Fanie Both was born on a farm between Petrusburg and Koffiefontein in the southern Free State, where he received his schooling and grew up.
After leaving school he joined the S A Police. His heart was in the bush and decided to apply for a position as Ranger in the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.
He got the position and was employed as a Ranger from 1966 to 1974.
Fanie Botha ended his bachelorship when he married his wife Nonnie. She mentioned that they were married in the morning and that Eddie Young and his wife that same afternoon. Both couples spent their honeymoon at Satara staying with the Camp manager and his family.
He started at Mahlamahla later called Klipkoppies North West of Olifants, then at Kingfisherspruit near Orpen and then at Malelane.
Mahlamahla = Sable Antelope in the Tsonga language, in addition to being a Ranger’s post also served as a border post for people coming from Mozambique.
Fanie worked very closely with Gus Adendorff posted at Letaba.
As with all Rangers Fanie had a very special relationship with his black staff mostly Shanganes, they had to have absolute trust in one another especially in difficult circumstances.
While out on patrol once they came across two Leopard cubs, he mentioned that they should catch them and hand rear them, the reply no, the mother will get us.
While at Malelane there was a huge poaching problem, one of his Rangers Watch Twala found 17 snares in the veldt in the area where the Nsikazi joins the Crocodile River. Assistance was given and Rangers were placed a pair in ambush at a few of the snares. Two days later the poachers arrived where Watch was in ambush.
On confronting the poachers, one shouted that they are going to get him as he had been active in arresting poachers in the past. He raised his axe and charged Watch. The Ranger raised his rifle and fired an overhead warning shot. The bullet hit the sharp side of the raised axe head and split in two, one piece into oblivion and the other struck the poacher in the arm, severing an artery. He ran off and little distance further collapsed. Watch found him dead.
The case was reported to the S A P who arrived, took statements and wanted to arrest watch. Ranger Botha intervened and offered to keep Watch as his responsibility until the case was to be heard, after some deliberation it was agreed to.
Justice Lammie Snyman heard the case in Nelspruit. Much was done to convince everyone that the Ranger acted while carrying out his duty. During the trial Watch was asked whether it was his intention to shoot and kill the poacher. The reply was no it was his intention to fire a warning shot. Justice Snyman then asked how he could prove this, the reply: “Nkosi if I wanted to kill him I would have done so” the question “how” the answer “by shooting him in the forehead”.
Ranger Watch Twala was found not guilty and the case was closed.
On another occasion Ranger Botha and his assistant Elimon were marking trees which were to be removed in making a new road between Klipkoppies and Letaba.
The two were busy with their task about 8 km away from Klipkoppies when Elimon tapped on his leg and pointed in the direction of a bush, a loud growl followed from the charging Lioness. She stopped short. All of a sudden there was a charge from another direction – a huge male Lion this time, it also stopped short, close enough for Elimon and Fanie to be splattered with earth, stones and grass seeds from the brake marks of the Lion. It snarled at the two and then turned and went to the Lioness and her two cubs. Fanie following it with his loaded 375 magnum, not shooting
They backed off and carried on marking the trees no one saying a word. They would later return to the detour to complete the marking. Fanie felt like a smoke and went to sit on a fallen tree. He put his already stuffed pipe in his mouth but could not light it, his hands were shaking . . . .
Later arriving at Letaba Elimon told of the other staff about their experience who in turn told Gus Adendorff the Ranger there, about it. Fanie got a dressing down and was told that he should have shot the male. Fanie said yes he could but it turned away. Gus told Fanie that had the male tackled him the Lioness would have joined in, he may have been able to shoot the male but its momentum would have bowled him over and then he would not have had sufficient time to cock the rifle and shoot the female. He should have shot the male when first noticed. They agreed to disagree, how could he shoot the animal where he Fanie Botha was the intruder?
Fanie afterwards realised how easily one could land in a situation and act not knowing what the actual outcome may have been.
One day out in his vehicle he approached the Maloponyane windmill, it was hot and the animals were standing around and not drinking. He watched for a while and suspected that the Elephants had again as their habit was – lifted the ball valve. He got out and walked towards the trough, past some Ilala Palm bushes, there was a loud roar and dust coming from the charging Lion who lay in ambush. Fanie froze and then heard someone running towards him, next moment Elimon stuck the 375 into his hands.
The Ranger felt quite humiliated and fired two shots into the calcrete behind the big male Lion who responded by angrily turning around and striking at the flying pieces, snarling at the two humans and then disappeared. Elimon asked why he did not shoot the Lion after the dressing down by Gus, the reply “how could I shoot and kill the King of the bush”. Elimon understood.
Fanie Botha said he preferred the penetration of the 375 magnum to the stopping power of the 458 or 600 calibre.
Gus Adendorff was also one of the true pioneer Game Rangers. He refused to catch game to be sold and was very much against the tarring of roads in the Park as it would ruin the authenticity of the bush.
