More Romantic Attitudes
Baobab at dusk in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
In the 1800s, game was seen as a commodity, to be exploited for commercial gain. In the early 1900s, attitudes became more romantic, thanks to the writings of various game rangers and naturalists (including James Steven Hamilton himself). The ideal of an untamed wilderness, left largely to its own devices, gained credence and the splendid isolation of the bush became an ideal to which some people aspired. This emotional response to nature grew stronger when the reserves were opened to tourism in the 1920s.
After the Sabi Game Reserve became the Kruger National Park in 1926, attitudes towards game conservation went through another metamorphosis. This time, it was the turn of enthusiastic amateurs on the National Parks Board who thought they could improve on nature, or at least give it a helping hand.
Studying the Wildlife
Black Back Jackal with feathers of a guinea fowl in its mouth.
Their often ill-informed but well-intentioned ideas drove the warden crazy. These included: the introduction of alien animal species, such as the lechwe, springbok and blesbok, to make the wildlife more interesting; the importation of fruits and grasses from Kenya to bolster the park’s food supply; and Gustav Preller’s observation that the park didn’t have enough birds. His solution: shoot all the jackals.
In the background of this struggle over the management of the Kruger National Park were the scientists, intent on studying the wildlife from an academic perspective. They wanted to know the habits of each species, how many there were, what they ate, how they lived. James Stevenson-Hamilton, for his part, hated the scientists. He felt that they stripped the wilderness of its wonder. He also associated them with the veterinarians of old, who reviled the game reserve as a vector for livestock diseases.
By David Fleminger
The Kruger National Park has a problem with elephants. There are simply too many of them. They are destructive eaters and impact heavily on the environment....more
At that war's conclusion in 1902, a new kind of order came to the Lowveld with the establishment of the Sabi Game Reserve, forerunner of the Kruger National Park....more
James Stevenson-Hamilton, one of the first Kruger Park wardens, developed a regular routine of inspection and maintenance to keep his reserve in order. It was, as he describes it in South African Eden, a very pleasant task...more
One of the first attempts to manage the natural environment of the Kruger National Park was instituted in the early 1930s. The problem was that, at the end of the dry season, the park was virtually without water....more
After James Steven Hamilton retired in 1946, the scientists broke into the mainstream. Dr R Bigalke of the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria was appointed to the board and he established a scientific division with a full-time zoologist....more
When the Kruger National Park was originally proclaimed, several native species were on the verge of local extinction. Over the course of the next 50 years, some of these populations did indeed die out, either as a result of disease...more
By far the most tragic issue facing the Kruger (and many other conservation areas across Africa) is the dramatic increase in rhino poaching over the last few years. The main reason for this slaughter is mind-blowingly idiotic...more
Although the Kruger Park is famously the same size as Israel or Wales, it is still not big enough. More specifically, it is the wrong shape. Before the invasion of modern civilisation, the game in the Lowveld migrated with the seasons...more
In addition to conservation management, the Kruger National Park authorities also have a lot of human management to worry about. Roads, rest camps, electricity, sewerage and water supplies have to be maintained...more