A Brief History - Of the Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is the largest sanctuary in the Republic of South-Africa and one of the largest managed and protected park in the world. It is situated in the northeastern corner of the country between the Crocodile river in the south and the Limpopo River in the north. The international border of Mozambique forms the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park, and then it follows the Lebombo mountains in the south and carry's on to the north to the Limpopo River.

The western boundary is very irregular separating private, commercial land and property from the Kruger National Park. If you would look at the park from a satellite Image or on Google Earth you will see it looks like an reversed 'L' and covers an area of 1948528ha or about 20 000km².

The first Europeans that set foot in Mpumalanga Lowveld were 31 men led by Francois de Kruipe. Delagoa Bay and the later Lourenco Marques took over and now it is Maputo, at the time Maputo was under the control of the Dutches in 1725, the Dutch east India Company ordered an expedition to explore from Delagoa Bay to investigate the possibility of expansion and trade with the inner land.

At he Gomondwane just North of today's Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, they met a party of hostile inhabitants and, after a skirmish, beat a hasty retreat.

The next set of people to pass through the territory were two parties of Voortrekkers who traveled through the central part of the park, Crossing into Mozambique via the Shilowa and Mbhatsi gorges through the Lebombo mountains. In 1844 Chief Commandant A.H Potgieter came to an agreement with the Portuguese and defined the boundary between South Africa and Mozambique separating the territories as they are today.

Tow years later Potgieter bartered with the Swazis to acquire territory between the Crocodile and the Lepelle rivers.

In 1867 the gold was discovered in the Lydenburg area and soon people flocked to the area. The Lowveld wet unknown at the time and soon became famous for its hunting area. The farmers in the Highfield soon moved down the Escarpment to the Lowveld to find water for their herds and them selfs finding themselves in a game rich environment and they continued to hunt.

They were followed by professional hunters seeking ivory, horns, and skins the game numbers declined rapidly and in 1884 President S.J.P Kruger proposed in the Transvaal Volksraad that a game sanctuary must be established to preserve the fast declining of the game. At that stage, he was the only voice crying in the wilderness.
The public opinion was not favorable as well at the stage and was only 14 years later that the area between the crocodile and Sabi Rivers was proclaimed a wildlife sanctuary in which any person in which any person felt guilty of destroying and hunting if animals were wounded by someone the person will be prosecuted and penalized.

The proclamation was signed on 26 March 1898.The small Sabi Game Reserve and the Shingwedzi Game Reserve were the beginnings of what has grown into the world-renowned Kruger National Park.

The are of the Sabi Game Reserve was only about 4600km².The first two game rangers were Paul Machiel Bester of the ZAR Police from Komatipoort. He created and erected the first dwelling area where Skukuza is situated today. He built a hide from wildebeest skins and had to occasionally repair it from hyenas and had to frighten them off retrieving lost skins.

The other ranger that was appointed was Izak Cornelis Holtzhausen from ZAR Police from Nelspruit. The Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899 and the Sabi Game Reserve was all but forgotten.After the Peace of Vereeniging in 1902 the interim government under Lord Milner decided to re-proclaim the reserve
and appointed Major (later Colonel) James Stevenson-Hamilton as warden.
The Scottish professional soldier obtained a two-year leave of absence from his regiment to begin the great task of saving what remained of the once-great herds of game that had been decimated by hunters and both Boer and British soldiers. He became involved in the welfare of his animal charges to such an extent that he stayed for more than 40 years, until his retirement in 1946.
The continued existence and development of ' the Kruger National Park is largely due to his dedication and Sound administration.

When Stevenson-Hamilton settled on the banks of the Sabie River, the balance of nature was seriously impaired, especially with regard to the larger mammals, and game laws virtually existed on paper only. Giraffes, hippos, buffaloes and rhinos were extremely rare, elephants occasionally wandered in from Mozambique but did not stay at first, and other species were numerically very low.

Instructions to the new warden were very vague. The only one he remembered clearly was ’to make himself as unpopular as possible’ among hunters and poachers. He set to this task with fervor, earning himself the nickname ’Skukuza’, which means ’the man who changes everything’.
 In 1904 he succeeded in getting control, and thus game protection, over approximately 10 000 km2 of land north of the Sabie River that had belonged to land-owning and mining companies and private individuals. To centralize control of the area under his jurisdiction, he became Native Commissioner, Customs Official and Justice of the Peace for the territory, appointing rangers to assist him in his task.

In 1922, in the aftermath of the First World War, a demand for more agricultural land to be made available by the government and for industries to be developed, coupled to the largely unsympathetic attitude of most Lowvelders of the time, seriously jeopardised the continued existence of the Sabi Game Reserve. By this time Stevenson-Hamilton had come to the conclusion that the reserve should become a national park under central government control if its future-was to be safeguarded. Fortunately he had influential friends, not least of all Senator Deneys Reitz. After a change of government, which for a time seemed to nullify all his efforts, he finally Won the confidence and support of the new Minister of Lands, P. J. Grobler, a great-nephew of President Kruger.

His efforts were crowned with success when, on 31 May 1926, the National Parks Act was adopted unanimously, adding many hectares of land north of the Sabie River to the old Sabi Game Reserve.
The Reserve was renamed the Kruger National Park, in honor of President S. J. P. Kruger, who had done so much for wildlife conservation in South Africa. Thus the Kruger National Park became the first national park in South Africa’s system of national parks. 
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