As South African National Parks (SANParks) readies to host an influx of thousands of visitors during the eighth annual SA National Parks Week from 9 to 13 September 2013 – which offers free entry to National Parks, a disturbing trend in local parks has to be brought to the attention of visitors.
Despite instructions upon entering Park gates to visitors not to get out of their vehicles within the game viewing areas except in designated areas, Park Management at the four SANParks within the Frontier Region administration area (Addo Elephant National Park – outside Port Elizabeth, Mountain Zebra National Park – outside Cradock, Camdeboo National Park – surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet and Karoo National Park – just outside Beaufort West), have been receiving more regular reports of people doing exactly that to “capture that perfect photograph”. This is also despite numerous warnings throughout the Parks and on their visitor maps not to do so.
Since its inception in 2006, National Parks Week has seen an influx of over 90 000 day visitors in all participating parks. The concept of National Parks Week was established in a bid to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, protected by the national parks system.
The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities. It should be noted that free access to parks does not in include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities.
All of the parks managed by SANParks, excluding Namaqua, Boulders and Tankwa Karoo National Park will be participating in the initiative to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of the country’s natural heritage. The excluded Parks will apply normal entry tariffs, as they have been declared non-participants in the free access scheme, due to the seasonality of their product offering.
“The majority of our visitors understand that it’s dangerous to get out of their vehicles in a national park. However, there is a minority of our guests who don’t seem to grasp that they’re inside a wild game viewing area – where the animals’ behaviour cannot be predicted,” said Regional General Manager, Dries Engelbrecht. “My Park Managers get regular reports of people blatantly getting out of their cars and walking metres away to get close-up photographs of animals. Alternatively, they walk with their backs to the animals, so someone with them can take the photograph with the animals in the background,” continued Engelbrecht.
“We can never say when the animals could feel threatened and feel the need to protect themselves or their young. These things happen quicker than we think possible and the consequences are scary to think about. One has to remember that the animals are in their natural environment, and we’re simply guests on their land,” said Engelbrecht.
“Hundreds of visitors come to the Parks daily, and as we expect these numbers to increase substantially next week, we thought this would be the ideal opportunity to remind visitors about this regulation once again,” Engelbrecht concluded.
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