Custos Naturae


Using the toilet in Kruger Park (it could be pretty much any toilet) I sit there in my own thoughts looking at the tiles on the wall showing a kudu and the motto CUSTOS NATURAE (guardian of nature) thinking how great it is that there really are places in the world, such as Kruger Park, that wish to promote nature conservation so much that they even put a little reminder on the tiles in the toilet! Then I flush…. And out of the toilet comes not two, not four, not six, but probably close to 15 litres of water! Some toilets in the Park do fortunately have a choice of big or small flush, only they rarely work. Here among the tiles of CUSTOS NATURAE you can only choose a huge flush.

Then I go to the sink to wash my hands. Above the sink is a sign "Africa is thirsty – please save water". Now, I am one of those persons who is very aware of saving water. I shut off the water while I brush my teeth, and while I wash my hair in order to save water. But it is great to put this little reminder here by the sink, because I know a lot of people unfortunately do not realise how important it is to save water. I only wish that this sign was found in all the rooms in the Park as well.

I finish washing my hands and want to close the tap properly so it is not running. But no luck. The tap apparently cannot read the sign above, and insists on keeping wasting Africa's much needed water. According to the "World Conservation Strategy" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conservation is "…the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustained benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations."

Now, as far as I know the number one priority of Kruger National Park is conservation, so it makes me wonder why the Park does not change those toilets so they do not waste so much water and hence yield the greatest sustainability possible. I am sure that it is not really the toilets themselves the Park is interested in conserving for the future generations, even though it seems like they are the same ones that James Stevenson-Hamilton used and could be archaeological artefacts.

Nowadays you can get toilets that use very little water even for the big flush. I realise that it is a big expense for the park to change X number of toilets, but for one it would save a lot of water in the big picture and hence is somewhat more sustainable. Secondly, toilets that use so much water (and running taps) send a message to the guests that this water issue is probably not really serious. Would it not be great if visitors come back home and not only have had a fantastic experience in the Kruger Park, but the visit also made them think about conservation? Imagine that the Park is not only doing conservation within the fence, but actually is spreading the concept to the whole country or even the whole world? Imagine if just a percentage of the approximately one million annual visitors wished to do what they can in their daily lives to aid in conservation after a visit to the Park?

Being one of the best known national parks in the world, Kruger Park can have a major influence on humans' way of thinking of conservation. The Park should walk in front. The Park should follow the IUCN definition and manage the human use for the benefit of nature. The Park should show that it really is a guardian of nature.

I continue my drive and enjoy the nature along the way. Late afternoon I arrive back to the camp and need to go to the toilet. As I sit there I look at the kudu and the text saying CUSTOS NATURAE, while I listen to the toilet next door that keeps running. Wasting water.

By Luise Bertelsen, Denmark



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