Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 km2 in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa. The administrative headquarters are in Skukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.
Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces are the two South African provinces that boarder Kruger National Park to the west and south of the park. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The area was a home of the Tsonga people, from Skukuza in the South, Manyeleti in the Centre and Makuleke in the North, the Tsonga people dominated the entire area. The Tsonga people were removed forcefully from the Kruger National Park between 1899 and 1926. When the British Colonialists took over the administration of Union of South Africa in 1902, they sought to expand the park and finally in 1926, the Tsonga people were removed from the entire land to make way for the establishment of South Africa’s biggest nature reserve. In the 1960s the last Tsonga people in the park were removed at Makuleke in the Pafuri triangle. Since 1994, the Tsonga people have been involved in a land claim dispute with the South African Government for the restoration of their once vast Kingdoms; however the Government is not willing to hand over the entire park in the name of ‘Conservation’.
The Kruger National Park has subtropical type of climate . Summer days are humid and hot with temperatures often soaring to above 38 °C (100 °F). The months of September and October as the driest periods, culminating in rains late in October. The dry winter season is the ideal time to visit this region for various reasons. There is less chance of contracting malaria and the days are milder. Viewing wildlife is more rewarding as the vegetation is more sparse and animals are drawn to the waterholes to drink every morning and evening.
All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). Other animals that are found at the National Park are the endangered wild dogs, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs, giraffes, spring bocks, impalas, Thompson gazelles, hares, kudus, Oryx among other species.
Culling of elephants was a common practice but was stopped in 1994 and tried translocating them. By 2004 the population had increased to 11,670 elephants, by 2006 to approximately 13,500, by 2009 to 11,672, and by 2012 to 16,900. The park’s habitats can only sustain about 8,000 elephants.
Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads. Six of these species, which are by and large restricted to Kruger and other extensive conservation areas, have been assigned to a fanciful grouping called the “Big Six Birds”. They are the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and the reclusive Pel’s fishing owl, Other birds present are the pelicans, vultures, hornbills, krestels, marabou stocks among other birds species.
Kruger houses 114 species of reptile, including black mamba, African rock pythons, and crocodiles.
Amphibians and fish:
Thirty-three species of amphibians are found in the Park as well as 50 fish species. Zambezi shark, bull shark are among the fish found at the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. Zambezi sharks tolerate fresh water and can travel far up rivers like the Limpopo.