Parliamentary Question: Number of the Big Five in Kruger National Park

1740

Dr S M van Dyk (DA) to ask the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs:†

(1) (a) How do the numbers of (i) the big five types of game in the Kruger National Park today compare with their numbers 10 years ago and (ii) other types of game compare which have also altered drastically over the same period and (b) what are the reasons for the variation in numbers;
(2) what was the effect on the game tally since the cross-border enlargement of the Kruger National Park towards Mozambique;
(3) what measures have been put in place to prevent or curb poaching by means of snares, dog hunting and firearms in the Kruger National Park? NW2130E

Dr S M van Dyk (DA)

SECRETARY TO PARLIAMENT

HANSARD

PAPERS OFFICE

PRESS
1848. THE MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS ANSWERS:
(1)(a)(i) The table below provide the summary of the big five type assumed to mean leopard, lion, buffalo, elephants and rhinos with the rhino category comprising the black and white rhino.

Species 2000 2010 Notes Trend

Black rhinoceros No formal robust estimate 590-670 Method made use of block surveys that correct for the fact that rhinos are not always available and that observers miss them when they are available. The values are 95% confidence intervals as one can seldom say exactly how many rhinos there are using these scientific techniques. Increasing at 7% per annum based on a series of counts noted for black rhino from aerial surveys conducted for other species

White rhinoceros 1879-3780 9460-12120 Method made use of distance sampling techniques. The values are 95% confidence intervals as one can seldom say exactly how many rhinos there are using these scientific techniques. Increasing at 11% per annum.

Buffalo 22260 37500 Total count of the entire park. The technique does not allow estimates of uncertainty as it is likely that counts suffer from several errors. Increasing at 5% per annum.

Elephant 8350 13700 Total count of the entire park. The technique does not allow estimates of uncertainty as it is likely that counts suffer from several errors. Increasing at 4% per annum since 2004.

Leopard No formal robust estimate No formal robust estimate Estimating leopard population sizes carries great difficulty. Based on estimates in the 1980s, it is guessed that about 1000 leopards reside in Kruger. Unknown.

Lion No formal robust estimate 1620-1750 Method made use of vocal call-ups calibrated for the response rate of lions. This varies between individuals and whether lions have cubs or not. The values are 95% confidence intervals as one can seldom say exactly how many lions there are using these scientific techniques. The population is most likely stable because comparisons in three regions where lion population abundances were estimated in the 1970s have the same number of adult females now than then.
(1)(a)(ii) The table below provide estimates for other common species of game. Most species’ biology and life history do not lend themselves easily to count or survey. All estimates made use of distance sampling that provide 95% confidence intervals to estimates as one never can tell exactly how many individuals of a species are in the Park. At present not a single large mammal species’ existence in Kruger National Park is under threat.

Species
2000
2010
Blue wildebeest
3100-8370
8960-13770
Burchell’s zebra
14470-26600
20870-33240
Giraffe
3770-6580
7090-10950
Greater kudu
3600-6830
8050-13180
Impala
71900-112400
99830-163570
Warthog
1100-2710
3220-4450
Waterbuck
1650-4960
3210-7630

(1)(b) Population changes are summaries of the effects that the environment, other species as well as individuals of the same species may have on a specific species. The environment, such as the amount of rain that fell during the period preceding a breeding season greatly influences birth rates while droughts influence death rates. In addition, populations do not increase indefinitely and when abundances increase population growth decreases so that population actually fluctuate rather than change directionally all the time. Competition with other species as well as predation my further contribute to these variations. 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 a part of a natural process. Apart from these natural sources of variance, errors when counting animals may also play a role. This is because it takes time to cover the whole of Kruger, animals move, they may not be visible when under trees at the time a helicopter or aeroplane flies over, and even if they are they may not be always detected.
(2) The effect is negligible and cannot be detected given the variance in population estimates. Biology of species generally suggests that Kruger serves as a source through natural dispersal into available areas without affecting the Kruger populations’ persistence. Mozambique is planning a game census in Limpopo National Park later this year. This will give a better indication of game numbers in the whole Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. In 2006 there were about 600 elephants in Limpopo National Park of which most probably moved across from Kruger National Park.
(3)

There are 301 Rangers in the Kruger National Park (275 Field Rangers and 22 Section Rangers and 4 Regional Rangers) and they are on patrol or within Observation Posts in the bush at identified poacher hotspots 24/7.

These numbers have recently been inflated with the appointment of 58 new Field Rangers to bring the total to the above figure.

An amount of R5.2 million was made available from the Park Development Fund to reinforce the ranger capacity, this included:

The recruitment, appointment and training of the 58 new Field Rangers

Equipping the Section Rangers with motorbikes to increase mobility, as well as other equipment necessary for constant field work

Equipping helicopters and anti-poaching teams with night sight equipment

Additional training of all rangers in the Kruger National Park

The purchasing of a 2nd Bantam aircraft for the north of the Park and the training of 2 additional pilots within the ranks of the Section Rangers

Adjusting the Conditions of Service of Field Rangers to 6 day work weeks in order to be able to have people on the ground all the time

Experimenting with tracker dogs to track poachers to their hideouts.

Patrols and Observation Posts are concentrated in areas with high risk of poaching or where poaching hotspots develop.

Snares are removed or ambushed when found.



All poachers, whether poaching with snares, dogs (this seldom happens) or firearms are confronted and arrested if possible.