Kruger Park Timeline

© Roger de la Harpe
Paul Kruger Statue in Kruger National Park.

A Complete History of Kruger National Park

4000 BP Some of the baobabs still standing in the Kruger National Park (KNP) today may have first started to grow 4 000 years ago. c.AD 500 Rock art found in Kruger is some of the evidence indicating that the Khoisan people lived in the area 1500 years ago.

c.AD 1200 It is believed the first Bantu settlements sprang up in the region at this time. 1300 - 1500 Thulamela, a walled, hilltop citadel situated in the far northern regions of the park, was built and occupied at around this period. Activities included smelting and manufacturing gold.

1836 - Great Trek Louis Trichardt was the first white Voor trekker to trek through the present-day Kruger Park to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique. Most of his party succumbed to malaria on this journey.

1845 Joao Albassini, famous Portuguese trader, established a trading post at what is now known as Phabeni Gate - on the wagon route to Delagoa Bay (Maputo). 1880s to 1890s The great rinderpest epidemic swept through southern Africa. White and black rhinos became extinct in the area. Large numbers of game, especially buffalo, were decimated. Over 90 percent of cattle died.

First Decade 1898 - 1907

1898 President Paul Kruger proclaimed the "Gouvernement Wildtuin" on March 26, 1898. Its boundaries stretched from the Crocodile River in the south to the Sabie River in the north and from the Nsikazi River in the west to the Mozambican border in the east.
1899 - 1902 During the Anglo Boer War, the proclamation of the Sabie Game Reserve was nullified. This was reinstated in 1902.
1902 Major James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as game warden of the Sabie Game Reserve in July 1902 and, after a four-month period where he used a cottage at Crocodile Bridge, he moved his headquarters to the old blockhouse at Sabie Bridge in November of that year.

He was 35 years old when he was appointed. 1903 An area between the Letaba and Limpopo rivers was proclaimed a game reserve. This area was called the Shingwedzi Game Reserve.

1903 Previously a member of Steinaeckers' Horse Regiment, Harry Wolhuter was appointed as one of the first game rangers in the fledgling park. That November he experienced a life-changing incident when a lion attacked him and he managed to kill the lion with his sheath knife.

Second Decade 1908 - 1917

1912 The first borehole was sunk at Skukuza.
1912 Part of the old Selati railway line and bridge over the Sabie River, can still be seen at Skukuza.
1913 A telephone line was established between Skukuza and Komatipoort. This was considered a huge step forward.
1914 The area between the Olifants and Letaba rivers was added to the Shingwedzi Game Reserve.
1916 Shingwedzi and Sabie Game Reserves, known as the Transvaal Game Reserve, were consolidated under Stevenson- Hamilton.

Third Decade 1918 - 1927

1918 The first tourists are allowed access to the reserve despite reservations on the part of the governing Board. 1923 The South African Railways ran the "round-in-nine" rail trip of the lowveld, along the Selati railway line. Tourists spent the night on the train at Selati Bridge. Until 1924 farmers still had grazing rights, and to ensure good grazing for the winter, farmers burned the veld every year.

1926 The Parliament of the Union of South Africa passed a National Parks Act, and renamed the Reserve the Kruger National Park on May 31, 1926.
1927 The Pretoriuskop section opened to tourists - entry fee one pound. The route was from White River via Mtimba to Pretoriuskop and back, on the same route, on the same day. Only three cars entered the park.

Fourth Decade 1928 - 1937

1928-9 The first huts for tourists were built at Satara, Skukuza and Pretoriuskop
1930 900 cars entered the park during the year.
1931 The first concrete dam was built at Ntomeni Spruit.
1931 Tents are introduced into Skukuza and Satara.
1931 Purchase of furniture for huts approved.
1932 A unit with four bath and four shower cubicles was built in Skukuza.
1933 The first baths are installed at Punda Maria and Letaba. The park charges one shilling per cold water bath.
1933 The first boreholes to provide water for game were sunk.
1936 Sabie Bridge camp was renamed Skukuza.

Fifth Decade 1938 - 1947

1938 Hot water facilities are installed and camps are fenced off for the first time.
1935-46 Eileen Orpen bought and donated to the park, a series of farms totalling 24 528ha. A memorial plaque in her honour is erected south of Tshokwane in 1944.
1943 Lt Col Stevenson-Hamilton reported bush encroachment by tall unpalatable grasses.
1946 After 44 years service, Lt Col Stevenson- Hamilton retires and leaves the park.
1947 Culling of predators as a strategy to "bring up" the herbivore herds was stopped and left to the discretion of the warden.

Sixth Decade 1948 - 1957

1950 The research unit was established in the Kruger Park. Dr TG Nel was the first scientist appointed followed by M van der Schijf. Since then the science management partnership has been very effective in ensuring the regular updating of park policies.
1951 Electric lighting is installed. Huts received wash-basins with hot and cold water.
1950s Burning of the veld is re-implemented to establish more suitable conditions for grazers.
1954 A series of veld-burning experiments is instituted in the four major vegetation types. This experiment continues to this day which makes it one of the longest fire experiments in the world.

