Course:CONS200/2019/Socio-economic impacts of the establishment and operations of Kruger National Park (South Africa) in adjacent local communities

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

Introduction to Kruger National Park and the Historical Context

The Kruger National Park (KNP) comprises 20,000 of relatively intact conservation land that was established as a national park in 1926 [1]. The park stretches along the South African border with Mozambique, which has exposed it to militarization during periods of civil unrest during the Mozambique civil war. Between 1926 and 1950, the park systematically and violently removed local populations that had been occupying the region prior to the establishment of the area as a national park (protected area). These removals were instituted by the Kruger’s first warden – Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, “who earned the dubious nickname Skukuza, or ‘he who sweeps clean’" and initiated the forceful removal as a strategy to protect dwindling game populations. [2] The conservation strategies applied to the management of KNP until the fall of the Apartheid regime were largely “centralized, exclusionary, and biocentric”, reflecting the philosophical legacies of colonial governance [3]. The peoples that once thrived in the region on a primary resource procurement basis had been separated from the biodiverse environment which they relied on to survive, yet historic protectionist management practices ensured that resource extraction from the park by locals was strictly prohibited and enforced by patrolling armed and military-trained park rangers [4]. Before displacement, there was a substantial amount of resources accessible to communities within the KNP due to the distribution of peoples across the massive park area (low population densities). Unfortunately, the forceful movement of local populations to smaller areas along the border of the park has led to extreme population concentration, and subsequent land and resource degradation, low clean water accessibility, and various public health hazards [5]. A number of reactionary measures have been taken since the fall of the Apartheid regime by the park authority–South Africa National Parks (SANParks), as well as the South African national government to empower these historically disenfranchised local communities while maintaining the effective conservation of biodiversity.

Park-Bordering Community Relationship

Makuleke Region

The municipalities and villages bordering KNP are in a shared governance relationship with SANParks, as the conservation decisions of SANParks directly and/or indirectly impact the lives of these communities by controlling how they may procure resources and handle livestock in the surrounding area.[6]. As of 2017, there are seven community forums and one park forum (established in 1996 and 2004 respectively) that mediate communication between SANParks and the bordering villages and municipalities on topics such as inclusive business and employment opportunities and human-wildlife conflict. The community forums consist of democratically elected representatives of “36 Traditional Councils from over 240 villages, 3 districts, 7 local municipalities … [and] several hundred schools, churches,and local businesses” [7]. Despite efforts to harmonize SANParks governance with local communities, the cooperative relationship between the two actors exists on thin ice, as the context of historical displacement and frequent violent poacher-ranger clashes has formed negative emotions/opinions within local communities towards KNP and its management.

Threat of Poaching

Poaching has been a constant threat throughout the history of KNP. With the presence of the park rangers increasing with each passing year, the poachers have had to resort to employing more modern methods in order to operate. Kruger’s poachers utilize large caliber rifles in addition to night vision optics in order to hunt more efficiently under the cover of darkness. In addition to these tools, they also use telescopic scopes and suppressors in order to strike from afar and remain silent. [8]

Implications of Poaching

The ivory and pelts collected by poachers are often sold off onto various illegal trade networks as they retain a notably high market value due to extreme scarcity. For instance, the ivory from the horns of the Black Rhino may sell for up to $82,000 USD per kilogram on the black market. [9] This creates a monetary incentive to poach within national parks as an alternative source of income. As a result of the large payoff, numerous poachers have risked and lost their lives within the park through violent encounters with wildlife. With these dangers in mind, the poachers not only risk their lives, but they also endanger the lives of the animals. Wild animals which have shown a tendency to attack humans must be euthanized as they are deemed unsafe to the park staff and potential tourists.

The response of the SANParks rangers may also have negative repercussions in the eyes of the public. The Rangers have military training and will shoot back in retaliatory action when fired upon. This brings the possibility of death for the poachers and damages the reputation of both the park and the surrounding communities. The poachers are often from these surrounding communities and are most likely teenage sons and husbands [10].

