour-marking method for vultures. To date, more than 1 600 vultures have been tagged, and over 4 100 re-sightings have been recorded. These data have revealed the extent to which vultures travel and this has fundamentally altered our approach to vulture conservation, resulting in our inclusion of the entire southern African subregion in our activities. Similarly, cranes are fitted with a unique colour combination of leg rings, visible from a distance to allow conservationists to monitor movements of individual birds and gather important information on their breeding and longevity. Please report ringed crane sightings to crane@ewt. and tagged vulture sightings to Report wildlife-power line mortalities. Common wildlife interactions with power lines include

electrocutions and collisions. Large terrestrial and water dependent bird species are prone to collisions with overhead electrical cables. The physical impact with the line results in the bird being injured (i.e. broken leg or wing) or killed. Because of their large wingspans, eagles and vultures are particularly vulnerable to electrocution when they perch or roost on electrical infrastructure. Other animals affected by electrocution include primates, genets and meerkats Suricata suricatt. Please contact the Eskom-EWT Strategic Partnership (core project of the EWT-Wildlife and Energy Programme) on 0860 111 535 or to report birds or animal mortalities related to power lines.

Report wildlife poisoning incidents. Poisoning affects many species and is currently one of the leading causes of raptor deaths in South Africa. An increasing threat to vultures is their illegal harvesting for use in the muti trade, and poisoning is commonly used to kill these birds. What’s more, people who eat poisoned wildlife are at risk of being poisoned themselves. Help the EWT put a stop to this practice by reporting wildlife poisoning incidents on our Wildlife Poisoning Report Line: 011 486 1102. Pick up litter. While the aesthetic pollution that litter creates is obvious, few people realise that littered cigarette butts leach dangerous toxins into the ground and our water resources or start potentially life threatening fires, or that decomposing food can breed bacterial diseases in dams, which in turn kills wildlife. For example, African grass owls Tyto capensis, a species classified as vulnerable in South Africa, nest on the ground amongst tall grass during winter. In a natural ecosystem, fires would only be possible in the spring,

when storms bring lightning that can burn the very dry grass. At this time the owl chicks have already fledged. Unnatural fires caused by littered cigarettes or pieces of glass can kill nestlings. Diminishing grass owl populations mean that their rodent prey species reproduce to numbers that are unhealthy for the ecosystem, and could become a health risk for humans. Make the right choices in your daily life. Consumers have enormous power and can change environmentally destructive development by not supporting mass consumerism and overuse. Register as an interested and affected party to have your say regarding developments in your area.   World Environment Day was established to create global awareness on the importance of the environment and to stimulate political attention and action for a healthy planet. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Spotted any large birds in Kruger? If you have seen birds such as the kori bustard, large raptors, vultures, saddle-billed storks and the southern ground hornbill contact Scott Ronaldson of the Endangered Wildlife Trust on 0827818783 or email: Detailed information about the location of the sighting or GPS coordinates will be appreciated.


kids and conservation

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Backsides best sides? Marike Bekker After a hard day’s game viewing in the Kruger Park we often complain that we saw ‘nothing’. Just a few animals disappearing into the thickets. Maybe we should not lose interest too soon if an animal turns its back and walks away, because the backside of an animal plays a vital role in its survival strategies. A waterbuck’s behind is one of the most recognised in nature. Legend explains the white markings in many

ways but there are other ecological explanations. Herd animals, such as impala, also use their hindquarters as the beacon of herd recognition. Distinct markings simplify following one another. Walking in line provides protection from the front as well as from the tail end of the herd. Young warthogs running through long grass have no difficulty following the white tuft of their parents’ tails - away from danger or straight to new grazing or fresh water.

