Letters to the Kruger Park Times

What To Do?

Well done on producing an excellent informative newspaper - namely the Kruger Park Times. We have just spent over three weeks in the park in two separate trips (9th and 10th visit) and can't wait to go back. Unfortunately one sees many incidents of people who just can't use common sense and don't understand the dangers associated with wild animals.

My first picture with the young girl sitting outside the window was taken on Sunday 10 December 2006 on the dirt road (S25) between Crocodile Bridge and Berg en Dal in the late morning. We were returning along the route we had taken earlier in the morning and on the outward journey had seen two male lions on the dry Balamiti river bed.

On returning one of the lions was in the same spot, about 50 metres from the causeway lying under a bush, but the other had completely disappeared and could have been less than 10 metres away - who knows. The people probably hadn't seen the lions earlier and thought there was only one in the vicinity.

They didn't have the sense to realise that it's not the animal you can see, but the one you can't see that is the most dangerous. Even at 50 metres a lion can cover the distance in well under three seconds so why do people take such risks with their children? We were also involved in an incident with an elephant on 10 October 2006, which I thought you may be interested in.

The incident occurred on the H1-6, 12 to 15km north of Letaba camp. We were driving southwards and when we arrived the elephant was standing in the middle of the road. Had it been off the road I would probably have driven slowly past it but decided to stop at a safe distance until it moved. The two cars in the first picture now arrived and stopped at what seemed a safe distance away. Another car then arrived behind us.

We sat there for probably 30 minutes and then a parks vehicle arrived heading southwards. By this time the elephant had moved on to the right hand grass verge so the parks vehicle attempted to drive past. As the vehicle got close to the animal it suddenly charged the vehicle and the driver swerved onto the left hand grass verge and just managed to accelerate away.

Of course this upset the elephant and it immediately walked towards the vehicle in the picture containing two ladies. Whether they thought it would walk straight past or the engine stalled I don't know, but they didn't move. The elephant then banged its tusk down on the car putting a dent on the bonnet - its left hand tusk was missing, probably embedded in another vehicle. At this point the driver reversed a fair distance up the road.

A tipper vehicle about the same size as the elephant then arrived heading northwards and the elephant approached close to the front of the truck at which point the driver raised his tipper. The truck was now taller than the elephant and obviously confused it, as it backed off to the side of the road.

The driver lowered his tipper and attempted to drive past prompting the elephant to once more charge out and chase the vehicle along the road. We were busily taking photographs and suddenly realised that the elephant was coming towards us so we had to quickly reverse up the road.

Fortunately only the original four vehicles were there or it could have been quite chaotic. Eventually, after well over an hour, the elephant moved a short distance off the road and we managed to drive past, however the driver of the vehicle with the dented bonnet was still sitting there when we left. When we got to Satara camp a few days later there were pictures posted on the board taken by the chap in the Landrover with suitable comments.

Lesley D Bond, Shadwell, Leeds UK

RE: Article published in December 20, 2006 to January 24, 2007: "Another perspective on the white lion issue"

As a first-time visitor to the Timbavati region, I read Errol Pietersen's article, titled "Another perspective on the white lion issue" in your December 20, 2006 to January 24, 2007 issue with interest. I am no doubt representative of most urban South Africans, living and working in the city, 'nose down' in corporate pursuits. This lifestyle has left me largely indifferent to the plights of endangered animals in the wild, often thinking that hunting is somehow "ok" if it serves the purposes of long-term conservation goals.

However, when I read about the gruesome killing of a lion in one of the Timbavati resorts earlier in 2006, and subsequently an article pertaining to the white lion reintroduction project in the Timbavati, I radically reviewed my thinking. I have since tried to keep informed on the progress being made in the conservation of the Timbavati lions, particularly the protection of white lions in the area.

While I found Pietersen's article informative, I also found his perspective confusing. It is difficult to fathom whether he is actively supporting the protection of the white lions or whether he is apathetic to their plight and vaguely in favour of them being hunted.

I was particularly puzzled at his scathing attitude towards the only scientifically oriented source he actually does quote (and does so extensively), i.e. the "Global White Lion Protection Trust". It would have been helpful if Pietersen had substantiated his contentions with factual references as well as highlighted other conservation bodies that are also working to protect the white lions, if any exist.

It is frustrating that Pietersen generally offers historic perspectives on the hunting of lions in this region as well as scientific perspectives on their conservation, without giving us any credible references. So, there is no way for a relatively 'uninformed' reader such as myself, to do further study into the subject.

