Man Must Do the Protecting

Kruger shows the effects of human pres¬sures perhaps more than any other African park. Mining, agriculture, and settlement outside the park have so reduced the flow of Kruger’s rivers that they no longer pro¬vide enough water for the animals in the dry season. Now the park spends 500,000 rand ($700,000) each year to build dams and weirs and to sink boreholes. But Kruger still car¬ries a large wildlife population. Impala, for example, number 162,000 and zebra more than 20,000. Normally, none go thirsty.

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As, increasingly, Africa’s parks become encircled by settlement, it will be more and more difficult for animals to migrate. Many people wonder what will happen when the herds can no longer follow their age-old instincts to move in search of forage and water. Yet for a decade such movements have been limited in Kru¬ger. It lies within the so-called “red line” marking the perimeter of that part of South Africa where foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent. To keep the park’s ungulates away from cattle, a fence follows Kruger’s long western boundary. Only toward Mozambique, to the east, can game migrate freely. Though partially restricted, Kru¬ger’s game thrives.

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Perhaps that may be the future pattern for all the great parks of Africa. They may be hemmed in, but with sound management and the devoted concern of conser¬vationists all over the world, the parks and reserves can flourish. “It’s going to be nothing more than a great big zoo,” Harry Selby said to me, “but at least the game will survive.” It will, indeed, and personally I think it can survive in large numbers.