Seventh Decade 1958 - 1967

1958 The National Parks Board launches its scientific journal, Koedoe, where research conducted in or important to national parks is published.
1960s Mosquito gauze is installed in huts throughout the Park during the 1960s. 1960 The first white rhino is reintroduced to Kruger from Natal. In total 330 were introduced over a 12 year period. Their numbers have grown to about 7,000 in 2007, which is the largest white rhino population in the world.
1961 A fence is erected on the Park's western and southern borders to prevent animals leaving and so from spreading foot-andmouth disease amongst cattle.
1960s Liquor becomes available to tourists at restaurants and shops during the 1960s.
1967 This first complete elephant survey is done and 6,600 elephant are counted. This was a very rapid increase considering only 10 elephants were seen in 1905. In order to limit excessively negative impacts on the environment, an annual culling program is initiated.

Eighth Decade 1968 - 1977

1969 The Makuleke community in the Pafuri area are the last people to be relocated out of the park.
1970s The Engelhard Dam, funded by the wellknown industrialist Charles Engelhard, is constructed.
1970-80 This era is characterised by a big "water for game" drive that leads to the construction of many artificial waterholes.
1976 The eastern boundary of the Kruger NP with Mozambique is fenced and the park becomes a virtual "island", which necessitates certain management interventions to compensate for the restrictions posed by the fence.
1977 The northern areas of the Park are struck by a cyclone.

Ninth Decade 1978 - 1987

1978 The annual aerial survey for large mammals started using a fixed-wing aircraft. This long-term monitoring programme has given insights in to the responses of the large mammal populations to rainfall cycles.
1980s This camp is built in the late 1980s.
1980s SANParks begins moving away from discriminatory legislation.
1984 Cyclones Demoina and Imboa strike the Park and rivers flood.
1984 Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp is opened in 1984. Meaning "mountain and dale", the camp is a departure from established styles.
1987 The Kruger Rivers Research Programme is launched in a response to the deterioration of the perennial rivers flowing through the park. This programme played a big role in establishing adaptive management principles in the Park and shaping the new National Water Act that was promulgated in 1998.

Tenth Decade 1988 - 1997

1988 The largest concrete dam in the Park is built and named after Minister Piet Grobler in recognition of his work towards the proclamation of the Kruger National Park.
1989 A Cites ban is placed on the international trade in ivory due to the poaching threat on elephant populations in Africa.
1990 The Thulamela ruins are discovered by chance by ranger Flip Nel during an aerial game census.
1992 The Kruger NP experiences the most severe drought yet recorded and a number of herbivore populations show severe reductions due to lack of grazing.
1992 The excavations at Thulamela begin.
1992 Mopani Rest Camp is one of the newest of all the rest camps. It opens in 1992.
1993 The historic dismantling of the western boundary fence linking the private reserves of the Sabi Sand and Timbavati with the Park commences.
1994 SANParks places a moratorium on elephant culling.
1997 A museum dedicated to elephants and funded by the Gold Fields Foundation is opened at Letaba.

Eleventh Decade 1998 - 2007

1998 The first black director of the KNP, Madoda David Mabunda, is appointed in 1998. Dr Mabunda is now the SANParks chief executive.
1998 The northern Pafuri area of 24 000ha is returned to the Makuleke people, who elected to use the land as a concessionary conservation area.

2000 Severe flooding occurs in the KNP in February with much damage caused to infrastructure.
2001 Large areas of the park are burned due to the high grass biomass resulting from the high rainfall in 2000, fueling fires. On September 4, a great tragedy was experienced when four rangers and 20 grass cutters died when a runaway fire engulfed their camp.
2002 The treaty issigned by Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe which ratifies the creation of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which will become one of the greatest conservation area in Africa extending over some 35 000 square kilometres.
2002 Jock of the Bushveld, the first private concession in the Kruger, opens. Six other concessions follow.
2003 The first scientific book about research in the KNP, called "The Kruger Experience - ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity" is published.
2003 For the first time, the KNP receives more than one million guests in a 12 month period. Visitor statistics broke through the magical mark on March 8, 2003.

Since that time, the park regularly gets more than one million per year, with the current statistic standing at 1,3-million. 2004 The junior scientist programme is implemented in Kruger with funding from the AW Mellon Foundation in the USA. This programme aims to help young black scientists achieve their master sand doctorate degrees.

2006 For the first time, the views and ideas from outside stakeholders a reincorporated into an all-encompassing management plan as per the new protected areas act.

2006 The presidents of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe officiate at the opening of the Giriyondo Tourist Access Facility. This facility opens the border between the Kruger and Limpopo national parks in South Africa and Mozambique respectively as a major initiative of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

History of Kruger National Park

An extraordinary and colourful history of Kruger National Park including the San people, Voortrekkers and various gold prospectors....more
Kruger National Park - South African Safari