How the drought is affecting the Kruger National Park

2016-09-08 20:04
Drought in Kruger Park. (News24)

Drought in Kruger Park. (News24)

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Johannesburg - The current drought has a stranglehold on the Kruger National Park, but not all the effects are negative, a SANParks official has said.  

Drought was a natural and important phenomenon with long and short-term effects, SANParks programme manager in fire ecology and biogeochemistry, Navashni Govender, said.

The current drought had drastically reduced dam levels and forced water restrictions around the country. It was being compared to the worst on record in the country (1991/92).

“Some areas of the Kruger National Park have been hit worse than in 1991/92,” Govender said.

There had been more days where the temperature had exceeded 40°C than in 1991/92 and rivers had seen less water flow.

Biggest concern

One of the biggest concerns for park officials was forage - the food available to animals.

“Different species experience drought differently. Some predators love the drought, so it should be noted that our animal range is not affected equally.”

Grazers were the worst affected, and mixed feeders like impala or kudu, less so.

Buffalo were usually heavily affected. Since 1970 their numbers had increased. Following the droughts in 1981 and 1991/92, their numbers fell dramatically. Since then their population had recovered to the highest levels yet seen.

The park had over 7 500 hippo, the highest number in the park’s history. This meant there were too many hippos in small pools.

While the park had artificial water points, SANParks had closed many of them. The lack of water and increasing hippo population was contributing to the formation of blue-green algae, which could poison some animals.

It was predicted that the central part of the park would be the worst affected because it had received the least rain and had the greatest numbers of animals.

The southern area of the park had received more rainfall, which could see more animals moving there.

The options available to SANParks included:

• Managing artificial water points;
• Implementing water-saving measures and;
• Herbivore removal programs.

Removal programmes were used for reasons including preventing the spread of diseases.

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Read more on:    sanparks  |  environment  |  drought

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