Drought in Kruger National Park

Drought in Kruger National Park

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Drought in Kruger National Park

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The Kruger National Park (KNP) plans to start removing buffalo and hippo populations from the park due to drought. Experts in the park are expecting that the drought will have a massive impact on the animal populations as it is quickly becoming one of the worst droughts ever.

Ms Navashni Govender, KNP fire ecologist, at a press briefing this weekend said the buffalo population stands at over 40 000 and that of hippos at 7 500 at present.

“There are too many hippos for the available pools. We now get calls daily from rangers saying that something should be done to solve this problem.

“The water in these pools become infected with blue green algae because there are too many hippos. The algae can cause disease in other animals drinking the water,” explained Govender.

Under normal circumstances, two to six per cent of animals are removed by either euthanizing them or removing live animals to other sanctuaries. This has now been increased to a maximum of 10 per cent.

She said the determination of the removal of the animals is not done by “thumb sucking”, but that the historical growth rates of the animal populations and the condition of the veld are the drivers of the removal process.

She predicted that the central parts of the KNP are likely to experience more severe effects of the drought, including more herbivores dying, herbivore movements towards the north and south-west, elephants taking out more tall trees, and woody encroachments becoming more prevalent.

Govender referred to the number of days temperatures were higher than 35 degrees in Skukuza, and showed that in the previous massive drought in 1991/92 from July to March, there were 74 days with these high temperatures. In the same period in 2015/16 there were 122 days when temperatures rose over 35 degrees in Skukuza.

The current KNP rainfall for 2015/16 compared to the long-term average of 500mm is 200mm.

Govender emphasised that SANParks’ plan in place to deal with the drought includes stabilising water sources for tourist camps, managing the fresh-water plan that is already in place with the catchment forums, and supporting vulnerable neighbouring communities with action plans to solve water-availability problems.

“Humans used to be drivers in the conservation cycle when they lived among the animal population. We took this away by creating parks. By having a humane management plan, especially in times of drought, we are becoming role players again.”

Source: lowvelder


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