Also, Pietersen draws a flimsy, if not bizarre, link between the captive breeding camps of breeder/hunters and the reserve used by the White Lion Trust for their reintroduction project. I suspect he is trying to be ironic when he writes that the White Lion Trust's reserve can be viewed as the Trust's way of "caging" the white lions, similar to captive breeders.

Surely, he is aware that if animals are artificially removed from their natural habitat in the first place, they may need to be artificially re-introduced back into the wild, and that this is a temporary, phased process. Moreover Pietersen actually goes on to argue that the White Lion Trust is doing exactly what the "canned hunters" do with captive bred lions "by keeping them in a small enclosure without a chance to escape": does he truly not see the difference between the intention to breed and kill a white lion in a cage for commercial gain and the intention to protect a white lion in its natural habitat for future generations to appreciate?

Pietersen does conclude that we need to "appreciate these rare animals for what they are and be awed by the amazing diversity of nature..." that they represent, but, I am not sure how he proposes that we do this, if their survival is continuously threatened by hunting activities in the area.

He writes that there were only two incidents of white lion occurrence in the area in a period of a year and that this is "proof enough that the white lion gene is still present in the population despite hunting and captive breeding attempts:" is Pietersen suggesting that this is an acceptable indication of their survival status in the region?

Other than the White Lion Protection Trust (that he seems intent on criticising), there does not appear to be any other dedicated bodies actively focusing on the protection of the white lions in their natural endemic environment. This said, perhaps your publication can source more scientifically oriented and responsible perspectives on the conservation of lions in the region - specifically white lions - in future.

Wendy Strauss, Craighall, Gauteng

Spot On Errol

I read the article regarding the white lions with great interest and would like to comment that anybody with common sense and who has the correct motives can see clearly what Errol Pietersen says is 100%. I could not add to what Errol says and from Moholoholo we all echo "spot on Errol". Sadly as human beings we often try to twist facts and in fact blind ourselves to the truth. So it is in every field in life today everyone is seeking his own glory irrespective of the real being represented and in the end it is our wildlife that suffers.

The motto of Moholoholo is that "our wildlife depends on us to speak for them". We are encroaching on their territory to make way for our gains. Instead of centring our aims on what is necessary for our wildlife we waste precious time and money on things that do not fall in line with protecting our wildlife.

Brian Jones, Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre

December In The Kruger National Park

Our recent visit to Kruger Park was an experience to remember, both good and bad to worse. First stop Crocodile River Camp. What an oasis in the desert. Congratulations to the management and staff. You are doing something right.

We have been going to the park for many years. What a pleasant surprise when we saw copper taps, fire hydrants and even the elbows and bends of the drain pipes all shining. The ablution that was built for the six safari tents is a winner, kept spotless by the attendants.

A pity that the visitors coming and going all day long cannot read. The notices reading "No visitors beyond this point, residents only' are ignored and people stream through the gates and use the ablutions. If only they looked around them they would have seen that there are facilities available for use, however a bit too far for comfort. Come on, play the game - we that book into the various camps pay for what we get - why should we share our facilities. Animals in the area were plentiful, within two hours we saw the big five.

Second stop Skukuza, a disaster. On arrival on the 30th December we were met with problems. The public toilets were "Out of order" - not acceptable. The safari tents and December in the Kruger National Park caravan park need to be attended to immediately. The communal kitchen closest to the tents: no plugs in the sinks, no water boiler, we have been spoilt.

At 10:00 on the 31st the kitchen had not been cleaned, dead flying ants all over. As for the ablutions, the urinals stank, the broken floor tiles in the building are disgusting, the toilet seats look dirty because of wear and tear and even in the showers the floor looks bad and unhygienic.

The window latches, those that are still there, are in a poor state. Send someone from Crocodile Bridge to introduce the staff at Skukuza to Brasso. I was ashamed to see the state of the taps that we are expected to use. No drain or even just a slab under the taps. Come on Skukuza, play the game, or are you no longer interested in accommodating the campers in your city?

Finally in the Kruger Park Times of 24 December to 20 January 2007 an article: officials will have zero tolerance approach this festive season. Just a pity that they cannot be all over the park. My request to all the Park users - Stck to the rules - they have been made for all to be able to enjoy the KNP and other parks. Wally Taylor, Edenville FS

Tsendze Camp

It is interesting to read one negative and one positive letter on Tsendze. It will be a lovely camp if there are only a few sites occupied, and a lousy one when full. The reason for this is that they have obviously repeated the same errors of the camping at Lower Sabie - with the camp sites being only one metre apart. The KNP is supposed to be about tranquility, and you do not want the peace shattered by the personal noises of your neighbours.

Kind regards, Alex Stuart

Kruger National Park - South African Safari