Kruger animal numbers surge

2010-06-15 16:13

Cape Town - Good annual rains over the past 15 years in the Kruger National Park have caused game populations to surge, says Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, tabled on Tuesday, she said not a single large mammal species in the park was currently under threat.

According to a table attached to her reply, members of the so-called big five - with the exception of leopards and lions - are increasing at rates of between four and 7% a year.

Black rhinoceros in the Kruger, SA National Parks' flagship reserve, are now estimated to number between 590 and 670; their numbers are estimated to be increasing by about 7% a year.

The park's buffalo population has grown from 22 260 in 2000, to 37 500 this year; the big African bovids are increasing at a rate of 5% a year.

Elephant numbers are up from 8 350 in 2000 to an estimated 13 700 this year; their population has been increasing at a rate of 4% a year since 2004.

The lion population is estimated at between 1620 and 1750. According to the table this is "most likely stable".

Other species benefit

On leopards, it says estimating the numbers of these elusive creatures "carries great difficulty". Based on 1980s estimates "it is guessed that about 1000 leopards reside in Kruger".

Other animal species have also benefited from the favourable environmental conditions.

These include Burchell's zebra, whose numbers have risen to between 20 870 and 33 240; giraffe, to between 7 090 and 10 950; and impala, which now number between 99 830 and 163 570.

The table also notes that the population of white rhino in the Kruger, heavily targeted by poachers in recent years, is growing at a rate of 11% a year. It says there are an estimated 9 460 to 12 120 white rhino in the park.

In a written reply to a separate parliamentary question, also tabled on Tuesday, Sonjica said 33 white rhino have been killed by poachers in the Kruger since January 1 this year.

A total of 92 rhino, both black and white species, including those killed in the Kruger, have been slaughtered by poachers for their horns - which sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market - in South Africa this year.

Sonjica said animal numbers in the park could go up or down depending on a variety of factors, including the amount of rainfall, drought, the effects of the environment as well as that of one species on another.

"Kruger National Park experienced good rainfall for the past 15 years and this is shown in the game numbers. Another drought, which is inevitable and necessary for ecosystem resilience, will however reduce numbers as part of a natural process," she said.