The tails of some species are indicators of their reaction to their immediate environment. Feeding hyena have droopy tails; but their tails shoot up when danger looms or if they give chase. A folded-in tail, tucked away under the belly, shows submission. A cheetah with a flicking tail means business. It indicates that it is preparing for attack. There are also of course the obvious uses for tails such as being a handy fly swat for herbivores, or a

sturdy handle for primates to control the young ones. But not just tails, all of the hindquarter is equally important. A crocodile uses its tail to swim, as a support system, or as a weapon that strikes sideways. With deadly precision the jaws strike sideways to the one side and the tail to the other side. So… next time, when an animal walks away from you, don’t drive off believing that you have ‘seen nothing’. Do take a second look - it might prove to be very interesting.

photos: Pieter Strauss

Did you know? • Giraffes, Giraffa camelopardalis, are the tallest land animals on earth thanks in part to their distinctive necks which alone can reach almost two meters in height. • A male giraffe can weigh as much as a pick up truck! That’s about 1400 kilograms. • Although a giraffe’s neck is 1.5 – 1.8 metres, it contains the same number of vertebrae as a human neck. • A giraffe’s habitat is usually found in African savannas, grasslands or open woodlands. • The hair that makes up a giraffes tail is about 10 times thicker than the average strand of human hair. • The distinctive spots that cover a giraffe’s fur act as a good camouflage to protect the giraffe from predators. When the giraffe stands in front of trees and bushes the light and dark colouring of its fur blends in with the shadows and sunlight. • It is possible to identify the sex of the giraffe from the horns on its

• • •

• • •

head. Both males and females have horns but the females are smaller and covered with hair at the top. Giraffes are ruminants. This means that they have more than one stomach. In fact, giraffes have four stomachs, the extra stomachs assisting with digesting food. Drinking is one of the most dangerous times for a giraffe. While it is getting a drink it cannot keep a look out for predators and is vulnerable to attack. Male giraffes sometimes fight with their necks over female giraffes. This is called “necking”. The two giraffes stand side by side and one giraffe swings his head and neck, hitting his head against the other giraffe. Sometimes one giraffe is hit to the ground during a combat. A female giraffe gives birth while standing up. The calf drops approximately six feet to the ground, but it is not hurt from the fall. Giraffes have bluish-purple tongues which are tough and covered in bristly hair to help them with eating the thorny Acacia trees. (

conservation concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Krazies in Kruger ...... Claim to Shame

Do not feed the animals

This guy was out of is car at a lion sighting near Pretorius camp at 07h40. He had a very bad attitude. Please introduce stronger laws to reduce the possibilitiy of an accident that can give bad publicity to our tourist industry Mario, Sunday, March 21, 2010

It is illegal to feed animals in the Kruger National Park, an offense that could lead to a spot fine of R1 500. The law also prohibits the removal of any plants or animals, as well as spoiling the enjoyment of other visitors. Protection services staff and park rangers will enforce these laws. Transgression can result in a maximum spot fine of up to R3 500. More detail about these rules and regulations can be found on the entrance permits. Did you know? • Visitors must remain in their vehicles unless in a designated area. • Remember that no part of the body may protrude from a window or sunroof or any other part of the vehicle. Vehicle doors should be closed at all times. • Stick to the speed limit. All general rules of the road apply within the national parks. The speed limit is 50 km/h on tar roads and 40 km/h on gravel roads. • Gate times must be strictly adhered to and late-comers may be subject to a fine. • You are not allowed to drive “off-road” or on roads with a “no entry” sign. • Overnight visitors are only allowed to stay at a booked and recognised overnight facility and must report to reception before occupying accommodation or camping. • All accommodation and camping sites may be occupied from 12h00 on the day of arrival and must be vacated by 09h00 am on the day of departure. • Vehicles of a carrying capacity exceeding 4 000 kg, buses or any vehicles with more than 25 seats, are restricted to the tar roads. • A stringent noise restriction is enforced between 21h30 and 06h00. The use of cell phones is permitted only in camps, gates and in cases of emergency. • The use of roller skates, skateboards, bicycles and motorbikes is prohibited. • All firearms must be reported at the gates for safe keeping • Starting a fire is prohibited. • Smoking at unmarked places is an offense. • Hunting or disturbing the animals is not allowed • Carrying and using firearms or any other means which can be used for hunting (e.g. bows and arrows, traps, hunting nets,) is not allowed • No fishing without a special permit. • No entering the forests during night. • No commercial activities without the requisite permit. This includes filming and photography for commercial purposes, conducting events inside a national park, etc.

