On April 30, 1946 James Stevenson-Hamilton recorded his last day as warden of the Kruger National Park (KNP) in his diary. In her biography of him, Wildlife and Warfare, Jane Carruthers penned down his journal entry: “Last day as warden. All intriguing and bad feeling latterly. I had to make a speech of sorts but nearly wept.”
In celebration of the Park’s 110th birthday at the end of May this year, we are publishing excerpts from Stevenson-Hamilton’s diary in June 1941, five years before his retirement. The nine ranger sections of those years have been restructured into the 22 of today.
Section One (in the Pretoriuskop area)
An inspection of the Numbi road was made which is good now, and sable are nearly always seen on it. A report that a kudu had been shot on the boundary of park was investigated. It was found that the meat had been loaded up on donkeys and rangers followed the spoor for some distance, but it got mixed up with cattle and game spoor in the reserve and had to be abandoned. As soon as the gate opened on the 16th a stream of cars left for Skukuza and the Pretoriuskop rest camp was full over night. On the 19th the section ranger visited Komapese dam which is full of water, but no game drinking, as the spruits in its vicinity have plenty of water, but no doubt the game will come later on when these are dry.
As the borehole was getting low the water lavatories had to be shut down. The grader is altogether out of action and the roads are getting very corrugated. A lion got into the mule kraal and killed three. A field ranger happened to be there at the time and shot at it, wounding it the second time. Ranger Wolhuter then followed the blood spoor for some distance when it gor into some thick reeds, then left it.
Section Two (Malelane)
The tourist season started satisfactorily, revenue collected being more than twice the amount for June, 1940. The commencement of the tourist season necessitated the stopping of work on the construction of the new reservoir which can be completed after the park closed. The reservoir as it stands will suffice for the present season. Stone is being crushed to make concrete for the reservoir and causeway extension. Veld is getting very dry, but game is still in good condition. Impala, giraffe and kudu are plentiful and a fair number of lions have been seen by the tourists.
The position with regard to depredations by hippo is more serious than ever. All available shotguns are being used by field rangers to keep hippo out of crops, but with an increase both in the number of hippo and the area put under cultivation. This does not relieve the position to any great extent. Most farmers do not wish to destroy the hippo, but their losses have been very heavy, and several have expressed their intention to shoot the hippo if the damage to their crop continues.
Section Three (Crocodile Bridge)
Translated from Afrikaans: Owing to the river falling a start was made with the extension of the pont approach on the south bank. The windmill was repaired by the mechanic on the 18th who also inspected the repairs done on the water tank stand. A complaint was received from field ranger Matches regarding soldiers firing across the river and a complaint was lodged with OC Troops at Komatipoort. Later, however, a report was again received that troops again fired across the river – bullets passing picket held by field rangers Waistcoat and Siccon.
On the 24th the ranger went to Komatipoort to lay a complaint with the OC and also sent a full report to the warden. Evidence was given by him on the same day against a European in Komatipoort courts, charge trespass, fine five pounds or one month.
Section Four (Tshokwane)
Unfortunately the section ranger could not borrow a truck due to the workload in Skukuza. It was therefore impossible for him to open all his roads for the opening of the tourism season. In the five days that the section ranger did not have his motor vehicle, he inspected what the elephants were up to in the Tshokwane section. At present they are grazing up and down the Manzentondo River from the Lebombo to Tshokwane and along the Sololwe River close to Leeupan. There are six bulls in the this herd and they have been spotted several times in the Manzentondo River drift by us and others. They show no fear of humans and there is no doubt they are from the northern parts of the park. Saliji’s patrol reported all is well in their section and have sent word of the first elephant spotted in the area.
It is very unfortunate that Leeupan has no water this winter, as even the windmill at Manzimahle is not working. The lack of water along the road from the Sand River to Tshokwane is disappointing from a game viewing perspective. Plans are in place to repair the windmill as soon as possible. Mahlonjamine sent report that a hunting party, comprising five men and a few ladies, have been active in the Gowrie vicinity. One of the five was horribly mauled by a wounded lion. There was no trespassing into the park or even close to the park’s border.
Arrangements have been made for the protection of the north western border during the hunting season. There are huge herds of wildebeest and zebra at Mahlobjamne, Lipep and Iswenie on the border. Several sable and a few tsessebe have also been seen. The long drought and the recently graded roads cause unpleasant clouds of dust on the road as long as there is traffic. The Mazite Dam is very popular as it is the only place in the park where tourists can always view huge numbers of game this year.
Section Five (Satara):
On the 19th the section ranger went to the Olifants River with Mr Kleyn to inspect the site for the new bridge. This site is excellent. Up to date, at the opening of the 1941 tourist season – no improvement among the game in this section can be reported. This phase in the changed conditions following the depredation by lions after a number of years had been expected and undoubtedly it will take some years yet before game animals will show themselves in the large numbers which were so noticeable up to 1936.
From this section in particular game have a large area to move into across the western boundary of the park and weather conditions being favourable, giving abundant food supplies, game will probably remain away for some time unless circumstances arise which force them to move eastward. For instance the burning of veld in the park before this takes place outside the park on the west and following rains, has before this brought game back to the green grass leaving the drying veld in the west. A very good example of this happened in section four.
Section Six (Letaba)
Mr Trollope reported that he had to follow and kill an elephant bull about three miles inside the western boundary on Olifants River a few days after first having wounded it outside the park. Permit issuer Visser and supervisor Roodt were fetched from Skukuza on the 9th. On the 26th major van der Byl returned from the north road at 5.50 pm and reported that he got separated from his party travelling in another car. I gave permission for him to return to Shingwedzi at 6.20pm in company with mechanic Meyer in case something had happened to the other party’s car. No rain fell during the month.
Section Seven (Shingwedzi):
On the 3rd section ranger Kirkman and Mr Trollope left for Shangoni. They arrived at Shingwedzi again in the 5th and went to Punda and Pafuri the next day returning to Shingwedzi in the evening. Some dangerous trees near the mechanic’s house were removed on the 11th. On the 26th the section ranger went to Crocodile Pool, Szimbi and Tende, looking for lost tourists.
Section Eight and Nine (Punda Maria and Shangoni)
The section ranger went out on elephant control on the 1st and returned to Shingwedzi at 12 o’clock the following night. The well in section eight is not sunk enough and must be put down deeper to give good and dependable service and so ensure no water shortage during the tourist season. On the 8th the section ranger left for Punda Maria via Sibasa to see corporal re the labour for cutting Punda Maria boundary when Mr Orpen comes along.
One elephant seems to have taken up his abode at Pafuri. Nyala, kudu and bushbuck are seen in fair numbers along the Pafuri River. A pride of lions have also started raiding this area and will have to be dealt with. As the section ranger was suspicious of Europeans poaching on the Pukwane Mpongola area outside, but adjoining the park, a special patrol was sent out to invetigate. The petrol pump at Pafuri has been giving continual trouble, but has now eventually been fixed up and tourists are again able to get petrol.