The Kruger Emergency Call Centre has now been up and running for just over a year. It receives around five calls a day, ranging from traffic accidents to guests who have left their belongings behind in camp to injured animals.
Call volumes increase in all the holiday periods, and the majority of the calls come from the southern sections of the park. Most calls are received in the early morning and early afternoon.
The call centre is headed up by Joseph Shai, who has been working in Kruger for almost 15 years. Joseph began as a security guard, but through continuing education and hard work is now an officer in the control room centre.
He mans the emergency call centre along with Ruel Nkuna, Julius Baloyi and Wilson Mathavini. The call centre staff work two 12-hour shifts from six to six each day, and need to know who is the right person to contact for the various problems encountered in their day's work.
Diplomacy is also an important factor in the job, as on occasion callers are hysterical or extremely agitated. Joseph says that the majority of the calls that they receive are from South African nationals, but that international guests do also make use of the line.
Many of the calls relate to people speeding in the park, and the call centre liases daily with Kruger's traffic police to ensure that they always know where the officers are deployed.
This helps speed up response times to calls. Members of the public also report people getting out of their vehicles and playing music too loud to the call centre. At night, if a complaint about people disturbing the peace is made, the call centre will contact the camp security guard who will go and warn the noisemakers or fine them as necessary.
Calls for road traffic accidents come in about once a month, and Joseph not only helps deploy the park's medical personnel if necessary, but helps coordinate rescue efforts with outside medical facilities like Netcare.
The call centre is also used by Kruger staff, who sometimes call in breakdowns or sick members of staff. The call centre is not only all about human emergencies, but receives calls when people find animals injured by careless motorists and when tourists observe veld fires.
One visitor to the park encountered a lion outside of the park fence, and Joseph was able to dispatch the section ranger to ensure the lion's well-being. Some of the calls highlight unflattering aspects of human nature – one couple phoned the call centre looking for their young children, aged around seven or eight.
Investigation revealed that the children had been left alone for over two hours in the day visitor's centre, until finally one of the security staff took them to the office to try and locate the children's parents.
Joseph enjoys the challenge of linking up a caller with a problem to the correct person to solve the problem. He says, "I like to assist people," and that one of the perks of the job is being sought out by people who wish to thank him in person for the help he gave them over the telephone. The emergency call centre number is 013 735 4325.