LEST WE FORGET

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gmlsmit
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LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

Introduction.

This inscription may be read on many cenotaphs commemorating those brave ones who made the ultimate sacrifice during combat.

I thought it applicable to this part of the forum; about those who made what we enjoy today, what many of us regard as our heritage, something very special which we all should treasure and respect, belonging to all SOUTH AFRICANS – the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.

Something that was handed over to Mother Nature to take care of by the Great Creator of which we now also are Fellow Custodians.

What I have posted here is done with the kind cooperation of many participants, who have and still are spending many hours of their time, sharing the history of their great passion, with me.

What amazed me was their willingness to participate, for this I thank every one of them.

The Rangers.
The Ladies.
Dr Rocco Knobel.
Decoration for Bravery.
Prof. Dr. FC Eloff.
Ampie Espag
Ben Pretorius.
Fanie Botha
G.L. van Rooyen.
The Orpen Family.
Herbert Lang.
Hennie Carlson.
Ted Whitfield
Lynn Van Rooyen
Douw Swanepoel.
Louis Olivier
Zirk Kruger.
Dr. VALERIUS DE VOS.
Anthrax.
Dr. Freek Venter
Oom Hans Meyer.
A M Brynard.
G.A. Robinson
Tertius Minnie
Ben Lamprecht
Mike English
Man’s Best Friend.
Harold Mockford.
Gus Adendorff
H.S. Caldecott.
Dr. Ian Player
Trix Olivier.
H A Schreiber
Daniël Mabunda.
Irene Grobler
Johan Kloppers
Dr. Eddie Young
Dr. Ian Player Receives Peter H. Capstick Hunting Heritage Award
Herman v/d Veen
Butch Smuts
Stephan Stephansen
J A B Sandenbergh
Johan Sithole.
Corporal Nombolo Mdluli
Dr. Roy Bengis.
The Selati Railway line
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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gmlsmit
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

The Rangers.

This special group of people, wearing the epaulettes displaying the Kudu horns sloganned with “CUSTOS NATURAE” in their Khakis, Greys or Greens proudly displaying “the badge” who are often romanticised, and envied, are indeed custodians of our heritage.

The Rangers have a very close bond; they have absolute trust in one another. Whether white or black did not matter; all were dedicated to their duty; looking after their KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.

They are a special breed of man, fit, bright eyed, neat, well organised and with a love for Mother Nature with all her diversity as well as a knowledge unsurpassed. Yet humle.

The Rangers in a Section operate very closely together whether out on patrol, repairing water pumps or wind mills or drinking troughs, or just observing or fighting a veldt fire or culling excess game animals (the task they hated most), or assisting the scientists and veterinarian staff in their duties

Last two mentioned that they could hardly do their duties unless the eyes and ears of the Rangers were not very wide open.

Many poachers are arrested with their snares and often with the poached meat, ivory or *** horn, after tracking them in the bush in the hot sun or laying in ambush; all for long periods and sometimes just while out on patrol.

Field Rangers live in posts away from the civilization of rest camps enjoyed by visitors to the Parks, with often just the barest of necessities available.

These people risk their lives for the protection of the wild animals. Very often poachers are arrested and then handed over to the Law. Very clever defence Lawyers are appointed and are then put to often excessive hazardous cross examination in an attempt to free the offenders. Fortunately they are honest and tell the truth and stick to it, lately very few poachers caught are not found guilty, unfortunately fines are very often not deterrent enough and they return.

Many Rangers are threatened and harmed; many of the black Rangers cannot retire at ”home” for the fear of being tracked down by their former adversaries, many of the older staff preferred staying in the Park’s employ until their time came. Vengeance was sworn against the captors who were often ambushed when they ventured outside the confines of the Park. Many Black women caught with venison in their possession also often swore that the meat was given to them by Black Rangers – a more subtle attempt to discredit these brave men.

Many poachers have well trained dogs who never hesitated in attacking the Rangers when confronted or come across their masters. Many a Ranger was beaten up and often left for dead by poachers some paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Others were killed by wild animals.

Four unarmed Rangers were one Saturday on their way along the Gomondwane Road by bicycle. Rounding a corner two Lions blocked the road and immediately charged the cyclists. The four Rangers left their bicycles and made for the bush. James was last of the four and was caught long before he could reach the safety of a tree. The other three had from their trees to sit and watch, their friend being mauled and eaten. The occurrence came to an end after James had been totally devoured. After finishing the Lions sauntered off into the bush. The remaining three Rangers set off to Crocodile Bridge reporting the incident to Ranger Steyn.

The following morning the Ranger and of his assistants set out and soon came across the man eaters who were dispatched of in the reeds.

One day Ranger Mankoti was on patrol near the Phaben creek and the Sabie River As he descended the banks of the creek, a Lion pounced on him, Mankoti who was a good shot managed to get off one shot, wounding the beast before it was on him, attacking with great ferocity. In the struggle that followed Mankoti stabbed the Lion three times in the chest and behind the shoulder blade. The Lion collapsed, the wounded Mankoti crawled to the river to quench his burning thirst . . . . where his lifeless body was found by his father also a Ranger in the Park, who went to investigate the prey of the circling vultures.

Ranger van Reenen van Vuuren mentioned the following instance: the car of visitors broke down near Crocodile Bridge, his staff reported this to him and they went out to assist. Fortunately not much was wrong and the fault was easily repaired. As the grateful visitors left they heard the beating of drums from across the river. The father then said “they are beating the drums sending a message that we are OK and on our way”.

Helfase Nkuna died in the Park at the age of 85 years, still employed in the Park. Thys Mostert Ranger of the Pretoriuskop area often said that he would never employ a Black man without first consulting Helfase. Thys often said Helfase had sound judgement, maybe because he himself was a man of such unusual character.

The fires were kept burning through the wake during the night near to the hut where the body lay in state the night before the funeral, while all the Rangers slept outside according to custom and as a mark of respect . . . .

30 Rangers formed a guard of honour along the way to the tomb that had been cut in the stony ground where Helfase had served for most of his life. Mrs. Hilda Stevenson Hamilton also passed through the guard of honour with the other mourners following the coffin, made of the hide of a freshly slaughtered ox, holding the body of THE GREAT ONE.

Dr. Tol Pienaar paid tribute to The Great One and the many other Black Rangers who had for many years rendered such sterling service to the Park. He said that Helfase was a courageous man, who had made indelible tracks and who cast long shadows in the Park, he was a giant among his colleagues, who helped make the Park what it is today.

