By Chris Patton
“A group of enthusiastic members of the Alien Invader Task Group (AITG), one of the national projects of the Honorary Rangers, put together a fantastic weekend in August 2007 in the Kruger National Park,” says Chris Patton of Sanparks.
“Thanks to a generous sponsorship from Sappi, the group could use the Doispane Camp near Nyamundwa Dam on the Phabeni Gate Road as a home base from where participants were treated to a number of opportunities to see firsthand what is being done to combat alien invasive species in Kruger.”
These included an opportunity to travel to sites in the park where invasive plants like prickly pear, "watervaring" and Kariba weed are causing mayhem with the indigenous flora and fauna and to learn about the ecological processes that dictate the vegetation and in turn the animal distribution and dynamics in the park.
The group also visited behind-the-scenes laboratories where Kruger's scientific services is trying to eradicate invasive plants through bio-controls. A walk and drive off-road in the park in the company of knowledgeable staff highlighted the problem in the veld, while everyone savoured the chance to sleep in tents in an unfenced camp in the Park.
The purpose of the AITG is to draw public attention to the extent of the threat posed by exotic species to the biodiversity of national parks and indeed to indigenous biodiversity globally. The group also provides support for Sanparks' efforts in combating this scourge.
"The extent of the recent fires in the south west of the park around Doispane, the freezing weather experienced in the park, particularly on the back of the unit's truck, the lack of comfort on the back of this vehicle; the midnight visit to the camp of a roaring lion and an opportunity to have an eyeball encounter with a python only helped make the weekend all the more memorable and it can only be hoped that this will be the first of many such events that will help put the menace of invasive species firmly in the public eye," says Chris.