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KNP to demolish its artificial water holes

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Guinea Pig
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Closing of Water Points in Kruger

Unread post by Guinea Pig » Wed Jan 26, 2005 5:57 pm

What was the reasoning behind closing many of the manmade waterholes?

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Unread post by Freda » Wed Jan 26, 2005 6:03 pm

I heard it was because the roan and sable were moving down from the north to use the waterholes and being taken by predators which depleted their numbers. I read somewhere that there is only about 20 roan left in the park.

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Unread post by bwana » Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:10 pm

Its funny that Sable and Roan are really scarce all over. I dont recall any area in Africa where they are prolific. They seem to be very habitiat specific and not very good adapters. We have already lost a member of their family, the Blue Buck, so if this is the case above, then probably a good idea to close the boreholes.
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Unread post by Herman » Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:17 pm

This looks like a Vaal triangle discussion group LOL , but I think the reason was that in the case of the roan antelope, their natural habitat is the "vlei" areas in the north, which didn't really have enough water to sustain big herds of "savannah" animals like wildebeest and zebras. Since boreholes were made in those areas ( in the '60's ?) many zebs etc. moved into the area and with them more predators, so their habitat became threatened by other grazers and the higher desity of predators also affected them. Theory is that with the closure of the waterholes, the other animals, which are more dependant on a constant water supply like zebras and wildebeest, will move back to their southern pastures and with them the predators, which will restore the balance for the roans ? The parks people could perhaps fill in a bit, or correct me if I've got the roan by the tail ?!! Once again however, it just illustrates how bad man's interference in nature can be - no matter how good his intentions ?

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Unread post by francoisd » Thu Jan 27, 2005 8:43 am

The professional society I belong too held its annual conference at Berg-en-Dal in 2000. Someone from KNP presented a talk on the diseases of KNP and mentioned that the problem with many of the small cement drinking troughs (like those on the S100 and at the back of Nsemanidam dam is that they also contribute to the built up of high levels of Anthrax bacteria. The reason being that vultures creep deep into carcasses and in this manner get a lot of these bacteria [when feeding on an infected carcass] "stuck" to their feathers. They then use these drinking troughs as bird baths, that in turn deposits the bacteria in the water and surrounding area. As time goes on you may get a very high concentration of Anthrax bacteria in a small area.

Danie/Kruger any comment on this??

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Unread post by bwana » Thu Jan 27, 2005 8:50 am

Not to mention the inevitable baboon drowning in the dam. We had a problem with that on the farm.
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boreholes

Unread post by fevertree » Fri Apr 22, 2005 9:34 am

There was mention earlier in this topic on sable in the sabi sands Game Reserve - I wish. I worked there for many years, and only saw one once - from a helicopter when we were doing the census of the reserve, and this lone individual was right on the Kruger boundary anyway and then straight back into the Park. The habitat in the Sabi Sands has changed too dramatically over the past 30 years or so and is not suitable for sable at the moment.
Would definitely like some input from the Park regarding the reason for closing so many waterholes.
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Re: boreholes

Unread post by KNP Spokesman » Tue Apr 26, 2005 12:41 pm

Hi Fevertree and other Forum Members

Firstly, I must apologise for my absence from the forum over the last two weeks. I was on leave.

Just to give you an idea as to why the boreholes were closed, herewith an article I wrote for the Borehole Water Journal which you might find informative:

Borehole closures in the KNP

The water policy for the Kruger National Park, as adopted in December 1997, attempts to simulate the natural distribution of water with the positive consequences it will have on biodiversity, without detracting from the tourist experience.
According to KNP Conservation Services head, Dr Freek Venter, management of the Kruger's diverse ecosystems has taken a turn towards the adaptive management philosophy.
“Everything we do, we take opportunities to learn more things about the entire eco system of the Kruger National Park. And the result is that we have accumulated the maximum data possible and this has gradually changed our outlook on biodiversity management over the years" he explained.
With this new data available, policies and procedures could be revisited and even drastically revised and this is particularly evident in the change in policy regarding water distribution.
The previous programme of water provision, according to Dr Venter, was initiated before anyone really understood the eco system.
Researcher Dr Rina Grant points out that when Kruger was established in 1898, animals concentrated around the five perennial rivers and pools in a number of seasonal rivers during the dry months. Very few natural perennial water sources existed between these rivers and most of the water sources in the areas between the rivers were unreliable, ephemeral and depended on local rainfall patterns.
Starting as early as 1930, the KNP's water stabilization programme gained particular momentum in the 1960s after fencing of the western boundary (disease control fence administered by the Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services) blocked the natural migration routes of certain animals (particularly zebra and wildebeest in the Orpen area).
Animals could therefore not migrate, according to Dr Grant, to the areas in the west that previously acted as their dry season grazing. Consequently management aimed at providing more surface water in the park in order to open up areas previously used primary as wet season grazing.
Furthermore it was anticipated that increased water availability in the naturally dry northern parts of the park would help rare species that favour the north (roan, tsessebe, eland and to some degree sable) to survive drought years.
Thus it seemed that the provision of artificial water sources was a logical and reasonable policy and much effort and resources were invested in it. More than 300 boreholes were drilled, 50 earth dams were constructed and various seasonal and perennial rivers dammed between the 1930s and the 1980s.
At first, this programme seemed to work: rare herbivores increased and zebra and wildebeest stopped their attempts of migrating to the west in the winter, preferring to settle and stabilize their respective populations in the Park.
But then, over time, the natural effects started to settle the situation and KNP management started to understand the realities of a natural closed system.
“In a natural system, the dry season will see natural waterholes and pans dry up and animals are forced to go to the rivers and larger pools. This is why the latter half of the year - September, October and November - are better for game viewing than any other time of the year. However, when the wet season hits, a network of about 35 000km of little streams, rivers, pools and pans fill with water, providing nature with all its needs and resulting in the game moving back into the bush, thus spreading the load on the veld," Dr Venter explained.
By providing the year-round but artificial water sources, it was noticed that animal numbers began to change dramatically. It seemed that zebra numbers increased over time but low-density species that depend on a habitat with tall grass (for example Sable, Roan, reedbuck etc) began to decrease.
“The conservation of rare antelope has long been one of the goals of the Kruger National Park. The roan antelope (Hippotragus equines) and to a lesser extent the tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus) represent low-density species or rare antelope in the KNP," explains Dr Grant.
In order to conserve these animals, KNP management supplied artificial water until census projects noticed a severe drop in the roan antelope population during the late 1980s.
“The postulated mechanism was that the perennial presence of water allowed Burchell's zebra (Equus burchelli) to stay permanently in an area that was previously only seasonally accessible. The combined effect of a long, dry climatic cycle, high numbers of zebra and their associated predators was proposed to be the cause of this decline.
“As part of the new nature evolving or ecosystem resilience approach, 12 artificial water points were closed in the prime roan antelope habitat in 1994 in an attempt to move the zebra out of this area. The desired effect was achieved as zebra numbers declined as the rainfall increased. Closure of waterholes clearly led to redistribution of zebra numbers on the northern plains, zebra tending to avoid areas within several kilometres of the closed water points," explains Dr Grant.
She further expands that although artificial water sources lead to an increase in animal numbers, but they also affect the herbivore and vegetation composition.
“So probably - and this is why farmers have so many water points - providing extra water increases the number of animals that can utilize a specific area as long as there is some grazing. The quality and quantity of the grazing will determine how many and what type of animal will increase. Regarding the KNP, the increased water led to an increase in bulk grazers such as buffalo and zebra and probably elephant and rhino although that will be even more difficult to prove," Dr Grant explained.
The decision to close the artificial points on the Northern Plains in 1994 coincided with an increase in rainfall which, together with the resultant decline in zebra, resulted in an improved field layer in the immediate vicinity of the closed windmills as well as in the general area, seen as an increase in biomass and palatable grass species in the area of where windmills were closed.
In spite of the improvement of the vegetation after the closure of water points and the increase in rainfall, even dry season rainfall, the habitat had not recovered totally.
“It thus became clear that in the interests of biodiversity management," explained Dr Venter, “that we should pull back our influence on the environment and reduce human impact by removing more artificial water points."
Since 1998, a further 184 boreholes have been closed and, according to Dr Venter, more of the remaining 141 boreholes will be closed over the next few years, especially those presently found in Wilderness Areas (ie untouched by other human activity).
Dr Venter said that around 50 boreholes will remain open and they will be for tourism purposes rather than eco system management purposes.
“The will also be managed and we will probably rotate them so that the veld around them gets a chance to recover and to stimulate natural processes and many have not been completely closed as we will still be able to reopen them in a time of crisis," he said.
The KNP mission statement has, as one theme, “to maintain biodiversity in all its natural facets and fluxes" and this implies allowing natural processes and functions to fluctuate according to rainfall cycles and also to create a patchwork mosaic of water availability. Although water points can be beneficial to tourists, in certain circumstances they may compromise basic conservation aims: maintenance of biodiversity, sustainability of resources and maintenance of ecosystem processes.

I hope this helps. You might also want to access the Scientific Services link to your left of this page and check out some of the scientific papers on this subject. I stand to be corrected but I think the actual policy document is also there somewhere.

Kind regards
KNP Spokesman

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boreholes

Unread post by fevertree » Tue Apr 26, 2005 12:59 pm

Dear KNP Spokesman,
Thank you very much for this input. It certainly makes ecological sense and is an informative and interesting article. It will be particulaly rejoiced if we can see the desired increase in rare antelope numbers that is hoped will occur. I personally would love to see that as well. Thanks again for the input.
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Unread post by Guinea Pig » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:18 pm

Sticking my neck out I think, but I would've thought reopening some of the boreholes in times of severe drought might alleviate some of the animals' distress? Am I being a softie? Would it in fact make the problem worse?

