One year www.sanparks.org
This weekend marks the first anniversary of the website, so let's have a look at developments during the past year.
The website went online on 27 november 2004 at 16:00 hours.
By December visitor numbers had grown to an average of 2067 visitors per day, which is very good for a recently launched site. The amount of visitors sky-rocketed, and averages about 10.000 visitors a day at present.
A visual of the growth:
Obviously the webcam attracts a lot of visitors. The webcam page is the best viewed page on the site and many sites refer to it. A year ago, the webcam was at a different location, with quite a different view:
The last pic was posted by Bwana, who was the first one to figure out how to post photo's.
However that location presented unique problems:
Unfortunately we have to close the overflow of water from the cement crib outside view into the natural waterhole you are used to. Large numbers of animals are visiting the natural waterhole at the moment (because of this overflow and presence of water) and this action is causing a lot of erosion which is not acceptable. The closure of the waterflow (which is pumped) to the natural waterhole, will cause the natural waterhole in view to dry up, except when it is filled by rain in future.
On 28 September 2005 this resulted in the cam being relocated.
This location has already given us very good sightings, much better than the old location, but small animals proved difficult to identify as the cam was placed a bit far from the waterhole. No trouble for SANParks staff, they complied with the requests and relocated the camera.
The site hasn't been stagnant either, with enhancements added frequently and sometimes unnoticed. Because of the enormous amount of visitors, the web server had to be upgraded after nearly going down. It is working fine now.
So much has been added to the contents of the site that the list becomes endless. To name but two, for those that haven't noticed; introduction videos for the main parks and available camp maps have been added.
A lot of the visitors to the site visit the forums. And boy, do they post! Currently there have been 94.000 posts in about 5000 topics as well as 25.000 PM's. Some 40.000 posts have thus far been kept for the information they carry, which is quite a lot.
This was more than expected, so moderators were introduced, chosen from the more active members. These moderators are expected to clean up the forums and keep it the friendly place it's been so far. They also pass on requests and suggestions from members to the SANParks personnel.
Some organisation of the forums was needed, so with Admin's assistance new forums were created as soon as requested, resulting in Chit-Chat, Member Activities and Wildlife Photography Enthusiasts among others.
Not only the forums were (re)arranged, members united to arrange special projects too. Some projects include new binoculars and bird books for two well-known Kruger staff members, several member meets, a system recognition system for members visiting the Parks(the famous Yellow Ribbon) and of course the donations towards the new webcams. The second webcam will be placed at Satara, and has been paid for by forum members or -visitors. After many, many ideas and long discussions forum T-shirts, designed by forum members have been produced.
Besides all these time consuming activities, loads of helpful tips and advice has been given; descriptions of camps and roads have been posted, people got help planning their iteneraries and delicious recipes were shared.
Recent sightings which almost come in realtime have resulted in changed bookings as well as us almost knowing the names of the animals. Not only that, forumites that were in the Park have been directed to kills reported in that topic.
Three Bricks for Africa have been bought by forum members which will be laid at the Eco-Centre site which is located just inside the western boundary of Kruger, a little over one kilometre south of the new Phabeni Gate. That topic is not closed yet, you can find it here
if you want to help My Acre of Africa build an Endowment Fund which will ensure the conservation of Southern Africa's unique and beautiful wild life and wild lands far into the future.
One thing that has changed people a lot is the talk about birding, be it identification requests, or just talk about rare birds like the Narina Trogon.
Suddenly people started buying birding books, going to Parks or even the garden to seek out birds to tick off their lists. Even people who hardly noticed birds before got involved.
Bags containing lunch and laptops suddenly became very heavy as maps and bird, plant, tree, spoor and invertebrates identification books were added for use at work...
Not all forum content is deadly serious though. Most certainly not! We had great fun discussing springbok in Kruger and tinned skilpaadjies to name but two. Because of the Springbok and Skilpaadjies all Males became Musketeers and all females became Angels. Thank you SANParks for allowing that!
The fairly recently created forum called Quizzes is a downright hit, and lots can be learned from there as well. (Bring your books and maps!)
Frequently Asked Questions
The most popular question is without doubt "How do I post a pic?", so a little tutorial was written.
However other questions were often asked as well, like driving from Joburg to Kruger, what to wear, etc. So we wrote a FAQ (Surprising Admin with that one
), which has proved useful to a lot of people by the looks of it. It has been viewed nearly 6000 times, making it the best read topic on the forum.
Impact on SANParks
No conclusive statistics are available, but staff is convinced that the website has had an enormous impact on their operations. The number of unnecessary "No, sir, not available for that weekend." kind of calls has decreased dramatically and the number of calls from informed users who know what they want, has increased dramatically.
The number of new bookings has risen by 12% in August, September and October 2005, compared to the same period in 2004.