As the Warden was speaking the coffin was gently lowered in the soil of AFRICA, the uniform of Helfase with all the buttons removed as well as his cap were placed on the body of the man, who had worn it with pride for so many years, before the grave was finally filled in.

Dr. Pienaar ended by “We are now giving you the Royal Salute, Bayete” to Helfase and all the others.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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gmlsmit
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

The Ladies.

Many men joined SANPARKS as bachelors and after a few years, convinced a young lady that being the wife of a Ranger has its rewards.

These special ladies are also people who love nature and also do not mind living away from the hustle and bustle of the conveniences and lights and privileges of the so called civilization, and also not joining the gossip or bridge clubs and also not having a weekly appointment with the hairdresser or the beautician.

Living out in the bush far from most; often caused the lady of the Section to be the nurse of the staff when injured or sick.

She often had to spend days on her own while her husband is out on patrol or in ambush awaiting poachers or repairing fences or windmills or borehole pumps or dams or roadways or fighting a veldt fire or doing a game count or catching game.

Doing shopping was a major pre planned exercise, what you forgot had to wait until next time.

Being the wife of a Ranger also had many benefits; she was part of a close caring community of people who had the love for nature in common.

Soon; the lone bachelor pad would be converted into a home with a neat garden, vegetables and fruit would be grown, flowers and a lawn would soon attract birds, butterflies and grazers and browsers and often something eating the grazers and browsers.

She would bake and prepare and share.

The lady of the Section would often be hostess to visitors, many of them distant relatives who now came to improve the previously neglected family bonds, or some newly acquired friends met a wedding or just somewhere.

She almost always had a hand reared, previously orphaned little animal or two or three maybe four in the house or in the garden or somewhere.

When the visitors arrived she often had to warn them against a butt from the cute little Bushbuck or Impala fawn or a little Warthog or a playful scratch or nibble from a cuddly little Genet or Badger or maybe a little cub.

She also had to accept that these were wild animals and not domestic pets; eventually they would have to be returned to nature where they had to live their wild lives according to the laws of the bush.

She had to take care of the providers of fresh eggs; the chickens, as Pythons Genets and other predators as well as raptors found them easy prey.

Often she and her husband, their children and the staff had to wait for the flooding rivers or creeks to get back to normal, before they could leave the area to go about doing their things.

The mother of the children had the joys of being able to bring up her children as a close knit family; caring and sharing with one another, laughing and playing and doing things together.

They were soon taught to ensure that the gates had to be kept closed, how to fill up the generator and water pump with diesoline and how to start and shut them down.

They read books and drew sketches and played games and just enjoyed being a family.

At dusk they would sit outside and watch the day come to rest, they would listen to the sounds of the dark and find comfort and joy in one another’s presence.

Later when the children had to go to school, she had to help them pack and prepare and take them and say her goodbyes with a lump in her throat and return to an emptier home, she would fetch them for the holidays and again they would be a complete family.

The Rangers must have always made the right choice when proposing to a lady, as none of them were ever let down by their choice.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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gmlsmit
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Dr Rocco Knobel.

I had the privilege of meeting this remarkable man in 1967 and later had a few chats with him at the Old Head Office and also in the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.

Dr. Rocco Knobel was born in Kimberley on 16 Sept 1914, the son of a missionary in the then Bechuanaland and a school teacher.

His first years of schooling were done under the guidance of his mother.

He matriculated at the Hoër Volkskool Heidelberg.

His first ideal was to become a clergyman and spent his first year at the University of the Witwatersrand.

He then moved to the University of Stellenbosch here shared a room with the later Justice Piet Cilie, while studying he decided to become a Social worker. Majoring in Psychology and Sociology. He attained his Masters Degree in 1937 his thesis being “Youth organization in District 6”.

His first employment was as at the Dept. of Welfare of the Johannesburg City Council, where he was the youngest appointee in the position of First Vice President of the Department.

After leaving the Municipal service he joined the Council for the Needy and the Poor of the N.G.Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church), as an executive member for the Transvaal.

Mr. Rocco Knobel was the first Chairman of the Association of Social and Welfare Workers formed during 1949.

Rocco Knobel and his old school love Yvonne, also from Kimberley, got married in the N.G.Kerk Braamfontein, in 1952.

He spent 15 years being involved in Social Work in South Africa.

The young Knobel always had dreams of one day being involved in the National Parks Board.

The Hoek Commission was appointed in 1951 to investigate and recommend the reorganisation of the National Parks Board and its activities. One of their recommendations was that a Chief Director be appointed.

One evening while making snippets from the news paper Mrs. Yvonne Knobel showed her husband an advert in the newspaper – the advert for the appointment of the Director of National Parks. She also drew his attention to the fact that the closing date for applicants for the position was the following day.

After considering the advert, Rocco decided to submit his application.

Soon a shortlist of 5 was drawn up and he was one.

Rocco Knobel did not regard the possibility of him being appointed too well as he was the only one with no earlier contact with the Board or its members. He went for the final interview and left. Arriving home his wife met him at the door and congratulated him on his appointment as the first Director of the National Parks Board.

He started his new career on 1 April 1953.

Unfortunately many jealous individuals and other parties believed that this was a political appointment.

Soon after his appointment he was to meet the KRUGER PARK Warden at Pretoriuskop regarding the Drilling of boreholes for water supply to the Camp. The Warden never arrived as it was Easter week end. The Chief Director then went to Satara where he found the employees busy building in the Camp Extension Project. He was annoyed of then being working on a religious holiday and stopped the work. He was also unsure about the availability of sufficient water for the enlarged tourist facility and put the project on hold until convinced that sufficient water was available.

He then arranged for water to be supplied to Pretoriuskop by tanker until sufficient water could be supplied from natural sources.


The following National Parks were proclaimed during his tenure:

Aughrabies National Park.

Golden Gate National Park.

Tsitsikamma National Park.

Groenkloof National Park.

Karoo National Park.



He was always of the opinion. As man being the most selfish creature on earth, would not preserve anything not being for its own benefit or gain, Nature should be not only preserved for Nature but also for mankind. Man was after all reliant on Nature and its resources for its own survival.

At a meeting held in Dec 1957 the Board reviewed its policy on tourist facilities and laid down the following guidelines. “The KRUGER NATIONAL PARK may not be developed into a commercialised recreation resort, and a tranquil bushveld atmosphere conducive to spiritual enrichment must be retained”.

“Rules and regulations must be applied stringently and any tourist who transgresses and disturbs the tranquillity should be apprehended and informed that he is unwelcome in the Park”.