Employment Opportunities

KNP has over 4,500 employees working within its borders and another 7,880 staff working in other conservation areas. As stated by the review of the park conducted by Swemmer et al., most of these employees are from the communities surrounding KNP (90%). SANParks also has a program, 'Black Economic Employment', which gives a focus to small and medium local business who deal with the “procurement and delivery needs of the park.”

Tourism

KNP has around 1.6 million annual visitors. Most of the visitors into the park are South African Residents (77%). SANParks programs seek to educate visitors on conservation problems and goals. With their programs ranging from one hour lessons to five nights over the course of three years [11].

Evidence for the problem

KNP Cost benefits flow chart. (Swemmer et al)

The issues in this region are present as previous management of the park during the early years from 1926 until restitution efforts in 1996 occurred with the Makuleke people. The park agreed to run the section of the park that was on Makuleke land through co-management and thus gives the land control back to the people. This has worked in this instance. However, SANParks, the governing body of Kruger and other South African parks, has stated in an interview in 2011 that if this system is used in the future it "...will create a conglomeration of community-owned parts of the KNP; balkanize the park and complicate its management; render ecotourism economically unviable and compromise KNP's commercial viability to subsidize other national parks in the country." (Senior SANParks Official, interview, 18 October 2011, as cited in Ramutsindela & Shabangu, 2013). While the governing bodies wish to have as much input from surrounding communities as possible, there are issues that arise from this. The park with so many different managing bodies loses its ability to manage itself quickly as well as loses much of the income that is used to support itself, and other parks that focus on conservation around the country.

Evidence of Poaching

For the duration of the park’s operation, poachers have utilized many stratagems in an effort to achieve what they want. They’ve utilized intimidation and blackmail as methods to extort information out of the park staff for locations of the protected animals [12].

Rhinos are one of the most common animals killed by poachers in addition to elephants. This is due to the ivory contained in the horns and tusks of these animals. The poaching of rhinos has increased, especially in the 21st century due to the high prices that ivory is able to fetch on the black market. It was recorded that during the first twelve years of Krueger Park, 949 rhinos were killed by poachers. [13] It was recorded that more than 520 were killed by poachers in the year 2013 alone. [14].

Illness and Disease

Problems have occurred near KNP’s borders due to the continuation of Foot and Mouth Disease still present in the African buffalo population. This reduces the economic value of the land near KNP as it is problematic to use this land for farming, though there is still 70,000 head of cattle near this border. Other prevalent diseases that affect wild and farm animals are, bovine tuberculosis, Anaplasmosis, Corridor Disease, and Heartwater, of which pose a problem for surrounding communities While much of benefits from the park are spread to cultural products and services, many of the neighbours living near the park struggle with conservation-related problems, such as obtaining food and water. As stated by Louise Swemmer,  et al in her report on the Kruger National park this results from the human-wildlife conflict and can cause a daily challenge for those living near the park. KNP provides monetary compensation towards those harmed in human-wildlife conflicts, such as livestock-related losses. The park has recognized most of the costs come from those in communities surrounding the park, while most of the benefits go elsewhere, tourism and education, rather than direct daily benefits such as employment and their services.

Options for remedial actions

Tensions between the SANParks and local indigenous groups remain high due to one main factor: a lack of communication between the two parties. This is seen time and time again around the world between a governing body and an underrepresented group. But it doesn’t have to be like this and there are strategies that can leave both groups satisfied. As stated previously, Most benefits brought by KNP have been held externally while the local communities are left with horrible living conditions to fend for themselves [15].  To help balance this inequality, while maintaining the park for generations to come a systematic approach must be taken to help include the local groups in the regulation and protection of the KNP.

