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KNP celebrates birthday with communities
“In the immortal words of that well known song of the 1970s and 1980s by Cool and the Gang, let’s now celebrate and have a good time.”
This was the message given to members of the communities, staff members and other dignitaries during the three regional celebrations of the Kruger National Park’s 110th Birthday Celebration.
During his keynote address at each of the three functions, the KNP’s Managing Executive Dr Bandile Mkhize stressed the importance of realising the role of conservation during the three-week-long period when the KNP 110 birthday events will take place.
“In spite of their hardships and because of their infinite dedication to their work, the early Kruger rangers created something special, a wonderful place where all South Africans can now celebrate their natural heritage and where this beautiful natural heritage is protected and cared for by the current crop of dedicated KNP rangers,” explained Dr Mkhize.
During the address, he pleaded with the communities present to realise the importance of conservation and to help the KNP safeguard this natural heritage by reporting suspected poaching activities.
“I am proud of the Kruger’s achievements in this regard over the years.
During the early years, the communities living outside the park were either ignored or ill treated and I believe we have made significant strides to reverse this behaviour.
We have included the communities in our day to day activities and I stand corrected but I don’t believe that the representatives of the communities living outside the boundaries of the park would have attended the 50 year Kruger anniversary in 1958.
“My instruction to the organisers of the KNP 110 Conservation Celebrations was to ensure that our communities would be invited to celebrate our 110th birthday with us as they are also part of the greater Kruger “family” and I am pleased to see that so many people honoured us with their presence for this event today,” he explained.
Traditional dancers from the various areas surrounding the park were also given a chance on the respective event programmes and Tsonga, Venda, Pedi, iSwazi and Afrikaans traditional dance events entertained the guests at the respective events.
The event at Nxanatseni took place on the Phalaborwa Soccer Field on Monday May 26, 2008 and attracted around 600 people.
The event at Nkayeni took place on the Satara Soccer Field on Wednesday May 28, 2008 and attracted around 450 people. The event at Marula took place on Friday May 30, 2008 and attracted more than 600 people.
Retired rangers and representatives from the local communities were also given slots on the programmes of each respective event.
Corporal Phineas Nkuna gave an account of his life as a KNP field ranger at the Nxanatseni Event, Mr Ben Lambrecht gave an account of his life as a KNP section ranger during the Nkayeni Event and Corporal Million Coosa gave an account of his life as a KNP field ranger at the Marula Event.
The three community representatives, Mr R G Lalumbe (Nxanatseni), Mr Andries Machabi (Nkayeni) and Mr E Mthombothi (Marula), took it upon themselves to praise the KNP for the great strides made in its relationship over the past few years but criticised the park for various issues, including damage causing animals.
The park is now gearing up for the main KNP Birthday event, which is scheduled to take place at Skukuza on Saturday June 14, 2008.
Among the various items on the programme will be a keynote address by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, an address by the Chief Executive of South African National Parks Dr David Mabunda and other items.
This event will be huge and there will be more than 1 000 invited guests. Members of the public will also be allowed to attend the event, however they would need to bring their picnic baskets or make other catering arrangements.
It is scheduled to start at 10:00 and the programme will take up the major part of the day. It will allow for people to leave the park before gate closing times but visitors are asked to maintain the rules and regulations of the park.
“We would like you to join us with our celebration but request that everyone refrains from speeding, littering and maintain the other regulations applicable to every visit to the park,” said the Chairperson of the KNP Birthday Organising Committee, the HOD Public Relations and Communication Mr William Mabasa.