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South African National Parks (SANParks)

Kruger National Park Decade-By-Decade History

1836 – Great Trek

Louis Trichardt was the first white Voortrekker to trek through the present-day Kruger Park to Delagoa Bay (Maputo) in Mozambique. Most of his party succumbed to malaria on this journey.

First Decade 1898 - 1907

1898 - Sabie Established

President Paul Kruger proclaimed the “Gouvernement Wildtuin on 26 March 1898. Its boundaries stretched from the Crocodile River in the south to the Sabie River in the north and from the Nsikazi River in the west to the Mozambican border in the east.

1899 - Boer War

During the Anglo Boer War, the proclamation of the Sabie Game Reserve was nullified. This was reinstated in 1902.

1902 - Stevenson-Hamilton

Maj James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as Game Warden of the Sabie Game Reserve in July 1902 and, after a four-month period where he used a cottage at Crocodile Bridge, he moved his headquarters to the old blockhouse at Sabie Bridge in November of that year. He was 35 years old when he was appointed.

1903 - Shingwedzi Game Reserve

An area between the Letaba and Limpopo rivers was proclaimed a game reserve. This area was called the Shingwedzi Game Reserve.

1903 - Wolhuter

Previously a member of Steinaeckers’ Horse Regiment, Harry Wolhuter was appointed as the first game ranger in the fledgling park. That November he experienced a life changing incident when a lion attacked him and he managed to kill the lion with his sheath knife.

Second Decade 1908 - 1917

1912 - First Borehole

The first borehole was sunk at Skukuza.

1912 - Sabie River Bridge

Part of the old Selati railway line and bridge over the Sabie River, can still be seen at Skukuza.

1913 - Telephone Communication

A telephone line was established between Skukuza and Komatipoort, this was considered a huge step forward.

1914 – More Land

The area between the Olifants and Letaba rivers was added to the Shingwedzi Game Reserve.

1916 - Transvaal Game Reserve

Shingwedzi and Sabie Game Reserves were consolidated under Stevenson-Hamilton.

Third Decade 1918 - 1927

1918 - First Tourists

First tourists allowed access to the reserve despite reservations on the part of the governing Board.

1923 - Railroad

South African Railways ran “round-in-nine” rail trip of the Lowveld, along the Selati railway line. Tourists spent the night on the train at Selati Bridge.

1924 - Grazing Rights Terminated

Until 1924 farmers still had grazing rights, and to ensure good grazing for the winter, farmers burned the veld every year.

1926 - Kruger National Park Named

The Parliament of the Union of South Africa passed a National Parks Act, and renamed the Reserve, the Kruger National Park on 31 May 1926.

1927 - Tourism Begins To Grow

The Pretoriuskop section opened to tourists – entry fee One Pound. The route was from White River, via Mtimba to Pretoriuskop and back, on the same route, on the same day. Only three cars entered the Park.

Fourth Decade 1928 - 1937

1928-9 - The Firsts Huts Built

First huts for tourists were built at Satara, Skukuza and Pretoriuskop.

1930 - Visitors

900 cars entered the Park during the year.

1931 - Concrete Dam

The first concrete dam was built at Ntomeni Spruit.

1931 - Tents

Tents introduced into Skukuza and Satara.

1931 - Furniture

Purchase of furniture for huts approved.

1932 - Ablutions

A unit with four bath and four shower cubicles was built in Skukuza.

1933 - Baths

First baths installed at Punda Maria and Letaba. Charge one shilling per cold water bath.

1933 - Boreholes

The first boreholes to provide water for game were sunk.

1936 - Skukuza

Sabie Bridge camp was renamed Skukuza.

Fifth Decade 1938 - 1947

1938 - Hot Water

Hot water facilities were installed and camps were fenced off for the first time.

1935-46 - Eileen Orpen Legacy

Mrs Eileen Orpen bought and donated to the Park, a series of farms totalling 24 528ha. A memorial plaque in her honour was erected south of Tshokwane in 1944.

1943 - Veld Burning

Lt Col Stevenson-Hamilton reported bush encroachment by tall unpalatable grasses.

1946 - Stevenson-Hamilton Retires

After 44 years service, Lt Col Stevenson-Hamilton leaves the Park.

1947 - Predator Culling

Culling of predators as a strategy to “bring up” the herbivore herds was stopped and left to the discretion of the warden.

Sixth Decade 1948 - 1957

1950 - Researching The Park

The research unit was established in the Kruger Park. Dr T. G. Nel was the first scientist appointed followed by M. van der Schijf. Since then the science-management partnership has been very effective in ensuring the regular updating of park policies.

1951 - Electricity

Electric lighting installed. Huts received wash-basins with hot and cold water.

1950s - Veld Burning

Burning of the veld was re-implemented to establish more suitable conditions for grazers.

1954 - Fire Experiments

A series of veld-burning experiments was instituted in the four major vegetation types. This experiment continues to this day which makes it one of the longest fire experiments in the world.

Seventh Decade 1958 - 1967

1958 - Koedoe Tells The Story

The National Parks Board launched its scientific journal, Koedoe, where research conducted in or important to national parks was published.

1960s - Mosquito Gauze

Mosquito gauze was installed in huts throughout the Park during the 1960s.

1960 - White Rhinos Return

The first white rhino reintroduced to Kruger from Natal. In total 330 were introduced over a 12 year period. Their numbers have grown to about 7,000 in 2007 which is the largest white rhino population in the world.