Find out more at The printing of this issue was sponsored by SANParks, Kruger National PArk, Communications department

Kruger Park Times Distribution You will find a copy of the Kruger Park Times in all the camps at reception, and the shops in the Park, as well as at • Afsaal • Tshokwane • Nkhuhlu picnic spots and all the entrance gates to the Park It is also available at selected outlets in Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, White River, Malelane and Hazyview The Kruger Park Times is an independent newpspaper, published by Kruger Park Times, PO Box 953, Phalaborwa, 1390 e-mail: * Editorial and Layout: Lynette Strauss Advertising Design: Janke Strauss 079 807 3479 contributor: Katy Johnson Sub-editing: Melissa Wray MARKETING: Pieter Strauss 076 296 2490 Printer: Caxton Printers, Nelspruit. 7 000 copies distributed in and around the Kruger National Park. Member of the AIP.

Spotted a vulture with a yellow tag? Contact Andre Botha from the Endangered Wildlife Trust on 011 646 4629 or email Alternatively, contact Moholoholo at 015 795 5236

Big Tuskers Info Send your photos to: or mail Emerging Tuskers Competition, Letaba Elephant Hall, Kruger National Park, Private Bag X402, Skukuza 1350

20 • kruger park times • june/july 2010

conservation concerns

promotion * promotion * promotion *

Whale watching For most of the winter and up to the first few weeks in December, thousands of visitors flock to the Kwazulu Natal north coast, also known as the Elephant Coast, to watch the Humpback Whales. The whales migrate along this coast on their way to the waters of Mozambique and Madagascar where they breed before returning to the Antarctic. Humpback whales are known for their elaborate and poignant songs that could last for up to half an hour. Danie Bennett, owner of Advantage Cruiser CC, is a permitted boat based whalewatching operator, based in St Lucia. For the last 10 years, the ADVANTAGE team have brought countless visitors within 50 meters of these 40-ton giants as they heave their huge bodies clear out of the water and finish the display with an unforgettable tail slapping as a royal farewell. The qualified Advantage staff ’s accurate interpretation of the whale’s behavior and his ability to identify whale species are widely recognized. In 2008, Marine and Coastal Management, the regulatory body for permitted boat based whale watching in South Africa, invited Danie to join their scientific team on a project to monitor the migration of the Humpback Whale.

Recent surveys have shown that the Southern Humpback and southern right whales have had significant population recoveries since whaling had been stopped. While on the water, visitors may also spot Bryde whales, sperm whales and Minky whales, as well as a variety of sharks and the sea turtle (closer to their breeding season). In the off-season, Danie refines his other passion – boat building, which saw the company launch a 100-seat vessel in May this year. This boat, as well as the other four in the Advantage fleet, was designed and built by Danie and his crew. “As soon as he has an idea in mind, he coordinates with a trusted architect in Durban and starts building the vessel, under the auspices of SAMSA,” says Riette Bennett, co-owner. The latest addition, the Whale Observer, has been permitted to operate from the Durban harbor and will complement the other tours, which operate from St Lucia. “The whale watching industry in St Lucia is limited because the boats have to do a surf launch. With the new boat operating from Durban harbor bigger groups can now be accommodated,” says Riette.

Southern Humpback Whales: Did you know? • • • • • •

• •

The bond between mother and calf is strong. Calves mostly stay eyeball to eyeball or within pectoral fin distance of mother during the first year. Adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Females typically breed every two or three years. The gestation period is 11.5 months, yet some individuals have been known to breed in two consecutive years. Both male and female humpback whales vocalize, however only males produce the long, loud, complex “songs” for which the species is famous. Each song consists of several sounds in a low register that vary in amplitude and frequency, and typically lasts from 10 to 20 minutes. Humpbacks may sing continuously for more than 24 hours. Cetaceans have no vocal cords, so whales generate their song by forcing air through their massive nasal cavities. Whales within a large area sing the same song Sources: wikipedia and

the Kruger emergency call centre number is: 013 735 4325 Seen a saddlebilled stork in Kruger lately? The last saddle-billed stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis survey conducted in the Kruger National Park in 1993 suggested that there were less than 60 of these birds left in the Park. If you see one of these birds, please photograph both sides of its face and bill and record the date, time, location, name of nearby water source, bird’s gender, juveniles present and any other notes that might be relevant. Please send all sighting details and photographs to