Some of Knobel’s philosophies:

Despite its importance he did consider the economic value of a national park its most important attribute. He said “the most important value of a national park therefore appears to be the recreational value, not in the narrow sense of physical recreation but in the true sense including, spiritual, intellectual and physical renewal”. The challenge for tourism was to find the most acceptable compromise between the maintenance of the pristine attributes of the natural assets of conservation areas and the provision of the most rewarding and beneficial experience for visitors.

To achieve this objective the following had to be considered:
A sound scientific knowledge of the natural and ecological assets of an area was required, as this was a prerequisite for its scientific management and optimal use.

All visitor amenities in conservation areas should be managed directly by the controlling body. This would enhance the development of tourist facilities in a way compatible with the natural features of conservation areas.

The most important purpose of a national park is to afford the visitor the opportunity to commune with nature and become mentally and spiritually recreated. Allowing so many persons into a natural area that the visitor becomes more conscious of the large number of people surrounding him than of nature itself, defeats the whole object of the Park.

As there is no real rule of determining the allowable number of visitors, a questionnaire with well prepared questions be made available to visitors and interested parties periodically and then carefully analysed.

The large gathering of people for whatever reason should be kept to an absolute minimum

Visitor accommodation should never compete with nature, also meaning it should never be the main draw card . . . .

Visitors should be encouraged to prepare their own meals over an open fire. The objective to create urban conditions had to be kept as small as possible. He concede that although the provision of firewood was becoming a problem, the wood could be cut into smaller pieces and the fires could be made in better heat retaining devices. Quote” I just cannot accept coal and gas fires as part of the bushveld or the Park”.

As the supply of firewood was raised as concern during 1958, it was resolved that as from 1959 cut wood would be purchased and made available at Skukuza on an experimental basis.

The Director of National Parks of South Africa was awarded a Doctorate in Mathematics and Physics by the University of Pretoria in 1975 for his contribution to Nature Conservation.

Dr. Knobel was very strongly opposed against the opening of a road between South Africa and Mozambique, despite pressures from the neighbouring country and commerce in his own country.

Dr. Knobel as a Sociologist in the world of Biologists was always very optimistic about the future existence of Nature Conservation in South Africa. South Africa was a world leader in Nature and Wildlife Management. South Africa would find marketing itself without the assistance of its heritage National Parks, very difficult.

The South African public and the foreign visitors would never accept the destruction of this heritage.

He was a great advocate for Transfrontier Parks; where animals could migrate over International Borders as their circumstances would require and still be protected.

Dr. Rocco Knobel was very strongly opposed to Mining and Agricultural activities in National Parks as well as to the Commercialization and Privatization of National Parks activities.

Mrs. Yvonne Knobel was instrumental to the formation of the congregation of the Skukuza Dutch Reformed Church. She was also involved in fund raising for the erection of the church building and personally collected R 17000 towards this action where many people staff and visitors attended also interdenominational church services.

Dr. Knobel often said that the assistance and inspiration of his wife made his job very much easier and simpler.

Mrs. Knobel a keen wood carver donated the “Yvonne Knobel Trophy” which is annually awarded and proudly displayed by the winners of the Best Camp Competition.

Dr. Rocco Knobel served for 27 years, retiring in 1979 at the age of 65 years.

After retirement Dr. Knobel served as member of the National Transport Commission for 7 years.

He was also a member of the Bophuthatswana National Parks board.

Dr. Rocco Knobel was a founding member and first Chairman of the South African Nature Foundation.

He was the last of 17 founder members of the World Wildlife Fund.

He served on the SA Tourist Board (SATOUR) of which he became Chairman for 23 years, under his guidance; many offices were opened in other countries.

Dr. Rocco Knobel was awarded the South African Decoration for Meritorious Service Class 1 Gold in 1987.

He was also awarded the Bophuthatswana decoration Grandmaster of the Order of the Leopard in 1980.

Dr. Rocco Knobel was also awarded the decoration Grand Commander of the Golden Ark by Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands.

The Knobel couple enjoyed travelling nationally as well as overseas.

After their retirement they settled in Pretoria, the cycads in their garden still reminding them of the many enjoyable years spent during their association with the South African National Parks.

Dr. Knobel enjoyed playing snooker and bridge; he later very often complained that he was running out of partners.

The time for this great yet humble man came a few days before his 88th birthday in September 2002. Mrs. Yvonne Knobel is still living in Pretoria.

Their daughter Estelle negotiated with Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands to become the first patron of the SA Police Unit for the protection of Endangered Species. This hunter and nature conservator was the inspiration to this Unit of proud and dedicated men who brought many poachers and smugglers to book.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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Meandering Mouse
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by Meandering Mouse »

Gmlsmit, I have only just found this thread.

I would just like to thank you, most sincerely, for your very valuable contributions and research that you have put into many of your threads. Many of our posts will disappear into forgotten memory, these will last for as long as the forum has life. :clap: :clap: :clap:
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.
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gmlsmit
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

Decoration for Bravery.
It was realised that very often deeds of bravery pass unrewarded.

The principle of acknowledging bravery was approved in March 1985.

A committee was formed to investigate to draft a proposal for the Board’s own decoration for bravery.

The Cross being internationally recognised as a symbol for bravery, the Sabie Cross was proposed; the name was later changed to the Kruger Cross.

Three categories were proposed:

GOLD – for death defying deeds of exceptional bravery.

SILVER – for extraordinary deeds of bravery in life threatening circumstances.

BRONZE – for acts of bravery in life threatening circumstances.

The proposed decoration would consist of a Cross bearing the Board’s emblem attached to a ribbon with the Board’s colours. The categories would be distinguished by yellow stripes on a green background.

Three yellow stripes for the GOLD Award.

Two yellow stripes for the SILVER Award.

One yellow stripe for the BRONZE Award.

A set of rules for the Award, Wearing and Recalling of the Awards were also drawn up.

The KRUGER CROSS as an Award for bravery was approved in 1987.

Some Recipients of the Award

Robert Mavimbele, Louis Olivier and Albert Maluleke.

On 19 October 1987, 5 illegal immigrants from Mozambique were apprehended late afternoon at the low – level bridge at Crocodile Bridge.

They were taken to the Ranger’s quarters and subjected to a body search. One opened fire on Ranger Louis Olivier. Ranger Robert Mavimbele came to his assistance and was shot.

Olivier was grappling with the first illegal immigrant, although wounded Mavimbele came to Olivier’s assistance. The second illegal immigrant opened fire at the Rangers, including Ranger Maluleke who had come to assist Olivier and Mavimbele.

All three Rangers were exposed to gunshots at close range.

The 5 illegal immigrants fled into the night.