1961 - Foot-And-Mouth

A fence was erected on the Park’s western and southern borders to prevent animals leaving and so spreading foot-and-mouth disease amongst cattle.

1960s - Liquor

Liquor became available to tourists at restaurants and shops during the 1960s.

1967 - Counting The Elephants

This first complete elephant survey was done and 6,600 elephant were counted. This was a very rapid increase considering only 10 elephants were seen in 1905. In order to limit excessively negative impacts on the environment, an annual culling program was initiated.

Eighth Decade 1968 - 1977

1969 - Relocation

The Makuleke community in the Pafuri area were the last people to be relocated out of the park.

1970s - Engelhard Dam Constructed

The Engelhard Dam, funded by the well-known industrialist Charles Engelhard, was constructed.

1970-80 - Water

This era was characterised by a big “water for game” drive that led to the construction of many artificial waterholes.

1976 - Eastern Boundary Fence Built

The eastern boundary of the Kruger NP with Mozambique was fenced and the park became a virtual “island” which necessitated certain management interventions to compensate for the restrictions posed by the fence.

1977 - Cyclone Emily

The northern areas of the Park were struck by a cyclone.

Ninth Decade 1978 - 1987

1978 – Counting Animals From Aircraft

The annual aerial survey for large mammal was started using a fixed-wing aircraft. This long-term monitoring program has given insights in the responses of the large mammal populations to rainfall cycles.

1980s - Bateleur Camp Created

This camp was built in the late 1980s.

1980s - New Ideals

SANParks began moving away from discriminatory legislation.

1984 – Cyclones Cause Damage

Cyclones Demoina and Imboa struck the Park and rivers flood.

1984 - Berg-En-Dal Established

Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp was opened in 1984. Meaning “mountain and dale”, the camp was a departure from established styles.

1987 – Rivers Researched

The Kruger Rivers Research Program was launched in a response to the deterioration of the perennial rivers flowing through the park. This program played a big role in establishing adaptive management principles in the Park and shaping the new National Water Act that was promulgated in 1998.

Tenth Decade 1988 - 1997

1988 - Piet Grobler Dam Built

The largest concrete dam in the Park was built and named after Minister Piet Grobler in recognition of his work towards the proclamation of the Kruger National Park.

1989 - Cites Banned Ivory Trading

A CITES ban was placed on the international trade in ivory due to the poaching threat on elephant populations in Africa.

1990 – Thulamela Discovered

The Thulamela ruins were discovered by chance by ranger Flip Nel during an aerial game census.

1992 - Worst Drought Recorded

The Kruger NP experienced the most severe drought yet recorded and a number of herbivore populations showed severe reductions sue to lack of grazing.

1992 – Thulamela Dug Up

The excavations at Thulamela began.

1992 - Mopani Camp Established

Mopani Rest Camp is one of the newest of all the rest camps. It opened in 1992.

1993 - Western Boundary Brought Down

The historic dismantling of the western boundary fence linking the private reserves of the Sabi Sand and Timbavati with the Park commenced.

1994 - Elephant Cull Stopped

SANParks placed a moratorium on elephant culling.

1997 - Elephant Hall Created

A museum dedicated to elephant and funded by the Gold Fields Foundation was opened at Letaba.

Eleventh Decade 1998 - 2007

1998 - First Black Director Appointed

The first black director of the KNP was appointed in 1998, Madoda David Mabunda. Dr Mabunda is now the SANParks Chief Executive.

1998 – Makuleke Rewarded Land Claim

The northern Pafuri area of 24 000ha was returned to the Makuleke people, who elected to use the land as a concessionary conservation area.

2000 - Huge Floods Happened

Severe flooding occurred in the Kruger NP in February with much damage caused to infrastructure.

2001 - Fire Tragedy Hits Pretoriuskop

Large areas of the park were burned due to the high grass biomass resulting from the high rainfall in 2000 fueling fires. On 4 September a great tragedy was experienced when 4 rangers and 20 grass cutters died when a runaway fire engulfed their camp.

2002 - Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park Treaty Signed

The treaty is signed by Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe which ratifies the creation of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which will become the greatest conservation area in Africa extending over some 35 000 square kilometres.

2002 - Private Concessions Established

Jock of the Bushveld Camp, the first private concession in the Kruger, opens. Six other concessions follow.

2003 - Scientific Experience Published

The first scientific book about research in the Kruger NP, called “The Kruger Experience – ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity” was published.

2003 – First Million Reached

For the first time, the KNP received more than one million guests in a 12 month period. Visitor statistics broke through the magical mark on 8 March 2003. Since that time, the park regularly gets more than one million per year, with the current statistic standing at 1,3-million.

2004 - Junior Scientists Programme Initiated

Junior scientist program was implemented in Kruger with funding from the AW Mellon Foundation in the US. This program aims to help young black scientists achieve their Masters & Doctorate degrees.

2006 - Management Plan Written

For the first time, the views and ideas from outside stakeholders are incorporated into an all encompassing management plan as per the new Protected Areas Act.

2006 - Giriyondo Opened

The presidents of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe officiated at the opening of the Giriyondo Tourist Access Facility. This facility opens the border between the Kruger and Limpopo national parks in South Africa and Mozambique respectively as a major initiative of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.