bird’s eye view

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


It doesn’t take brains to pick a World Cup winner The Cape vulture – one of Africa’s largest birds of prey - is believed to be under threat from the followers of muti magic in South Africa, who mistakenly believe smoking dried vulture brains will confer supernatu-

ral powers upon gamblers enabling them to predict match results from the forthcoming football World Cup. Betting on the outcome of World Cup games will be big business and conservationists believe supersti-

tion and sorcery will be powerful attractions for gamblers desperate to increase their chances of a big win, placing even more pressure on the Cape vulture, which is already classified as facing global extinction. Mark Anderson is the executive director of BirdLife South Africa. He said: “Many vulture species across the world are in trouble. Our very own species in southern Africa is declining sharply for a number of reasons, including reduced food availability, deliberate poisoning and electrocution from electricity pylons. The harvesting of the birds’ heads by followers of muti magic is an additional threat these birds can’t endure.” T he RSPB’s Dr Chris Magin works with BirdLife South Africa. He said: “One in

every six of the world’s birds of prey are facing extinction and during the past two decades vultures have virtually vanished from west Africa, south Asia and other parts of the world.” Steve McKean, from KwaZuluNatal Wildlife, has been studying the decline of vultures related to the harvesting of birds for muti magic. He said: “Our research suggests that killing of vultures for so-called ‘traditional’ use could render the Cape vulture extinct in some parts of South Africa within half a century. In the worst case, the Cape vulture could be suffering population collapse within 12 years.” Conservationists remain concerned that most vultures are killed for muti magic using the poison Aldicarb, which is also lethal to humans. André Botha, manager of the Birds of Prey Working Group at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, said: “Vultures fulfil an important ecological role as scavengers and their absence in Africa indicates an unhealthy environment. This threat is also known to occur widely in east and west Africa and poses a threat to all species of vulture

Southern ground hornbill, African penguin, Ludwig’s bustard move closer to extinction Three of South Africa’s flagship bird species have moved closer to extinction, according to the 2010 IUCN Red List. The African penguin’s status has changed from vulnerable in the 2009 category to endangered, the Ludwig’s bustard from least concern to endangered and the southern ground Hornbill from least concern to vulnerable. Mark Anderson, BirdLife South Africa’s executive director, confirms that “the populations of all three these species which almost exclusively occur in southern Africa are rapidly declining due to a variety of human impacts”. African penguins are being severely affected by commercial fisheries and shifts in prey populations, the Ludwig’s bustard’s most significant threat is mortalities caused by collisions with power lines, and southern ground hornbill populations are threatened by habitat destruction. Major threats to the southern ground hornbill include loss of nesting habitat, mainly ascribed to land use or clearing for agriculture or by fire. It is being debated whether habitat destruction by African elephants contribute to the loss of suitable breeding sites. Concerted research effort has been ongoing at two sites in the Limpopo Province during the

past ten years, and a re- introduction programme is underway at Mabula.” It is essential to investigate the effectiveness of artificial nesting sites and to prevent further habitat loss of the southern ground hornbill”, said Smit. The bulk of the Ludwig’s bustard population is found in southern Africa. “The major threat to this species’ survival is collisions with power lines”, explained Anderson. Work done by Anderson during the early-2000s s h o w e d that every kilometre of transmission power line in the easter n Karoo kills one bustard per year. “The population cannot maintain these mortalities”,

he added. For the Ludwig’s bustard, global population estimates are outdated (around 20 years old) and in urgent need of revision. Conservation measures proposed by BirdLife South Africa’s Bustard