Upon arrival at the hospital it was found that Ranger Mavimbele was carrying six gun shot wounds.

It was agreed by the Board at a meeting held in November 1987, that:

“The KRUGER CROSS SILVER be awarded to Ranger Robert Mavimbele for his extraordinary deed of bravery on 19 October 1987, in life threatening circumstances”.

“The KRUGER CROSS SILVER be awarded to Ranger Louis Olivier for his extraordinary deed of bravery on 19 October 1987, in life threatening circumstances”.

“The KRUGER CROSS BRONZE be awarded to Ranger Albert Maluleke for his act of bravery on 19 October 1987, in life threatening situations”.

Michael Nkuna.
Ranger Michael Nkuna on 7 June 1992 while being held poachers and covered by an automatic fire-arm jumped forward to warn his colleagues of the impending danger.

At a Board meeting held November 1992 it was agreed that:

“the KRUGER CROSS SILVER be awarded to Ranger Michael Nkuna for his act of exceptional bravery in the face of danger to his own life on 7 June 1992 , he risked his own life in circumstances of dire personal danger, by jumping forward, while being retained by poachers and covered at close range by an automatic fire-arm in order to warn and protect colleagues, and thereby at the same time exposing himself to their defensive gunfire”.

Phineas Rhilamphu - (posthumously).
While Mr. Phineas Rhilamphu, the water pump attendant at Balule and his wife were fishing in the Olifants River on 10 April 1988, an Elephant arrived.

Mrs. Rhilamphu recalled the circumstances “within a short while we heard an Elephant making a noise very near to us. We ran away but in different directions, the Elephant followed me, charging, when the Elephant was very near to me, my husband saw that my life was in danger. He turned in my direction, and grabbed me by the hand so that we both could run in the same direction. Unfortunately I tripped over a shrub and fell down. He kept on pulling me away from the charging Elephant. I remember seeing my husband also on the ground while holding my hand. We both fell on one place on our backs . . . . . he said to me ‘try to free yourself and run away if you get the chance’ ”

Mr. Phineas Rhilamphu made the ultimate sacrifice when trampled by an Elephant while trying to save his wife.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by bentley »

...Thank you GMLSMIT.

Before reading your thread I understood what nature conservation, passion and intergrity meant until now. It has given me a whole new perspective for what it truly is.
Life is what we make of it..we can not control what happens in our life but how we handle it.

The Kruger Park..a place that is close at heart
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gmlsmit
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

Prof. Dr. FC Eloff.

Frederick Christoffel Eloff was born on 18 May 1920 in the Pietersburg district in the than Northern Transvaal. After matriculating at the Pietersburg High School in 1936 at the age of 16 years, he joined the Pretoria University in 1937 as a first year student with Zoology and Botany as major subjects. He successfully completed his Bsc. studies in 1939 when he was awarded his degree at the age of 19 years.
After graduating he was appointed a technical assistant at the Pretoria Zoological Gardens on 1 December 1939, where he worked for three years. He had close contact with Dr. R. Bigalke and Dr. TG Nel. Fritz Eloff was awarded his M.Sc. degree with honours in 1942 by the Pretoria University.

Fritz Eloff applied for a position as lecturer in Zoology at his alma mater and was appointed in 1943- then 23 years of age.

Two of his seniors, being Proff. B Engelbrecht HOD Botany and DE Malan HOD Zoology both assessed the lecturer in Zoology as “a calm, pleasant, steady good natured and likable young man, who can get on well with people”, a characteristic that he displayed right through his life, wherever and whenever.

Frits Eloff become Doctor FC Eloff when he was awarded a D.Sc. with distinction at the age of 26 years in 1946.

He also lectured at the Pretoria Technical College, teaching Zoology to pharmacy students.

Dr. FC Eloff was awarded the prestigious British Council Travel Bursary in 1951 – allowing him a full year of overseas study. He worked in close collaboration with Professor A D’Bellairs for six month extending his interest in comparative anatomy. While in London he lectured the Fauna Society on “Wildlife Preservation in South Africa”. He also lectured to the Zoological Society of London. He then moved to the Hubert Laboratory in Utrecht the Netherlands where he studied Experimental Embryology.
Dr. FC Eloff became Prof. FC Eloff at the age of 34 when he became the HOD Zoology of the Pretoria University on 1 July 1954, succeeding the earlier mentioned Prof. DE Malan who had retired.

Prof. Fritz Eloff kept very busy by running the Department Administratively and lecturing and by looking after his post graduate students by being their promoter. He was elected Chairman of the Board of Control of the Transvaal Museum in 1964. He was elected as a Member of the Advisory Committee for Nature Conservation of the Transvaal in 1965. He was member of the Scientific Advisory Council for National Parks and Nature Reserves and the National Committee for Fauna Research in 1964.

As HOD he created opportunities which allowed him to develop his interest in nature conservation in general and mammalian fauna in particular allowing him to make a major contribution in these fields.
The decision in principle was made in 1962 a one year of study, honours degree in Wildlife Management be established at the University of Pretoria. Such a degree would attract a limited number of students, the course was launched in 1965, and Professor George Petrides of the Michigan State University was the first visiting lecturer.

Dr. Anton Rupert the President of the South African Nature Foundation came forward and offered a grant sufficient to establish a permanent Chair of Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria. Professor J. du P. Bothma an ex student of Prof. Eloff became the first permanent occupant of the Eugene Marais Chair of Wildlife Management at the Pretoria University in 1970, with Prof. Fritz Eloff as a member of the Board of Control.

The course was a great success; it has done great deal for Wildlife Management in South Africa and gave Prof. Eloff much satisfaction.
Prof. Eloff realised that the great diversity and wealth of southern African mammals opened a large field of study for post graduate students, even from other countries. He wrote a letter to the University authorities envisaging a research section within his department where students could be taught the methodology of research and resultant techniques. The request was granted provided again that funding be acquired. Dr. JAJ Meester was appointed the first Director of Mammal Research Institute which became reality on 1 April 1966. The Transvaal Department of Nature Conservation provided the initial funding; assistance was given by the Washington Smithsonian Institute. Professor Skinner succeeded Professor Meester in 1972.. Prof. Fritz Eloff not only brought forward his brainchild, he also carefully guided it through to adulthood.

“The mammals of the southern African sub-region” by Dr. RHN Smithers published in 1983 was indeed one of the many good results bearing its roots in the MRI of the University of Pretoria.

Prof. Fritz Eloff was awarded the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Bursary in 1967, he took leave and made first hand study at American Universities and Nature Conservation agencies. He visited the American Society of Mammologists in North Carolina and the Biological Sciences in Texas, delivering a paper titled: “ Observation on the behaviour of the gemsbok”.

