Kruger National Park Established (1898)

Well, we could have an argument about this date.  Most websites will say that Kruger National Park was established on May 31, 1926, when South Africa enacted a law allowing for ecosystem reserves that could be labelled as “national parks,” and named Kruger National Park as the first one in the country on that day.

Entry Gate (photo by Anagoria)

But I prefer the date on which a wildlife reserve, although not a national park per se, was established.  On March 26, 1898, South African President Paul Kruger declared a “Government Wildlife Park.”  Later that park would be renamed the Sabi Game Reserve, and later still, in 1926, would be renamed again, this time after the president who first created it—Kruger National Park.

Well, whichever date you choose as the birthday, Kruger is some kind of park.  It covers 7,580 square miles, more than twice as large as Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.  It is a long park, stretching 220 miles north to south and 56 miles east to west at its widest.  It is the largest national park in South Africa, but only the sixth largest on the African continent (the largest is Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, roughly three times bigger than Kruger).  

Kruger has enormous biodiversity.  It holds 147 mammal species (including most of what we call charismatic megafauna), over 500 species of birds, and over 100 species of reptiles.  Consequently, it is classified by UNESCO as an important biosphere (called the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere).  The park has been enormously successful in allowing native plants and animals to thrive.  In early years, elephants numbered fewer than 100; today the population exceeds 31,000.  Rhinos had to be re-introduced from other habitats to restart a rhino population; today, there are about 3,000.

Rhinoceros (photo by Esculapio)

The park, however, has been marked by controversy from its earliest years.  When declared a national park in 1926, the native Tsonga people who lived inside the park’s boundaries.  The park was fenced to keep the animals and the native citizens apart.  Today, the park is ringed by human communities that lay right up against the fences, with more than 2 million residents.  Most of the people and communities are impoverished.

One consequence is that poaching has long occurred, primarily for elephant tusks and rhino horns.  The extent of poaching has risen and fallen over the years, with a strong spike in the late 2010s.  Poaching is down now, due to aggressive and technologically assisted enforcement, but the rhino population continues to shrink.

The great success of the elephant population led to such large increases in numbers that the park culled elephant herds for several decades.  Culling was thought necessary to keep the elephants from over-grazing their habitats, but after continuing controversy, it was stopped in 2000.  Neither the elephants nor the habitat have appeared to suffer from the growing elephant numbers.

Tourism is big business to the people who lives around the nine entry gates to the park.  About 1.5 million people visit the park annually, their dollars supporting the local economies.  Kruger is also tourist friendly because the roads are paved and individuals can drive personal vehicles through the park.  

The African elephant is an enduring feature and controversy for Kruger (-hoto by Bernard Dupont)

So, choose the date you’d like for the birth of Kruger National Park.  But whichever date you prefer, my recommendation is to  visit for a fantastic wildlife viewing experience.

References:

Global Alliance for National Parks.  2013.  Kruger National Park.  Available at:  https://national-parks.org/south-africa/kruger.  Accessed March 19, 2023.

Pinnock, Don and Helena Kriel.  2022.  Beyond its exceptional beauty, Kruger National Park is on the ropes and hurting.  Conservation Action Trust.  Available at:  https://conservationaction.co.za/recent-news/beyond-its-exceptional-beauty-kruger-national-park-is-on-the-ropes-and-hurting/.  Accessed March 19, 2023.

South African National Parks.  Kruger National Park.  Available at:  https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/history.php.  Accessed March 19, 2023.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
Spencer Fullerton Baird, First U.S. Fish Commissioner, Born (1823)
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Ugalde, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
January February March April May June July August September October November December