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Media Release: Management of fires start early in KNP

Date: 8th May 2009

Kruger National Park (KNP) management will implement its management fire policy early this year because of the good rainfall. This is necessary to continue the KNP’s commitment to sound conservation principles and area management.

Kruger National Park (KNP) management will implement its management fire policy early this year because of the good rainfall. This is necessary to continue the KNP’s commitment to sound conservation principles and area management.

“When managing a national park, we often find that even good things like increased rainfall will result in the need to take action as a result. And the excellent rainfall we experienced has resulted in huge fire fuel load build up in the veld which, if not controlled, will haunt us later in the year during the fire season,” said the KNP’s head of conservation management Dr Freek Venter.

The result is that KNP rangers will put in patch burns to break up these large fuel loads which will not only help control run-away fires during the dry and windy fire season later in the year but which also have huge ecological benefits, such as the regeneration of the veld.

“The cool, low intensity fires will create a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas in the park which definitely help slow down fires during the fire season,” explained Dr Venter.

Fire research has shown that early fires also help to control bush encroachment tree species, such as sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea) and enable other tree species such as knobthorn (Acacia nigrescens) and possibly even marula trees to flourish.

Producing a varied ecosystem

“The implementation of patch mosaic burning in the KNP will help to produce a varied ecosystem that is desired by ecologists. Many believe this approach will emulate or reinstate the natural burning patterns that occurred in this area for centuries before modern man moved into the area and took control,” explained Dr Venter.

Park rangers will burn as many areas as possible during May, June and July, 2009.

“We realise that many visitors to the KNP will see these fires in a negative light but we would like to assure everyone that the fires are in the best interests of the conservation of the area, both from a vegetation point of view and from a safety point of view,” concluded Dr Venter.

An additional benefit of the management fires for KNP visitors is that the vegetation is kept low and thus it becomes easier to see wildlife. However, it must be stressed that this isn’t the main reason for its implementation.

The controlled burns will be implemented according to the National Veld and Forest Fire Act (101 of 1998) and the Kruger National Park Fire Protection Association which was formed in compliance with this Act.

Issued by:
Raymond Travers, Media Relations Practitioner, Kruger National Park. Contact: Tel: (013) 735 4116, cell: 082 908 2677 or email: raymondt@sanparks.org

Enquiries:
William Mabasa, HOD: Public Relations and Communication, Kruger National Park. Contact: Tel: (013) 735 4363, cell: 082 807 3919 or email: williamm@sanparks.org

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