The joy and dangers of living alongside wildlife

The elephant is one of the Big 5 you're most likely to spot during a visit to the Kruger National Park.

On a recent visit to the Kruger National Park (the first in about two years) I was lucky enough to see a few white rhino. It was an amazing experience as I hadn’t see one since I was in primary school and had forgotten what huge creatures they are.

Among other activities that day, I also enjoyed riding in an open safari vehicle and being amongst a herd of elephants.

Experiences like these serve to remind me how lucky Lowvelders are to live in such beautiful surroundings and to be able to see wildlife rather frequently.

However, incidents like the tour guide who was mauled by a leopard a few days ago have made me rethink the wisdom of travelling through the park in an open vehicle.

There have been several tourists who have been seriously injured in past years due to total disregard of the park’s rules. Many people seem to think that these wild animals are tame just because they’re in a fenced area.

It’s a warning that has been given to many people, especially those that grew up in places like the Lowveld and Bushveld where wild animals like bucks and mongoose have been partially domesticated – remember that an animal will always have that wild instinct and will have no scruples about biting the hand that just fed it.

As a little girl growing up amongst game farms and reserves, I heard of many such attacks and have seen many scars on the game farmers and guides. It’s given me a healthy respect for wild animals and how they should be treated.

Have you ever witnessed a tourist doing something reckless and stupid in the park, do you take chances yourself or are you cautious when in the park? Let me know in the comments below or on the Hazyview Herald facebook page.

Retha Nel

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