Working Group include obtaining an updated population estimate, measure bustard collision rates with power lines across the whole range of Karoo habitats, improve knowledge of how the species visually perceives power lines and monitor annual movements of the species. African Penguins are currently the focus of extensive conservation action, which is being conducted by a number of organizations in the western Cape and eastern Cape, and a concerted effort will be needed to lift this embattled penguin from its precipitous population decline. “BirdLife South Africa’s conservation work on the African penguin is being funded by the Charl van der Merwe Trust and Diemersfontein Wine Estate”, said Anderson. “Along the coast of Namibia and South Africa (the only current breeding sites for the species), only seven islands now support 80 percent of the global population which decreased from 141 000 pairs in 1956-1957 to an estimated 25 262 pairs today, representing a decline of 60.5 percent over three generations”, explained Dr Ross Wanless, the manager of BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Division. Photo: southern g round Hor nbill taken by Janka Strauss

on the African continent.” “Vultures are currently considered among the most threatened bird groups in Africa, with four out of 11 species globally threatened according to BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN Red List”, said Dr Julius Arinaitwe, head of BirdLife’s Africa secretariat. “It is our duty to save them”, he concluded. The RSPB and BirdLife South Africa are the country BirdLife International partners for the UK and South Africa, respectively. The RSPB began work in South Africa in 1995 and continues to support BirdLife South Africa through core support, their policy and advocacy programme and site and species conservation. South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in Africa with 841 species of birds recorded. However around 39 of these are considered threatened with global extinction and the country faces severe environmental threats including pressure as a result of rural poverty, unsustainable development and mining and climate change.

Penguins Suffer under Harsh Weather Conditions Extreme winds and cold, wet weather have taken their toll on the breeding colonies of African penguins on Addo Elephant National Park’s islands in the Eastern Cape. On June 15, Over 480 penguin chicks died on Bird Island in Algoa Bay. The chicks, aged between a few weeks old and about two months old and covered only with down feathers, succumbed to the cold, wet weather which has hit the Eastern Cape. With incidences of harsh weather, it is common for approximately one third of a penguin population’s chicks to be killed. However with only 700 breeding pairs of African penguins on Bird Island, the death of over half the populations’ chicks presents an added threat to the dwindling numbers of penguins. The African penguin has recently been reclassified as an endangered species due to its declining population across South Africa. There have also been penguin chick deaths on St. Croix Island nearby Port Elizabeth where the largest breeding colony of African penguins in South Africa – about 3 000 breeding pairs – resides.


• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

FOR SALE Set of signed/numbered Paul Bosman prints of “THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN” Price R9400.00 Call Ken 083 4612080

enviro discovery

Spotted a vulture with a yellow tag? Contact Andre Botha from the Endangered Wildlife Trust on 011 646 4629 or email za. Alternatively, contact Moholoholo at 015 795 5236

for the love of butterflies with Herbert Otto

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •


Chemical warfare

Plants vs butterflies and animals Do the plants win? Do the butterflies win? Or is it a win-win situation? Do plants ‘call’ butterflies? And what do elephants and butterflies have in common? Certain plants have the desired effect of keeping insects away, as gardeners in the know use a mixture of chillies and garlic as a spray-on insect repellent, telling these ‘pests’ or ‘goggos’ to bug- off. Some plants even use chemicals to ‘communicate’ with each other. During the mid ‘80s a study was done on kudu by Professor Wouter van Hoven. In the study area there were more kudu than the veld could support and several kudu were later found dead. A subsequent post mortem revealed saturated stomachs, yet the animals had died of starvation. How was this possible? When a certain plant is browsed on, it emits chemicals that permeate the air, warning surrounding plants that a browsing kudu is present. The ‘warned’ plants immediately raise

their tannin levels. The hook thorn, Acacia caffra, raises its tannin levels in the leaves by up to 94 percent in only 15 minutes! This tannin level increases to a remarkable 282 percent after an hour. Tannin makes the leaves bitter and also unpalatable. The tannin complicates the digestion of the leaf material to such an extent that it has a negative influence on the fermentation in the rumen and the animals starve, even though they have ingested sufficient foliage. Now the kudu browse very little on a single plant and tend to move on before the tannin level increases too much, unless the kudu are confined. Is this chemical warfare? Perhaps only a polite warning. Strangely, browsing by elephant has the exact opposite effect; plants’ tannin levels drop, suggesting that