Response to Poaching

As a response to the poachers, the park has employed around 650 SANParks rangers in an effort to combat the poachers. These rangers are also supported by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in addition to the South African Defence Force (SANDF). The rangers of Kruger park have deployed aerial drones such as the Seeker II to help hunt for the poachers [16]. The utilization of these drones has allowed the park rangers to survey large swathes of land while remaining out of harm's way. Staying out of danger is vital as violence between the poachers and rangers escalated in 2012 when a Kruger ranger in addition to a police officer was killed during an operation [17]. In addition to using drones, the park rangers are also able to utilize trained dogs, helicopters, and motion sensors to help detect poachers. The increased deployment of unmanned vehicles such as drones allows the park to minimize casualties amongst their staff in addition to allowing them to more efficiently monitor the park.[18].

Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs)

By converting the park into sections of IPAs, local communities will have a greater opportunity to play a vital role in the management of the park. IPAs are indigenous lands where a management plan has been strategized between the local communities and the government to include traditional ideologies with a new age land protection strategy [19]. This land management framework allows the indigenous community to help regulate and learn about the benefits of protecting certain areas while the government can gain a much deeper land knowledge of the ecological systems. This has become a common and successful practice, especially in Australia, where government funding for research grants towards the native community has allowed for bilateral conservation work to be done across the whole country [20]. This is a voluntary practice in Australia that takes the agreement of both parties to work properly, but when done right, it grows local economies by conserving local ecological systems and if implemented to a further extent in KNP, may improve the overall socio-ecological well-being of the park. Short term it may not seem beneficial as more money must be allocated to local groups instead of internal operations, but long term it will create a framework of trust between locals and SANParks. As aforementioned, trust in SANParks is notably lacking in the park and surrounding vicinity, and IPAs could work towards mending this while increasing the effectiveness of conservation through the consideration of diverse traditional knowledge with effective delegation management by SANParks.

This system would be a slightly skewed version than the systematic approach taken in Australia, where IPAs are implemented on indigenous-owned lands, whereas almost all of the KNP is owned by SANParks. SANParks holds concerns for park fragmentation, which are legitimate, as a fragmented approach to management may be detrimental if the individual tribes were to reclaim full management rights in the park. To address this, a majority (50 + 1%) of the management responsibilities would need to be upheld by SANParks, while the remaining 49% of management responsibilities would be portioned to various local groups in the park so as to maintain a centralized system of conservation management while incorporating local communities in the management process.

Conclusion: Moving Forward

Kruger National Park, Crocodile River

The parks contemporary management looks to focus on similar categories as they have in the past, balancing out the needs of conservation with local social well-being, taking the needs of local communities into account through broad deliberations. The parks most recent research in 2017 utilized the ecosystem services model and attempted to create an inventory to support more effective reporting on the societal contributions of the park protected area. Identifying the gaps and disparities regarding the distribution of the economic benefits of ecotourism in the park was also a main objective of the research, particularly with respect to increasing the equity of the distribution of funds between national/international beneficiaries and historically disenfranchised local community stakeholders. Overall, balancing human safety, the conservation of biodiversity, Maintaining profitability, and the equitable distribution of funds so as to mitigate horizontal and vertical inequality are the primary dilemmas facing SANParks. Operating KNP while facing these issues requires an organized approach to management, which has hindered SANParks ability to delegate management responsibilities to local stakeholders, as it is hesitant due to the risks that fragmented management presents with respect to the effective conservation of biodiversity. This logic approaches conservation from a dichotomous perspective, and as mentioned above, taking a more holistic approach to conservation may provide more space for local/indigenous community involvement in park management that has been observed to be largely successful in Australia. Furthermore, although the implementation of an IPA system in KNP would require immense time and effort on behalf of SANParks, and further resource distribution to coordination, it has the potential to maintain effective conservation through holistic means and promote equity among local, international, and national beneficiaries.