His real interest was shared in 1971 at the international symposium “The Ecology, Behaviour, And Conservation of the World’s Cats”, at Laguna Hills, California – his contribution- a paper titled “ Ecology and behaviour of the Kalahari lion ( Panthera leo vernayi)”.

Dr. Fritz Eloff was appointed to the National Parks Board of Trustees in 1971 and Chairman of the Board in 1979, indeed a well earned acknowledgement of his contribution to the Wildlife and its Preservation in South Africa.

Professor Fritz Eloff retired HOD of Zoology at the end of June 1985 after 44 years service. He is an honorary member of the Endangered Wildlife Trust since 1973, he has been a member of the South African nature Foundation since 1968, he was Chairman of a Committee formulating the plan for the conservation, management and utilization of nature reserves in the Namibian areas of Damaraland and Kaokoland during 1975-1977.

Fritz Eloff was a keen sportsman he was the TUKS heavyweight champion in the early 1940s, he captained the 1st Under 19 Rugby teams during 1938 and 1939, he also Captained the 1st Rugby team of TUKS 1941 to 1948. He represented the Northern Transvaal Rugby Union in nine matches, playing in every forward position except that of hooker.

After being the Secretary of the NTRU for two years he became the President of the NTRU in 1965 a position he held with dignity and distinction. Prof. Fritz Eloff was elected vice President of the South African Rugby Board in 1977; he was also a member of the International Rugby Board, just another example of his leadership capabilities.
Fritz Eloff married Valerie Schraader on 20 December 1947; they are blessed by their two daughters Elize and Marita and today also are loving and caring grand parents.

His happiest times were spent in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, where he spent his time with his Kalahari Lions, the Kalahari Bushman and his friends the le Riche Family. The area Loffiesdraai is named after – Professor Fritz Eloff, who else.

I can still clearly remember when Frans, a Bushman tracker told me around a camp fire in the Nossob Rest Camp during November 1973 about the exploitations in the veldt with Lions with Professor Fritz and baas Elias and Vetpiet, quite humorous and very very interesting. His smile and shining eyes while telling me about their next adventure scheduled for December of that year,still today, clearly jump to mind.

Listening to Professor Eloff talking in his quiet knowledgeable way always left a lasting imprint on the minds and the memories of his listeners, whether they were laymen, students or well learned. I remember listening to him talking about the Lions of the Kalahari or those roaming the Serengeti plains or the Ngorongoro crater floor or the Etosha bush or those of the Lebombo plains.

I will always remember his kind and respectful ways in which he spoke about, so well informed and yet so humble.

To me he created such a craving to visit these places and also experience what this man who always was prepared to also listen, was talking about . . . not only once.

It is evident that Prof. Fritz Eloff has done much for conservation in southern Africa and at the same time still is “a calm, pleasant, steady and likable good natured peron, who can get on well with people”.
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by JenB »

Gmlsmit, once again this is goosebumps stuff.
Thank you for all the time you are putting into bringing us the stories of these extraordinarily people.
You truly are a great ambassador for the Kruger Park and conservation.
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Ampie Espag Part 1.

Abraham Jacobus Espag was born on the farm Resiesbaan in the Alkmaar District near Nelspruit, on 18 October 1924.

Young Ampie enjoyed being out in the veldt with his friends. Very few farms were fenced in those days and neighbours had very good relationships with one another, accidental transgressions were not really problematic. This youngster and his friends often went out on camping expeditions where no one knew where they really were or would be. As the group grew braver as time went by, they camped further and further away in the unknown camping on farms of relatives and friends.

One afternoon they were quite rudely apprehended by a rather cross looking white man, upon being asked what they were doing here, he was told that they were camping. They were told that they were not allowed in the area, when they enquired why not as they were welcome everywhere else, they were told that this is the Kruger National Park, and they were to leave immediately.

They enquired about what the Kruger National Park is and were briefly told that it is a Game Sanctuary where nature is conserved, by now the tone of the grown up had softened a bit, he told them that he is the Ranger and they had to leave.

The campers packed up and left. Ampie Espag had his first experience in the Kruger National Park.

Ampie grew up and became a stoker on the railways. He did not like this and joined the South African Police. Constable AJ Espag was neat and proud and carried out his duties diligently, while out on horseback patrol his thought often went back to the encounter with the Ranger in the Kruger National Park. He imagined that looking after wild animals in nature would be much more interesting than ensuring that people are abiding to the laws of the country.

Constable Espag went to Skukuza where he enquired about a job as Ranger, the Warden Oom Lou Steyn told him that he was too young and in any case there weren’t any vacancies. Typical of his character of not being a quitter, he made a nuisance of himself with many official visits to Skukuza and then enquiring about a job as a Ranger. Eventually maybe out of desperation by the Warden, Constable Espag became Ranger Espag, a legend was born.

Green horn Ranger Espag arrived at his first posting – Malelane on 1 February 1954, not really knowing what to do or how to do it.

The large house was empty, the lights would not switch on, he was on his own, it was full moon and later the sky got overcast and a heavy rain started, he sat listening to the rain on the iron roof looking at the lightning flashes and listening to the thunder, he wondered if he had done the right thing.

Then there was a knock on the back door, the young Ranger went to have a look who it was and there stood a drenched black man. John Mhlambo introduced himself and told the surprised looking young man, that he was too old to be a “squad boy” and would therefore be his house boy and take care of all his needs.

John looked around in the empty dark house and enquired about the whereabouts of the Missus and the children, he also asked why there was no furniture and where Ampie had eaten. John was told that the missus and the children were coming with the furniture and that he had not eaten. John disappeared.

A few minutes later Ampie again heard a knock on the door and when he opened, there stood John with a three legged pot, a tin that seemed quite hot and two plates and spoons, The Ranger was told that he was fortunate as he John had not yet eaten and he thought it good to share his “pap and sheba” with this hungry looking young man.

The two sat on the floor in the dark, listening to the rain, sharing the “pap and sheba”, here a friendship was forged.

Just before leaving to his hut John told the Ranger he would go and show him where to start the generator . . . .

The following morning the new Ranger again shared a meal of “pap en melk” with his host.

After their meal Ranger Espag was taken to the orchard and the garden. He was told by John, that he was the only person allowed into the garden, should they need anything from the garden, just ask and he would get it.

Later the Missus – wife Sannie and the girls arrived at Malelane, the old Shangane immediately took charge and very soon everything was on its place and ship shape and shiny.

