Drought in Kruger National Park is worsening
The life of renowned environmental journalist, Hanti Schrader came to an unexpected end on Friday, July 15. Here is the last story she wrote for Africa InTouch News. On behalf of all our animal friends we thank her for the work she did during her journey on earth.
Rest in Peace Hanti.
The Kruger National Park (KNP) commenced with the culling of animals in June because of the dry conditions currently being experienced in the park. South African National Parks’ acting head of communications, William Mabasa, told us that “59 hippos have been culled and another 100 are earmarked to be culled later this year, as well as 200 buffaloes. Although the park, which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, received rain in March, there is not enough food to sustain the animals,” Mabasa said and added, “the cull is not because of a lack of water - we still have plenty of water after the rain we received in March- but the problem is food.”
He said many areas of the park, especially in the central parts, from Skukuza to Olifants River, were just barren desert land without any vegetation.
There are some 8 000 hippos in the park and around 300 had already succumbed to the drought.
Mabasa said the meat from the culled animals was currently being sold to staff, “but we are in the process of getting our abattoir registered so that we can supply hippo meat to needy non-governmental organisations in the surrounds of the park.” This would include orphanages and old-age homes.
Media expert at SANParks, Isaac Phaahla, said earlier, that “meat will be from animal take-offs and not animals that had died from the drought. We are using the neighbouring local municipalities' indigent list and associated structures information as guidelines".
He confirmed that there was a multi-stakeholder platform, the SANParks People and Conservation Unit, tasked with liaissoning with relevant community structures.
The drought currently being experienced in the KNP, and in big parts of the Lowveld region, is worsening. This is one of the worst droughts on record to have hit the KNP. The day temperatures this year compared to 24 years ago, were four times worse. Back then only seven days had been recorded with temperatures of 40 degrees or higher, but this year 28 days extremely hot days have been recorded. This above average heat was detrimental to water levels in rivers and scorched plants and other vegetation.
Although good rainfall was registered in the park in March and April, senior manager for conservation at Scientific Services in the KNP, Navashni Govender, said that it came too late for the vegetation to benefit. “People thought that the drought was broken at the time, but it was too late to have an impact. By then the growing season has already passed.” The biomass of available food for grass eaters is 66% less than it was during the 1991/92 drought. “Normally 4 000kg biomass is needed per hectare. Today we have only 399/kg/ha available. There is not going to be enough food available at the beginning of summer,” Govender concluded.
Buffaloes trekking in the KNP. Photo: Hanti Schrader
Dry land and dead branches in Lower Sabie area. Photo: Richard Prinsloo of Africa Wild