When you enter a national park, you are visiting the animals in their home and you should respect that. Do not interfere, hinder, obstruct, meddle, disturb or stick your nose in. Get the message? By Samantha Hartshorne
Eagerness and excitement to start game viewing often distract from the rules contained in the visitors’ permit handed out when guests sign into a national park. Read them and remember them!
Many rules rely on the common sense and self-discipline of the visitors themselves. In a nutshell: “Do not interfere with the natural environment,” says Louis Lemmer, chairman of the SANParks Honorary Rangers.
There are a number of regulations governing the use of vehicles in our protected areas. Fines for driving a vehicle in a restricted area or after park times can reach R1,500. The rules, published online on SANParks’ website, warn drivers that reckless or negligent driving is seen as a deliberate disregard for the safety of animals and could result in the issuing of a summons.
“Often guests see what they think is a stranded or baby animal and they take it home with them because they feel sorry for it,” says Louis. “That is the biggest mistake. Often the animal is alone because it needs to be raised like that.”
Do not feed any creature, no matter how small, as it interferes with their natural integration with their environment. Feeding an animal, whether intending to treat a cute squirrel in a restcamp or trying to coax larger animals closer to the vehicle, can attract a fine of R500.
If you find any animal, such as a bat, snake or spider, in a place of accommodation, leave the room. If you are concerned, alert the authority at the camp. But under no circumstances should any animal be harmed or killed.
Many visitors consider capturing animal behaviour on camera as the ultimate prize. What a disappointment when a big cat does not want to sit up or look into the camera! This is where you need restraint. Do not try to attract their attention, do not whistle, do not hiss.
The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) prohibits any aircraft from flying 2,500 feet above the highest point in any national park. All our national parks have instituted “No Drone Zones”. The use of drones is in contravention of the Protected Areas Act and any operation is forbidden.
“Offenders will be prosecuted,” warns William Mabasa, Kruger National Park acting head of communications. “Should they be found flying drones in the park at any time, they will be arrested on the spot and their equipment will be seized.”