Drought hurts Mkhuze

2008-09-26 00:00

International tourists left hides in the drought-ravaged Mkhuze Game Reserve in disgust this month after watching animals desperately trying to find water at waterholes where nearby water pumps were broken.

Animals bearing the scars of poaching and rhinos with wires from poachers’ traps around their necks came looking for water. Rest camps are badly maintained and staff rowdy and slovenly.

“It is no secret that for years Mkhuzehas been struggling with severe management problems.

However, shortcomings in the camp could be overlooked by a forgiving, passionate public if matters in the bush were in order. Two of the primary attractions at Mkhuze are the hides and the fig forest. “On a recent visit I found the suspension bridge broken — that meant no fig forest walk — and the pump broken, which meant no water at the kwaMsinga hide,” honorary ranger and conservationist John Jackson told Weekend Witness this week.

He said he was most concerned about the reaction of fellow tourists during a recent visit to the kwaMsinga hide.

“Twenty to 30 wildlife enthusiasts were confronted by streams of animals in search of water, but finding only an undrinkable black ooze. Animals were pathetically pawing at the pipe outlet while others covered themselves in mud in a vain attempt to dig for water. Two ladies left the hide in tears. I heard mutterings of ‘I’ll never come back here again’.”

Jackson said that while he is aware that the reserve is struggling because of a protracted drought, he believes that “with a little effort, expense and ingenuity” problems could be minimised.

During a visit in early September, staff were trucking in water using tankers. However, without drinking troughs similar to those used in the Kruger National Park, the water just created mud and the animals still had nothing to drink.

“I implore those in charge to do something before the public turn sadly away from this beautiful place. Just up the road Ndumo Game Reserve under Chris Ngubane and his excellent team appears to be in very good shape.

“I and many of my friends [would be] more than happy to volunteer our services to fix what is broken.”

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Jeff Gaisford said Mkhuze is effectively off the tourism map as the main rest camp was closed when boreholes feeding both the camp and the hides ran dry.

He said pumps are working, but there is “nothing to pump”. Only day visitors are welcome and they have to bring their own water.

He admitted that Mkhuze has been fighting a long battle with staffing, which has not yet been resolved. He asked that visitors bring problems to management’s attention.

Gaisford said the hides were built nearly 40 years ago as tourist attractions and are at artificial, rather than natural watering spots. “We would not build them today. [They are located in] a patch of sand forest in the park, which is a delicate habitat. They attract game into an area that cannot sustain it.” However, he said they have become one of Mkuze’s main attractions and will not be dismantled.

Gaisford said Mkhuze is in the grip of a severe drought. Some rains in August filled the Nsumo Pan, which provided water for animals. So far this year, just 240 mm has been recorded. “This is not enough to charge the water table. We need hard, steady rain for weeks.”


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