Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kruger National Park June 20-23

Hakuna Matata- Ain't no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days.

We arrived at the
Kruger National Park gate around 3 pm on Monday. We set up camp at the Skukuza Rest
Camp and hit the shops while the crew made dinner. The next few mornings we woke up and were on the bus by 5:50 for game drives. We saw about a million impala and about a hundred different bird species. By the end of the second day we had seen the big five three times. The big five are the five most dangerous game to hunt and consists of elephants, cape buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino. When we saw the leopard it was actually on a rare occasion. Leopards are nocturnal and solitary by nature, yet we saw three adults and one baby in broad daylight. Hippos were everywhere showing their scars on their backs and their little ears twitching independently. We saw a small antelope, called a diker, and mongooses, skitter across the road hoping not to be seen. A pregnant cheetah lounged under a tree watching the cars go by.

Blue wildebeests and zebra roamed around while the vervet monkeys and baboons climbed trees and stole our oranges. Bushpigs (warthogs) wobbled around while hornbills joined our breakfasts. We went to sleep at night listening to the hyenas laugh and woke to lions calling.

While there we also took lectures on their current elephant situation, poaching, wildlife diseases and their management system. The people working on these specific topics at Kruger gave the lectures, so every question was answered. My favorite lecture was the one on elephants because it was hard to believe the elephant situation and even harder to understand why culling needs to be done. Elephants are currently destroying all the biodiversity in Kruger National Park because of their numbers. They are endangered, compared to what the numbers used to be; however, they are over populating the small areas that they inhabit. Unfortunately, humans creating fences stopped their natural migration patterns which allowed the environments they passed to recover from their destruction.

Elephants push down trees and pull up their roots while simply crushing all the bushes. Without healthy vegetation, the rest of the ecosystem will fail. They have nowhere to relocate the elephants because their numbers have risen enough that no one needs them. International pressure has convinced Africa to ban culling. I believe that reversing that law can do a lot of good for the entire country. Culled elephants can be given to local townships to help feed the poor, the ivory (if this was made legal also) could be sold to build the economy, and the biodiversity will be saved. It’s just a thought…

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