The Kruger National Park (KNP) began a three-week long celebration of its 110th birthday with a community celebration function at Phalaborwa on Monday 26 May, 2008. People from communities living in close proximity to the Nxanatseni region (north) of the park, including Phalaborwa, Giyani, Thohoyandou and villages in that area, as well as camps like Letaba, Mopani, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria, attended
The second event took place in Satara Rest Camp on Wednesday 28 May, 2008 where members of the communities living in the Bushbuckridge, Acornhoek and Hoedspruit areas celebrated with staff members from the Nkayeni (or central) region of the KNP. This includes Satara, Talamati and the Orpen entrance gate and rest camp and the smaller camps in that region.
The third event took place in Skukuza on Friday May 30, 2008 and community representatives from the towns surrounding the Marula region (south), which includes Komatipoort, Malelane, Kabokweni and Hazyview, joined the KNP staff members from camps like Skukuza, Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie and Berg en Dal in the celebration festivities. "The KNP is internationally renowned as one of the best run conservation areas in the world and we celebrate that it has been successfully run for the last 110 years," said Dr Bandile Mkhize, managing executive of the KNP.
During the early years James Stevenson-Hamilton ran the park from his office at what was then known as Sabie Bridge. Now known as Skukuza (in tribute to Stevenson-Hamilton's nickname meaning ‘he who sweeps clean'), the camp still houses the park's head office. Mkhize paid tribute to the contribution of the Kruger staff, and in particular its ranger corps, both of the past and working in the park today.
He also alluded to threats from outside the park. "Kruger is not an island," he said while highlighting the pressures on Kruger's rivers as one such example. He thanked communities for their assistance in addressing the problems posed by damage-causing animals and assured them of Kruger's commitment to mitigating this long-standing problem. Every event showcased the culture and tradition of its particular local communities with traditional song and dance items. A personal rendition of Kruger's history as told by a retired ranger – corporal Phineas Nkuna in Nxanatseni, former section ranger Ben Lambrecht in Nkayeni and corporal Million Coosa in the Marula region, added to the flavour of the days.
A local community member also shared the stage to highlight a community perspective of the proceedings. The days' formal programme ended with a cake cutting ceremony before guests enjoyed a meal and refreshments. According to the park management, the period from June 1 to 13 will be filled with competitions, special offers and other activities, which will culminate in the main event in Skukuza on Saturday June 14, 2008.
By Lynette Strauss