References

  1. Swemmer, L.,  Mmethi, H., Twine, W. 2017. Tracing the cost/benefit pathway of protected areas: A case study of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ecosystem Services,28, 162-172. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.002
  2. Moore and Masuku van Damme 2002 Producing Conservation and Community in South Africa. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/9143175/Producing_Conservation_and_Community_in_South_Africa
  3. Randy Tanner 2007. Legitimacy and the use of Natural Resources In Kruger National Park, South Africa. International Journal of Sociology, 40:3, 71-85. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2753/IJS0020-7659400304
  4. Elizabeth Lunstrum 2014. Green Militarization: Anti-Poaching Efforts and the Spatial Contours of Kruger National Park. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:4, 816-832. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2014.912545
  5. Randy Tanner 2007. Legitimacy and the use of Natural Resources In Kruger National Park, South Africa. International Journal of Sociology, 40:3, 71-85. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2753/IJS0020-7659400304
  6. Swemmer, L.,  Mmethi, H., Twine, W. 2017. Tracing the cost/benefit pathway of protected areas: A case study of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ecosystem Services,28, 162-172. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.002
  7. Swemmer, L.,  Mmethi, H., Twine, W. 2017. Tracing the cost/benefit pathway of protected areas: A case study of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ecosystem Services,28, 162-172. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.002
  8. Buks Viljoen 2012. Stropers raak ál beter, meer waaghalsig Retrieved from http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2012/02/15/B1/7/bvstroopstats_1725.html
  9. Elizabeth Viljoen, Buks 2011. 5 renosterstropers in Krugerwildtuin doodgeskiet. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20130516025115/http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2011/01/12/B1/1/bvstopersdood1635.html
  10. Elizabeth Lunstrum 2014. Green Militarization: Anti-Poaching Efforts and the Spatial Contours of Kruger National Park. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:4, 816-832. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2014.912545
  11. Swemmer, L.,  Mmethi, H., Twine, W. 2017. Tracing the cost/benefit pathway of protected areas: A case study of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ecosystem Services,28, 162-172. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.002
  12. Viljoen, Buks 2012. Verkeerslid help met stropery. Retrieved from http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2012/03/28/B1/8/bvrenosterborgkrugervier_1905.html
  13. Viljoen, Buks 2012. Stropers: R100 000 vir inligting. Retrieved from http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2012/12/14/B1/2/bvrenosterbeloom_1503.html
  14. City Press. SAPA. 23 2013. Stropers: 4 rhino poachers killed, 17 arrested in Kruger Park. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20131127012009/http://www.citypress.co.za/news/4-rhino-poachers-killed-17-arrested-kruger-park
  15. Swemmer, L.,  Mmethi, H., Twine, W. 2017. Tracing the cost/benefit pathway of protected areas: A case study of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ecosystem Services,28, 162-172. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.002
  16. Conway-Smith, Erin .2013. South Africa sics drones on rhino poachers. Global Post. Retrieved from https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-01-11/south-africa-sics-drones-rhino-poachers
  17. Tempelhoff, Elise. 2012. Skietery in Kruger eis twee.Wildtuin is ’n ‘oorlogsone’ . Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20130516044820/http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2012/07/25/B1/1/etskietery-B2-02.html
  18. Viljoen, Buks. 2012. Honde deel van stryd teen stropers. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20130516035317/http://152.111.1.88/argief/berigte/beeld/2012/10/24/B1/6/bvkrugerhonde_1411.html
  19. Davies, J., Hill, R., Walsh, F., Sandford, M., Smyth, D., & Holmes, M. (2013). Green Militarization: Anti-Poaching Efforts and the Spatial Contours of Kruger National Park. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:4, 816-832. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2014.912545
  20. Davies, J., Hill, R., Walsh, F., Sandford, M., Smyth, D., & Holmes, M. (2013). Green Militarization: Anti-Poaching Efforts and the Spatial Contours of Kruger National Park. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:4, 816-832. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2014.912545