He was very strict the yard was wept every morning very early and no one was allowed to ruin his handy work. Sleeping after 3 o clock in the morning was very difficult as John was then cleaning the kitchen stove and lighting the fire for the new day.

John immediately decided that he would take care of the Espag girls; he taught them to ride his big no 28 bicycle with its thick tyres, these small girls riding under the frame always drew many laughs from the eager lookers on, who were then abruptly chased off by their guardian angel. John taught them what could be taken from the veldt and eaten and also what not to.

Despite their good relationship the girls were not allowed in the orchard or the garden. They sometimes used to sneak in when John was away, here they enjoyed the fist sized guavas and huge mangos and avocados, they seemed to forget that John in his early days was an excellent tracker and very soon after his return there would be a knock on the door, one of them would sheepishly open and John would ask to speak to the missus. . . . . .

Ampie and Sannie both knew that even them could not take better care of their offspring, they were in safe hands.

Ranger Ampie Espag had a very good relationship with the farmers adjoining the Kruger National Park, while the poachers knew here comes trouble.

While at Malelane Ranger Espag was informed about a rogue Buffalo that had a snare attached to it and was causing havoc to the workers in the neighbouring orange orchards. The Buffalo was tracked down where it was hiding in the reeds of the Crocodile River. The Buffalo charged and tossed the one tracker into the quick flowing river, the Buffalo was shot but the unfortunate tracker was never seen again.

Daughter Susan tells that she still clearly remembers the day they were to leave Malelane, it was 14 December 1964. Everything was loaded and dad Apie – as they called Ampie, mother Sannie and daughters Tina, Ronel and herself were just ready to leave, when Ranger Ampie Espag was called to the telephone, he returned looking very sad and told them that “Kwezi” his friend - Senior Ranger Henry Charles Wolhuter or Oom Henry as the girls had known him, had died, the end of the Wolhuter era in the Kruger National Park, had come to an end.

Susan recalls that their only telephone number they had during their stay in the Kruger National park was Lalati 3

It was sad group who arrived at their new post - Nwanetsi.
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Ampie Espag Part 2.

One of the big get togethers for the Kruger Park staff was the Christmas party at Skukuza, the children got their presents, the grown ups chatted to all their friends and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It was growing late and there was a storm brewing, the Espag Family had a long drive on a dirt road to Malelane.

Not far from Skukuza the rain came down in torrents, the road was muddy and the vehicle slipping and sliding, it was quite and eventful drive with first Buffalo in the muddy road and then Hippo.

Dad Apie noticed something white on the road, maybe his eyes were deceiving him, he looked away and back and there the apparition was still standing in the road.

He slowly drove closer and yes it remained. He drove up to this white image and stopped, in front of him was a black woman dressed in white rags, with a bundle on her head, sopping wet, he tried to speak to her but got no reply, wife Sannie and the girls were interested onlookers.

Ampie had a few decisions to make; he could not just leave this poor woman here in this terrible storm here in the middle of nowhere. He got out and saw that something was wrong. There was no place in the car so he opened the boot and indicated her to get in, she got in and the Espags drove off with their passenger.

Later that evening arriving at home, Ampie drove around to the area where his staff lived, some of them with their families, he called one of the staff and asked him to please take care of this poor woman, he was told that she was known to them, she was from a nearby village and had lost her mind and often left the village and wandered around in the bush.

The woman was taken to her village where she roamed and then on full moon evening she again went on a nocturnal expedition and never returned. Later a few scraps of clothing with some blood stains were found in the veldt . . . . . another sadness of the Low veldt.

While out on patrol one day Ampie and his field Rangers found a young girl in the veldt, all covered in ants, she could not remember who she was, or where she came from or why she was in the veldt. They took her to Malelane and spread the word; soon a family came to fetch her telling that she had been missing for five days. . . . . . . The little girl recovered but could never remember what had happened.

One evening Ampie was again as was his habit to go and shut the gate, to keep the wild animals from destroying Sannie’s garden, he took his torch and set off accompanied by his faithful mongrel, who kept on barking in a certain direction, in the distant dusk he noticed some Lions, they were under a Marula tree a little distance from the fence, fortunately they were on the outside. The dog kept on barking and moving around its master.

Suddenly his other dog kicked up a terrible commotion, Ampie turned around, just in time to see a yellow streak coming from around the water tank, and he was not quite sure whether it was after him or on the way out, to the gate from where she had entered.

Ampie had to get out of the way, his accompanying dog got in the way, he tripped and fell with the Lioness at his feet, he kicked with all his might and she headed for the gate, Ampie immediately changed into top gear in the opposite direction, that of the front door.

After shutting the door Ampie found that he could not put the torch down, upon inspection he found that when he tripped he must have flattened the handle and that his fingers were stuck between the handle and the battery compartment, he also then noticed that his only wound fortunately was where the handle had cut his fingers – lucky man.

The gate had to be shut, he took his rifle and called the dogs, approaching the gate, there was a charge probably by the same Lioness as previously, Ampie beat her to the gate and shut it. Ampie told his family he was sure that by the time the Lioness reached the fence, he was safely behind the closed front door.
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Ampie Espag Part 3.

Tshokwane was different, beautiful, peaceful and close to civilization. It seemed the best place on earth.

Sannie soon had her stamp on the garden, water was plentiful and provided the gates were kept shut and the surrounding fences inspected every morning and the damage repaired everything would flourish. The song of birds and the colourful butterflies filled the day as they flitted from branch to branch or flower to flower.

Going away always was sad but coming home – always something to look forward to. Mom’s home cooking, Dad’s stories and the wonders of nature, what more could a child expect from life.

While out on patrol one day, Ranger Ampie Espag was charged by a Lioness in the from the close by thicket, she growled and pounced, fortunately the Ranger could get off a shot. The dead Lioness ended on top of him. His accompanying field staff were quite surprised to see that the blood covered Ampie was unharmed. On inspection they found that the Lioness was in milk and the group set off in search for the cubs.

Four cubs were soon found, Ampie was saddened by the fact that their brave mother had lost her life in doing what she was supposed to, defend them.

The Park rules were that no dangerous wild animals were to be kept, Ampie decided that these four were not dangerous and could not be left out in the bush after he had shot their beautiful mother. The cubs just a few hours old were caught in his hat and taken home where they were reared on a diluted mixture of condensed milk. One died soon and the other three survived.

After the diluted condensed milk they thrived on a diet of cows milk, and very soon the three cubs had the run of the house doing what young Lions were supposed to do. Playing and romping and ambushing and tearing and sleeping and playing and romping . . . . .

