Poaching problems

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May 17th 2012
Published: May 17th 2012
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We were glad to see farm land in South Africa once we left Swaziland and from what we had heard the KwaZulu-Natal area of South Africa is for some reason one of the more unexplored areas in the country. This was great news for us and the National Parks were once again our first intention. Hluhluwe and iMfolzi Game Reserves are very close to Swaziland and made a good base to spend our first couple of days in the area. We didn’t have a clue that these national parks will be one of the highlights of South Africa trip which have fantastic landscape, plenty of animals, great climate and just few kilometers away from the sea side. If you wish to escape from the touristic national parks like Kruger NP and you have to line up to see a spotted animal and when you finally reach the point so the animal disappeared in bush, so these national parks are great choice.

These parks combined cover an enormous area which holds a great variety of wildlife including the big five. We can tell you that the rhino population is booming here but unfortunately this was the first place that we actually found a dead rhino. The park ranger was not to keen to tell us what happened but he was standing with a saw getting ready to cut off the valuable horns before the word spread and unwanted visitors came to make a fortune. They must have worked very fast as two hours later the whole rhino was nowhere to be found and they are a very big animal and this one was no exception. Just the terrible dead animal smell in the area reminded us what has happened few hours ago.

It is actually an interesting debate to get into with the locals of South Africa regarding the rhino and also the culling of elephants. Particularly the elephants which are causing so much damage in many of the parks, the huge numbers roaming around now have nowhere to migrate. It is easy to see this in Kruger NP, Addo Elephant NP and even back in Botswana where in Chobe NP along the river it is now unlivable for many other species that once lived there. Of course people will jump up and down when it is even mentioned about culling but we think that it does have a positive side – if managed properly. The rhino to date in only this year has around 200 confirmed poaching victims and the numbers shows no sign of slowing down. An idea we heard on the radio is that to help to stop the poaching the SAN parks are considering flooding the market with the several hundred tone of rhino horns they have in storage to dramatically drop the value.

Anyway these two parks are great to spend a few days and it is not only the wildlife that attracts the tourists. The landscape is amazing and it is inviting just to see the rolling forested hills and to see a herd of elephants wandering over this tops it off. The highlight though was the wild dogs that decided to hold up traffic for around 30 minutes, which was not long before the gates were closed so it was a mad rush in all directions when they decided to move. They have become very rare these animals and it is the first we have seen since Kai and Vaiva were visiting us in Zambia last year. Actually they are not shy animals and they were playing on the road for ages, and made every tourist laugh.

Another interesting thing but not pleasant was a zebra that had just escaped an attack from a lion. Not so pleasant because it was still well and truly doomed the poor thing as when it ran past our car we noticed a bone sticking out the back leg and when it was right next to us the cut was around 50cm long. Beside the injured zebra was a baby zebra that was walking slowly and looking miserable as well. It is these types of things that are perhaps harder to see as the zebra would have had a very long night ahead and its fate was already set. But it is in a national park and it is when you see it (other than an actual quick kill) you realize how often it must be occurring. The ones that get away are not always free to live on and fight for another day.

From these two parks we headed to St Luca where you can find wandering animals and the white sand beach within a couple of kilometers of each other. We didn’t spend a great of time here and explored the park for a few hours but in peak season this place must be pumping. The beaches are gorgeous and St Lucia the town seems to be designed for tourists. It is a great place to spend a long weekend and chill out for sure.

Overall the KwsZulu-Natal province does deserve a great deal of time and the coast would be awesome to relax for a week on a beach but our time was running out and we needed to get out of the car finally and to do some hiking. Drakensberg, Sani Pass and Lesotho here we come.

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