the plants can distinguish between different animals feeding on them. The reason plants may ‘prefer’ elephant browsing on them, may be due to the fact that elephants only digest about 60 percent of their food. Elephant are often the catalyst for many plants’ seeds to begin their sprouting process. Once the seeds have passed though the intestines of an elephant they are stimulated to germinate. Some butterflies of the family Nymphalidae are also attracted to animal urine and faeces. The current understanding is that these butterflies are supplementing necessary minerals and salts by sipping at the faeces. It has been found that a pheromone found in female Indian elephant urine is very similar to a butterfly pheromone. This pheromone is the

fifth most used pheromone in about a hundred different butterflies and moths. In fact the pheromone of a moth, Trichoplusia ni, with a similar pheromone structure to an Indian elephant approaching oestrus may be used to synthesise the elephant pheromone. Could it be that this similar and familiar smell is attracting the butterfly to the urine, reasoning it may be a female butterfly of the same species? Perhaps, once here, they forget their original intent and sip at the urine. Maybe a placebo effect. The bitterness caused by a concentration of tannins may be unpalatable for some, but very attractive to others. Vernonia plants are known for their bitterness which is infused and used to treat stomach ailments and colic, yet their flowers prove to be a big hit as a nectar Lepidodirypses glauca

Pinacopteryx eriphia eriphia

Bush charaxes

source when they are in season. Is the flower bitter too? Perhaps not, because the syringa, Melia azedarach, has toxic berries, but the flowers are well visited during spring and seem to be non-toxic – albeit only to butterflies. Certain plants like the paintbrush, Castelleja indivisa, can compartmentalise or partition their toxins to certain parts of the plant – eg the leaves and fruit, where it does not want any parasites, and have no or very little toxins in the petals or nectar. The toxicity of syringa berries also seems to vary from tree to tree and area to area. The butterfly larvae of some Lepidoschrysops species or ant-blues use pheromones or air permeating chemicals for their own means. The egg is laid on a flower and the emerging larva burrows or eats its way into the flower where it then eats the ovaries or young seeds. After moulting twice, the larva is in its third instar. At this stage the larva emits a pheromone resembling the smell of the ant brood. Camponotus ants attending the flowers then find these ‘lost souls’ and safely ‘return’ them to the nests. Once in the ant nest the butterfly larvae devour the other ant larvae. It also pupates in the nest and after eclosion - emerging from the pupa - the wet-winged adult butterfly races to the surface. The reason for racing is that it has now lost it’s ‘ant smell’ and is seen as a foreigner and perpetrator in the nest and the soldiers give chase. Nature has some amazing secrets that still astound man, and if we all learn something new, we can all win.


current concerns

• kruger park times • june/july 2010 •

Hardus and Thato realise a dream Hardus Brits and Thato Segapo realised one of their dreams recently when they went on a rhino capture in the Kruger

National Park (KNP). The people and organizations that made it happen include the Reach for a Dream Foundation, SANParks, 2 Conserve, Marius Kruger of SANParks, Saab Technologies SA as well as the game capture team of SANParks and Chris Jacobs of the Honorary Rangers, ranger support services. The Reach for a Dream Foundation is an organisation that has brought hope to many young South Africans and it believes firmly in the power of dreams. Children are motivated to use their dreams to fight life-threatening and other serious and debilitating illnesses. Both boys enjoyed their experience immensely. Hardus made an artistic version of his experience while Thato sent in a heart-warming letter of thanks (translated from Afrikaans). Good day Uncle, I want to say thank you for the trouble you went to for us. I really enjoyed it a lot, but was very scared of the rhinoceros that we touched. But it

Hunters’ alert LEDET officials request hunters to make sure all permits - including transport premits for meat - are in order. There will be road blocks througout the hunting season and meat will be confiscated and fines issued if there are no permits. For more information, contact Bert Howard on 082 802 2419 or Dirk de Klerk on 082 801 0013

was still very enjoyable. It was the first time that I saw my father so happy – he was always laughing, also my uncle. The thing I enjoyed the most was the aircraft – it felt like a dream and it was really beautiful to see the animals from above, the lovely green grass and trees. The food was delicious and fresh and we drove around in the car and saw animals. I felt like a king and I am very happy, because for the first time in my life I touched a wild animal. Thank you very much. Thato

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Kruger Park Times  

Rhino poaching escalates in Kruger. It doesn't take brains to pick a 2010 Soccer World Cup Winner. Environmental Newspaper.