The Senior Ranger Rowland Jones made visit to Tshokwane and saw the cubs, although he also thought that they were beautiful and good to have, reminded Ampie about the rules, Ampie normally a stickler to rules decided that he could not get rid of these three, after all it was because he had killed their beautiful golden coloured mother that they had been orphaned.

A while later The Espags got a visit from one of the Southern Area Rangers. The evening was spent chatting and then off to bed. The following morning while Ampie was doing his rounds, he heard three shots; the visitor had done as he had been instructed by the authorities. The Espags were sad but realised that rules were rules.

Eventually Ranger Ampie Espag was transferred to Kingfisherspruit, here Wife Sannie got her garden going, all was well provided the gates were kept shut and the surrounding fences inspected every morning and the damage repaired, everything would flourish.

Ampie had two dogs Fabio and Zorba, one day one of his Field Rangers called Ampie and told him that Fabio had been killed by a Python; Petrus took the Ranger to the spot, here Ampie found the dead python and a recovering Fabio in the coils. Petrus had stabbed the Python before reporting to Ampie. Fabio soon recovered from his few cracked ribs and ended up quite again a happy dog.

Here at Kingfisherspruit during the early eighties, two greats of the Kruger National Park, met one another “Tsotsi” the kind hearted man of mischief and Phelwane; the gentleman with the long tusks.

As everyone knows Elephants have an insatiable appetite for oranges and the garden at Kingfisherspruit had plenty. One dark evening the dogs were barking and Ampie took his .375 Magnum and went to investigate, he carefully approached the sound of breaking branches and there he was calmly enjoying the ripening oranges – the Elephant with the magnificent two and a half meter long tusks. The Ranger went as close as possible and then a bit more closer and fired a few shots into the AFRICAN sky. The Elephant disappeared into the dark.

The following morning on inspection a hole was found leading into the orange orchard while a trail of digested vegetable matter indicated where there was another hole leading out of the orchard.

There were no visits for a while until one evening the dogs were again barking and running in the direction of the fruit orchard. Ampie suspected who was causing the barking.

This time he took his whip, he was going to thrash the intruder and then hide in the little brick outbuilding, Phelwane was charged with some accompanying indescribable yelling, the whip seemed to have the desired effect as Phelwane was on his way to make another hole in the fence long before Ampie could reach the close by outbuilding.

Sannie decided to replan her beloved flower garden, this time the beds hemmed the lawn at the fence.

Soon the garden was again flourishing and then again the dogs barked, Ampie knew who the visitor was, he grabbed the whip and set off he charged the intruder and laid in the whip, Phelwane still took a few fruit and then calmly started off towards to hole from where he had entered.

The following morning it was found there were no deep indentations in the flower bed he seemed to have very considerately stepped over the flower bed.

Sannie as from then called Phelwane a thorough old gentleman.

The Espags often enjoyed listening to stories told by Field Rangers and tourists who would be telling of how he would stop them and sometimes cause an adrenaline rush when he would shake his head approach with raised trunk uttering his loud “herraus”, and then turn around and innocently disappear into the bush
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Ampie Espag Part 4.

After Kingfisherspruit the Espag family was posted at Mooiplaas indeed a “beautiful farm”

Here Sannie converted a hill into a luscious paradise, many loads of soil was carted in and soon the birds and the insects were colourfully and noisily doing what birds and insects were supposed to do. A little pond was painstakingly constructed by the Missus and the proud squad boy. Many happy hours were spent by the Espag family and their visitors in the cool shade of the trees enjoying the wonders of Mooiplaas.

From here they had a view of the whole of the Mooiplaas Ranger’s Section; looking west they could see to almost to where the sun sets, south almost to the Letaba, north nearly up to the Great Shingwedzi and east right up to the Lebombos.

Many late evenings were spent listening to the sounds of the AFRICAN night, the rolling thunder of the King, confirming his territory. Or the Jackal calling his mate or the spine chilling laughing and cackling of the cleaners of the veldt. Or the comforting call of a little Nightjar or a little secretive couple of Scopsies having their conversation.

From here they would follow the dust trails of the mighty herds migrating to where they knew life-giving water would be left. From here they would also see the warning smoke of a veldt fire, to where everyone would then set out and fight it until the fire was more exhausted than the men with whom the custodianship of nature had been entrusted.

From here at Mooiplaas Ampie and his staff would set out and accompany Prof. Fritz Eloff who did so much research in this area. Susan says Oom Fritz was Superior.

From here they would see the lightning flashes and listen to the thunder announcing the rains after a dry spell, and then watch the dry veldt turn to green. Here the Espags and their visiting friends would find balm for their scars

Jocelyn Oelofse the lady of Johan at Mooiplaas; appreciatively says she has the only house in the world from where she can sit and watch an Elephant breaking and stripping a branch while in her Living room. . . . .

Here at Mooiplaas on a brightly lit full moon evening, one can sit and watch and never realise that time is passing by. . . . .

From Mooiplaas the Espags were transferred to Punda Maria.

The Espag family again enjoyed the quiet life here in the most northerly of the Kruger National Park Camps.

Ampie knew that his pending retirement date was rapidly approaching. He just could not see has way clear to just one day say his goodbyes to his Field Rangers and his friends, and the Lions and the Elephants and the Kudu and the Zebra and the Wildebeest and the Steenbok and the trees and the shrubs and the birds and the insects and the rivers and the dust and the rain of this place where he had spent half his life.

He was fortunate enough that the Kruger Park Management in appreciation for the work done by this man of the veldt with knowledge gained not from books or in class rooms, but in the raw wonderful AFRICAN bush appointed him upon retirement as a Ranger on 31 October 1984, as Tourist Officer at Punda Maria for a few years until 1990 when he retired in the Hoedspruit area.

Unfortunately the Espag daughter Ronel passed away a few years ago, Tina is working at a sick bay of the SANDF, and if you ever come across Professor Susan Hattingh at UNISA, she is the Susan often referred to by me.

Maybe some of you reading this will also remember this wiry man with the greying hair, who could with a sparkle in his eye tell stories of the days gone by and afterwards you would sit and think and later remember that the name of “Tsotsi” given to him by his loving Shangane Field Staff was well deserved, although in a much different sense than possibly today. Where Ampie Espag was around you had be very ware and wide awake as whether you were the Warden or a labourer, some surprise may be awaiting you.

Next time you visit the Elephant Hall at Letaba, look around and you will find the photograph of the tusker sharing his name and also while seeing the tusks and the photograph and reading the write up of Phelwane you may remember the two nights at Kingfisherspruit.
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

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Ben Pretorius.