Fanie very often, while on the crest of the faraway Lebombos saw the dust curtain hanging over the main road between Satara and the Letaba River.
An American called Jones once purchased 20 Elephant calves from the Parks Board. These had to be caught kept in quarantine and then crated and sent to the ranch in America. Adendorff blankly refused to have anything to do with this.
Fanie Botha was instructed to carry out the task.
The team arrived and a helicopter was used, the procedure was to separate the calves from the herd, and then chase the herd away, easier said than done. However they got going. Fanie was the only Ranger who always took his rifle into the helicopter; the pilot Cor Beeck enquired why he had this habit, the reply “for just in case an angry mother gets hold of this low flying helicopter, I could shoot you first”. Needless to say the pilot kept the ’copter out of reach . . . . . The calves were caught and immobilized with the assistance of Drs. Eddie Young and Valerius de Vos from the Veterinary Dept.
Game control (culling) was a duty least liked by the Rangers, finding volunteers was difficult so therefore instruction to carry out this duty had to be issued.
Fanie told of an instance where this unpleasant task had to be carried out in the Shawu valley.
The animals were darted from the helicopter and given an overdose of anaesthetic. The darted animals were down and the workers started their task. Young Louis Olivier and Ludwig Wagner were then working for the Veterinary Department and were assigned to take blood samples. Normally, from an exposed artery behind the ear. One of the cows had collapsed onto her knees and Ludwig Wagner who was quite short got onto her back to obtain the sample.
Ranger Fanie Botha was standing point on top of his Landrover, ensuring that all was safe for the other parks employees doing their duties during this operation.
Unknown to Ludwig, the dart had struck a bone and the full dose of anaesthetic was not released. The cow seemed to recover and got up, everyone scattered with the short Ludwig tearing off into the tall grass. Fanie noticed a parting of the tall grass and then realised it was the fleeing running and jumping Ludwig; reminding him of a fox terrier chasing and pouncing a mouse in long grass.
Afterwards there was a lot of laughing and joking when this incident was recalled.
Once Gus Adendorff was driving along a firebreak and noticed a Mamba too late, he drove over the snake. He stopped and saw the snake was gone, he suspected that it had somehow or the other got into the engine. The bonnet was carefully raised and sure enough there it was. Gus got out his rifle and shot and killed the snake. After all the action they heard a noise of running liquid. The bullet had killed the snake and penetrated the oil sump- the oil was running out.
Fortunately Gus was a man, who believed in good hygiene, he took some of the Sunlight soap from the cubby hole, softened it and sealed the bullet hole. They reached home without any further incidents.
Ranger Botha had a field post on the banks of the Makhadzispruit near to where the Engelhard Dam is now.
The post was manned by two Field Rangers, one of them Julius came and got permission for his wife and their two children to visit him for a fortnight. Permission was granted and family got together.
One evening Julius heard the younger child crying, he lit the little paraffin lamp and then the older child also started crying. In the poor light he noticed an Mfezi (Cobra snake). He killed the snake and then attended the children, discovering that both had been bitten.
Julius immediately took both children and set of on his bicycle in the dark of the night, to Letaba where he woke Gus Adendorff and the four of them immediately set off by vehicle to the Phalaborwa hospital.
Unfortunately the younger child did not survive; all were very much saddened by this tragedy.
When questioned about the Shangane antidote for snake bite, Fanie replied that he had heard of it but had no experience of it.
Another instance mentioned was that of a Python biting an employee although the wound had been thoroughly cleaned and attended to, it took quite a while to heal.
One day Gus Adendorff was driving along and came across an Elephant obstructing the road. Gus stopped and as was customary struck the outside of the door with his hand, the elephant never realised that it was supposed to get out of the way, it came forward, stuck its tusks through the drivers door, gave the vehicle and the occupants a few shakes and walked off.
Poaching has always been a big problem. Some adjoining landowners would often shoot an animal like a Zebra, cut it open and drag it along the bordering fence. The carcass would be chained to a tree close to the border and the fence lifted.
Lions would be attracted by the smell of the dragged carcass and then crawl through the lifted fence and feed off the carcass, where they would then be shot by some “hunter” to the substantial financial gain of the greedy unscrupulous landowner.
Unless caught red handed it was very difficult getting a successful prosecution.
It was always heartbreaking to see animals dying with festering wounds or finding emaciated snared carcasses in the veldt.
Many a white poacher was also come across and arrested in the south western area of the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.
Van Reenen van Vuuren was the newly appointed Ranger at Crocodile Bridge.
Soon after his appointment in the pub at Komatipoort the barman introduced him to the other customers. A little later a white Portuguese citizen from neighbouring Mozambique entered and was introduced to the new Ranger. He mentioned that he was pleased to meet him and that he hopes that he does not come across van Vuuren again as he would not like shooting him. Van Vuuren got the message and made up his mind.
