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Kruger National Park: history and wildlife

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

This blog was written by Siphiwe Khoza, Bushwise Professional Field Guide student. Siphiwe is one of the scholarship students studying under our collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College. All information included here is from Siphiwe’s research.

4 min read

Where is Kruger National Park?

An elephant feeding on a mixture of grass and tree parts, during the dry season.

The National Park is located in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces in South Africa, and in the south of Zimbabwe and west of Mozambique. It is close to two million hectares in size, and it now forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. 

The Kruger National Park was first established by Paul Kruger in 1898, but it wasn’t until 1927 that it was open to visitors. 

Kruger National Park is the third largest-protected area in Africa and recognised as a key conservation area for endangered species like black and white rhino, African wild dogs and elephants as well providing habitat for other mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and a variety of different plant species.

Kruger and history

A giraffe moves across a wide landscape. Giraffes are found throughout Kruger National Park.

Kruger National Park has more than 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age humans. Cultural artefacts have been found that show that Homo erectus lived in Kruger National park 500,000 years ago. Thulamela and Masorini – two archaeological sites within Kruger – display this evidence which include San rock art and there are about 100 other sites where you can view these paintings. 

The Nguni people also lived in the area and their clay pots and graves serve as evidence of their time in the area. They later moved to the neighbouring communities to conserve the Kruger National Park and become what it is today.

The role of Kruger for local communities

A Bushwise trainer bends down to take a photo of something on the ground, likely a track during track and sign evaluations.

Kruger National Park plays a big role for the wider South Africa community by creating jobs and business opportunities in the tourism sector. The park also runs empowerment programs such as curio selling projects, contractor development programs and used for educational purposes’ it is a conservation and research centre used to study the animals and wildlife. Kruger National Park contributes millions to South Africa’s GDP including tax revenue which benefits the economy of South Africa.

According to SANParks, Kruger National park respects the customs, beliefs and peace with people that were moved from the reserve by giving back the resources in a sustainable way. 

Communities sometimes get free entry or a discount to enter the reserve at the lowest rate, buy animal meat at a discount price and also are given the opportunities to visit the graves of their loved ones and perform their rituals inside the reserve, harvesting marula fruits and medicines from plants in a correct method. 

Wildlife in Kruger National Park

A pair of lionesses pause in tall grass, listening for noise around them that might indicate prey or members of their pride.

Kruger National Park is a home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) as well as 100s of different birds’ species, reptiles, amphibians and other mammals. 

Wildlife needs to be protected and used sustainably for the future generations. Animals play a significant role in the stability of the environment, ecosystem and our lives. Without animals, our existence is impossible.

Animals and plants are also a major source of medication, which we depend on, and plays an important role to support the web of activity in the functioning ecosystem. Without pollinators, there will be no reproduction of plants, and animals including human beings cannot survive without plants.

Learning about and experiencing wildlife is entertaining and rewarding, including learning about the history and cultures of different people who lived in Kruger National Park. This attracts many people, including tourists from around the world, to visit the natural environment, which benefits the economy of the country.

Bushwise campuses are located near the Greater Kruger Region – learn more about our campuses here. 

Words by Siphiwe Khoza, photos by Louise Pavid

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