Ben Pretorius was born on 3 June 1942 on the farm Blokkloof in the Western Transvaal between Koster and Zwartruggens. During a school tour to the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, he made up his mind about what his career would be.

After matriculating at the Rodeon Hoërskool he worked as clerk at the Maize Board, he did not quite enjoy his job; he wanted to work in the bush of Africa. Ben applied for a position and eventually his dream came true in 1966 when appointed as Rest Camp Manager/ Game Ranger of the Golden Gate National Park. He was soon transferred to The Tsitsikamma National Park, after two months in the Cape he got the good news that he is being transferred to Skukuza.

The new section Ranger Ben Pretorius started his dream career on New Years Day 1967. He married the love of his life Quarta Dannhauser – a school teacher from the Orange Free State during 1968.

Ranger Ben Pretorius was soon named Mashambela (one who can stand his man) by his field staff for very obvious reasons.

After the honeymoon the Ranger and his new bride were transferred to Shingwedzi. Here they soon settled and really enjoyed the quiet, the area being closed to visitors during the hot and often very wet summer months from 15 October to 1 May. They were often cut off from the rest of the world when the Shingwedzi or Letaba Rivers or of their tributaries or creeks were in flood.

Once the Rangers from the Dipene post reported to Ben that they had come across drag marks, Ben realised something was wrong, at that stage his brother in Law Chris Dannhauser was visiting and Ben invited Chris to join him. After following the drag marks along the Dzombo Creek they came across the cause, a Buffalo Bull, the animal became aware of the Rangers and took off but not too fast, eventually the Rangers got close enough and saw that the poor beast had cable snares around it’s neck, one was still tied to its anchor, a Mopani tree which it was dragging along.

After the suffering had been ended the angered Ranger inspected the carcass and found that there were five cables cutting deeply into flesh of the poor animal. Just imagine the suffering as the tree got stuck and then loosened by the power of the Buffalo bull.

Chris mentioned to me the care that Ben took by first ensuring the safety of the group and then the careful investigation of the condition of the animal as well as all the factors considered before the final decision was made . . . . .

Chris is now Professor Chris Dannhauser at the University of Venda.

The young couple enjoyed every minute of it even the out of order paraffin fridge or freezer did not seem to matter very much.

One day while out on patrol along the Shilowa Road with his Rangers from the Kostini post, they went to a waterhole from where the Rangers had heard a peculiar not unlike the growl of a Lion or a Leopard. Getting closer to the reeds surrounding the waterhole they heard sounds of suffocation. Getting closer they noticed the emaciated body of a Lioness less than a meter from the water edge, tied to a stump of wood which had been caught between two trees. The smell of decay convinced that there was only one way out. On inspection it was found that the wire snare had cut into her neck right through her trachea, from where the strange sounds were coming.

Ben was sent to the then Rhodesia in 1973, to take care of the Roan Antelope while in quarantine destined for translocation to the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK. Quarta joined him and the couple spent a very happy period.

After two months the big Hercules Aircraft arrived for them to return to Kruger with their Roan, to be kept in the Roan Camp west of the Lebombos between Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. A little bit of the Pretorius couple stayed behind in the dust at Tjolotso south of the Wankie National Park.

It was a great day when their Roan were released to roam the veldt of the Lebombo plains.

Being transferred to the city named Skukuza in 1977, caused quite a stir to them Ben now had much admin work to attend to and spent much les time in the veldt than before. Quarta could also no longer accompany him when he had the opportunity to go to where his heart really was, as the barefoot Sub A’s and B’s of the Skukuza School had a new attractive young teacher.

Once from the Park’s helicopter near Lower Sabie, Ben noticed a scenic fountain and decided that he would go and visit this spot as soon as the opportunity arose. Soon he had a bit of time and went off on his scrambler, leaving his rifle at home. Near to the little fountain, Ben got off and walked forward on the hard rocky surface, he noticed a Reedbuck in the thicket, he then saw a movement and a Lioness came out of the bush and trotted of to the Reedbuck which in the meantime had transformed into a Lion cub. The Lioness looked at Ben and Ben looked at her. Fortunately there was no confrontation or any more Lions between Ben and the scrambler as he slowly back tracked, step by very careful step, not moving an eye away from the golden mother and her young cub. Ben then decided that no matter how uncomfortable it may be but never again without his rifle.

After 4 years in the City they were in 1981, transferred to Olifants, where they spent three very happy years.

Ben and Quarta spent 5 weeks during June and July of 1981, on the S A Morgenster on their ocean voyage to America.

It was quite an adventure docking in Houston and then the last of their journey to Fort Worth near Dallas where everything is supposed to be bigger and better in the company of 17 young Elephants. The Ranger and his wife were quite sad when their ways parted with their companions from Africa. After touring a bit they were on their way to Kennedy Airport and back to where they belonged.

Fortunately for the Pretorius couple they were then transferred away from the civilized world, to Punda Maria where they spent their happiest 14 years in the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.

Ranger Ben Pretorius was the designer of the A frame accommodation erected at the Nyalaland trail north of Punda Maria, which was later extended to the other trail camps.

Ben spent March and April 1985 in Malawi taking care of the quarantined Lichtenstein Hartebeest destined for translocation to the KUGER NATIONAL PARK.

After the 14 years at Punda Maria their transfer to Pretoriuskop required quite a lot of getting used to, no matter how much they tried, Ben Pretorius could never quite get used to the area carrying a similar name.

Ben Pretorius had to leave the service of the then National Parks Board due to Operation Prevail, 11 months before his retirement date. Ben and Quarta settled in their retirement home in Naboomspruit in September 2001.

Ben gave his all to his dream come true and the place he really loved, he is remembered for his sharing of his knowledge and vast experience by all he came contact with, especially the greenhorns.

Shortly after retiring from the National Parks Board service Ben was approached by the CSIR to assist in their collection of medicinal plants, he accepted and the couple again spent many very happy months in the veldt.

Ben Pretorius got ill and was admitted to the Faery Glen Hospital on 30 August 2002 where he spent his last few days until his time came on 5 September 2002.

The happy couple only spent a few months together in their retirement home in Golf Park Naboomspruit.

Quarta and Ben spent much of their time together, the Lady joining the Ranger in the veldt, their tracks still lay on and around Dzundzwini and Skipberg and Pafuri and Crooks Corner and Olifants and the Lebombos and the Levhuvu and . . . . . . . .
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Re: LEST WE FORGET

Unread post by gmlsmit »

Fanie Botha

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 *** 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 *** set foot on KRUGER soil in approximately half a century. Approximately 200 White *** 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 *** 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
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized *** and Lion trade.
Done 159 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
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