Media Release: Kruger National Park Anniversary Celebrated In Style
Kruger National Park Anniversary Celebrated In Style
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk joined various other dignitaries and more than a thousand people to celebrate the Kruger National Park’s 110th Anniversary in Skukuza today (Saturday June 14, 2008).
“There is no doubt in my mind that the park holds a special place in everyone’s hearts and, over the last 110 years, it has become an icon for the country on many levels, including conservation, tourism and national pride,” said Mr van Schalkwyk during his keynote address.
Minister van Schalkwyk continued that Kruger proudly boasts over 1.3 million tourists for the last financial year. The magic million was first exceeded during March 2003 and has remained above one million ever since. This has proven that this is without doubt one of South Africa’s top tourism destinations.
“This great icon is also not immune to the single greatest driver of biodiversity loss – climate change – which by mid-century will have a dramatic impact on key eco-systems, conservation areas, marine resources and potentially tourism. In the Kruger National Park we could see more intense rainfall interspersed with possibly more extended dry spells, changes in the tree cover, grass production and greater competition for water with water uses upstream of the park.
We have therefore been assessing how the planning, management and expansion of our national parks can build resilience to climate change. Increasingly, we are integrating a greater variety of habitats and altitudes that reduce the risks to endemic species into our protected areas design,” he added.
Termed the KNP’s 110 Conservation Celebration, the event at Skukuza today was the culmination of a three-week celebration that started on Monday May 26, 2008 with events staged in the various regions of the KNP until the main event in Skukuza today. The idea with the staggered approach was that as many people as possible should be able to join the celebrations.
Other speakers at the event included South African National Parks (SANParks) Chief Executive Dr David Mabunda, who gave a speech on the history of conservation in South Africa with particular reference to the KNP and how it compares with the world, a word of welcome by the KNP’s managing executive Dr Bandile Mkhize which also included a decade-by-decade summarised history of the park, a presentation on indigenous culture by Professor Mathole Motshekga from the Kara Heritage Institute and a few anecdotal stories of the park by KNP Nxanatseni (South) Regional Ranger Mr Louis Olivier, who is the longest serving current ranger in the KNP who has 40 years service to his credit.
One of the highlights of the day was the sod turning event at the My Acre of Africa’s site near Phabeni Entrance Gate. Minister Van Schalkwyk officiated this ceremony which signified the fruition of a vision born three years ago, to build a unique environmental facility. This centre will comprise of a multi-purpose interactive learning centre incorporated within a detailed, scale-model relief map of the Kruger National Park known as the Living Map of KNP. This centre is spread over 110 acres – which of course coincides with Kruger’s age - an acre for every year. People are encouraged to buy a brick to preserve our heritage.
Other items included a drill demonstration by the KNP ranger corps, performances by various cultural dancers from around the park, the singing of the new KNP song by the KNP choir and the cutting of the birthday cake by Minister van Schalkwyk and Dr Mabunda. There were also live performances by local musicians who included General Muzka, DJ Sdunkero and Andy Masiye.
The KNP was established by the former Transvaal Boer Republic as the Sabie Game Reserve in 1898. This was linked to the Shingwedzi Game Reserve and named the Transvaal Game Reserve in 1916. In 1926, the South African Government passed the National Parks Act and the Kruger National Park was proclaimed according to this Act on May 31, 1926.
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