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:10 am

GP, I think it will make the matter worse. With the dry conditions around the boreholes allready animal traffic would just contribute to even more corrosion etc. I have not heard of animals dying in Kruger becuase of thirst yet lately. There are many places for them to find water. When you do the trails in Kruger you will be amazed to see how many natural water resources occur away from tourist roads.
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Unread post by etienne » Mon Nov 21, 2005 7:39 am

Our neighbours in the north are experiencing the same problems with water scarcity and associated diseases. This is an article from SW Radio Africa, an independant Zimbabwian Radio Station:

Animals die of thirst and towns introduce rationing as water crisis continues

By Tererai Karimakwenda
18 November 2005

The water crisis that has gripped the whole country has continued without any serious intervention by the government. There is no doubt that the problem is serious. Talk to Zimbabweans in any part of the country about water and you are sure to get someone angry. Experts say it cannot continue this way and urgent solutions are needed. While the government procrastinates, animals are dying in the National Parks, citizens are going without water for months and waterborne diseases have created a health crisis.

According to the state paper The Herald, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has so far lost 99 animals at Hwange National Park. The authority’s public relations manager Retired Major Edward Mbewe told journalists on Tuesday during a tour of the park that more than 40 elephant, 53 buffalo, a giraffe, three zebra and two impala succumbed to thirst and black leg, a disease that affects animals when the ground is too dry. He also said his office had sent recommendations to the government seeking authority to cull the elephants from 75 000 to "manageable figures."

Meanwhile, the Namibian government has rejected Zimbabwe’s request to take some of the country’s starving elephants saying it was already facing serious problems with its own jumbos. Our correspondent Warren Moroka reports that Zimbabwean deputy environment minister Andrew Langa had suggested some of the starving elephants in Hwange National Park could be moved to Namibia. But Ben Beytell, the director of the country’s parks and wildlife department, said Namibia was also facing worsening serious water shortages and grazing pasture for its 16 000 strong elephant population. He added that the northern Caprivi Strip was already under siege from elephants escaping hunger and drought in Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

What has not been reported is how Dr. Beytell and Namibian authorities feared receiving Zimbabwe’s animals because they might be diseased. Outbreaks of foot and mouth and anthrax have been common on the Zimbabwe side, and Namibia did not want to take any chances. Zimbabwe’s neighbours are also experiencing water shortages, but they are better prepared and well staffed. They also have the spare parts for pumps and other irrigation equipment. In comparison the Zimbabwe government is literally broke, and animals are the least of their concern.
The parks department needs over Z$500 million to purchase a minimum of five new water engines in order to restore water services in the park.

While the animals suffer, the water crisis has continued to deteriorate in many towns around the country. The Herald reported that some suburbs in Harare and its satellite towns will have water cuts of up to 12 hours in every 48 hours. It says local authorities and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) have agreed to the rotational cuts in order to cope as demand exceeds the maximum supply of 600 million litres a day.
But these are not permanent solutions. An injection of money is what is needed to fix and maintain the infrastructure.

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Unread post by DuQues » Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:21 am

Here is an interesting article about boreholes, written by Raymond Travers.
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Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

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Closing of Water Points in Kruger

Unread post by Richprins » Thu Aug 16, 2007 8:42 pm

The recent breaching of Mhlanganzwane Dam, and others like Rabelais and Stoltsnek, must surely be discussed, along with closing of windmills.

(Mods please move if subject has been addressed, but I think it is a "Current Issue".)

I have a few problems:

1. Why destroy the dams, rather than putting in some release pipe/sluice that can be reversed later, if need be?

2. With a drought cycle possible at any time, shouldn't only a single area be experimented with, for example, instead of taking out old and reliable sources all over?

3. Where will the line be drawn? Shouldn't Orpen and Satara Webcam troughs also be closed? Neither are really necessary if one looks at other nearby water supplies.


I understand completely that artificial watering points have altered the Kruger system, and perhaps increased the normal carrying capacity by half.

However, rivers have simultaneously lessened their flow due to outside pressure.

Should a long drought cycle occur, the carnage may be indescribable, and this is directly linked to the elephant overpopulation question, unfortunately.

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Unread post by pardus » Thu Aug 16, 2007 9:18 pm

This is really a tough subject RP and not only linked to elephant over-population, but also, one tends to worry about the effects of climate change as well. I have seen the damage caused by artificial water-holes and dams, at the time it seemed like the right thing to do when they were created.

In nature, unfortunately, when the balance is upset, it takes years sometimes when we see the effects, and usually when the system is strained to breaking point or degraded to an almost impossible state to repair.

Often, I would think that although the Park is a large tract of land, it is still a fenced area and although the closest to natural one can get, we still have to make allowances to accommodate the animals. On the other hand, knowing that animals are "lazy" - i.e. they will take the shortest route to find water and food, human intervention created the problem, and by creating transfrontier areas, closing the artificial water points, the animals will be forced to resume their natural migratory patterns.

If we compare Kruger to a similar park where artificial water is not in abundance, the animals have established patterns and do survive what nature hands out.

It will be good to have some scientific orientated feed-back, as this topic has no simplistic point of view.


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