Not very much longer the Field Rangers reported that an Elephant had been shot by poachers. The earlier mentioned Portuguese was present.
The new Ranger went to investigate and found the poacher still busy, chopping out the tusks and cutting up the flesh.
When confronted the Portuguese attacked van Vuuren, making a big mistake. The lot were arrested and on appearing in court sated that they were illegally arrested as they were in Mozambican territory.
A land surveyor went out and confirmed that the Elephant was poached within the boundaries of the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.
The poachers were found guilty and sentenced.
Fanie mentioned that one day him and Peet Otto the principal of the Malelane School joined him travelling along the Nsikazi. While on their way a herd of Waterbuck crossed the road. On their return journey they found the bull lying in the road. They stopped and it still did not move. Upon investigation it was found that a steel cable was twisted around its horns and somehow worked its way through the skull into the brain. The death of another snared animal!
Fanie has a video taken at Kloppersfontein of a white Lion.
He also told of one day when he and Nonnie drove along the Sweni Spruit, stopping at a drinking trough saw a Buffalo Bull and a full grown Leopard sharing the trough about 6 metres apart, one on either side.
Nonnie told of a Cheetah female and her three half grown cubs they came across at the Ngirivana Dam. The cubs were playing and the mother wanted to move on, she called but was just ignored, being a mother herself she found this quite amusing.
Nonnie also told about the resident Badger at Tamboti tented Camp. It lived in a hole under their tent, it raided the dust bins from tent no 1 to the last. Looking for something sweet or whatever was available. Fanie remarked on the peculiar habits of this interesting fearless animal. He also mentioned about the name the Shanganes have for it- deriving from its biting and defensive habits, rather not repeated here.
Fanie told stories about Tsotsi – the late Ampie Espag, the then Ranger at Nwanedzi, he had three tame warthogs. They used to ruin his wife Sannie’s garden. They were kept in a fenced off pen. In the morning when opened they would go to the garden and when chased off, into the veldt. When penning time arrived or if Ampie was not sure where they were he would give a sharp loud whistle and they would come tearing along with their tails upright, straight to the pen. Visitors were also heartily greeted by the three.
Fanie mentioned that a definite highlight for himself and most of the Rangers was when the negotiations with the Natal Parks Board were successfully concluded and it was agreed that White and Black Rhino would be donated to the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.
Of the Rangers were sent to Hluhluwe and Umfolozi to assist in the capture and care for these animals. Eventually in 1968, the convoy arrived at the Pretoriuskop breeding Camp and the first Rhino set foot on KRUGER soil in approximately half a century. Approximately 200 White Rhino were moved to KRUGER, the forefathers of those now regularly sighted in the Park.
The first Black Rhinos were brought in during 1972, Fanie remarked on the damage they caused to the holding crates.
Upon release they were kept in the breeding Camp where Thys Mostert and his team, together with help from the other eager and helpful Rangers took great care of their new acquisition.
Even after being released the Rhino were closely monitored to ensure their survival in and area where they had been eradicated from.
The little community was very closely knit; they shared in one another’s joys and heart sore especially when Mrs. De Beer the wife of Nic was killed by a Leopard while out on her daily walk through the staff village in Skukuza . . . . .
During a function at the Skukuza many take aways were for sale and purchased. Hannes Kloppers and his wife also attended. Hannes remembered that something quickly had to be done at home not very far from the little school. He told his wife that he would return soon. It was getting late and still no Hanes, eventually Mrs. Kloppers decided to go home. She set off a cake in each hand. In the distance near their home she noticed a lot of activity, getting closer she found Hannes chasing some visitors of the feline family. It is assumed that the Kloppers family had trifle the following day.
Speeding seems to have been a problem then possibly less than now. Fanie told that one morning very early they were on their way from Skukuza to Lower Sabie. About a quarter of the way down they came across a Golf in the veldt next to the road towards the Sabie River. The whole front smashed in, the result of a collision with a Hippopotamus. Judging from the time of day and the distance travelled from Lower Sabie, it was impossible that the distance covered could have been done adhering to the speed limit.
The old timers keep close contact with one another, apparently the restaurant at Komatipoort serving fresh seafood is a favourite hideout for Fanie Botha, Mike English, Ted Whitfield Louis Olivier and their wives where many hours are spent chatting and remembering the good old days.
Close ties are also still with Tom Yssel, Quarta, the wife of the late Ben Pretorius, Ben Lamprecht, Dr. Tol and Mrs Anette Pienaar. Johan Oelofse, their distant relative as well as Johan Klopper – the mentor of many of the old timers, Piet Bronkhorst and many others.
Fanie and Nonnie are now spending their retirement in Bloemfontein; the Bothas still enjoy visiting their favourite place, their favourite Camps being Mbiyamiti, Satara and Mopani.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 142 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.