The Forming & Proclamation Of The Kruger Park
Excerpts from The Kruger National Park - A History
by Dr Salomon Joubert
Land and Boundaries
The Sabie and Shingwedzi Game reserves
Paul Kruger, President of the ZAR, proclaimed the Government
Wildtuin (Government Game Reserve) in 1898. Its boundaries
extended from the Crocodile River in the south to the Sabie
River in the north, and from the Logies River (Nsikazi River)
in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. During the
Anglo-Boer (South African) War from 1899 to 1902 the proclamation
After hostilities ceased, the area (including the land between
the Sabie and Olifants rivers) was reproclaimed and named the
Sabie (Sabi) Game Reserve, with James Stevenson-Hamilton
appointed as the first warden. He was a significant and
commanding figure and was an excellent force for the good.
A large tract of land to the west of the Nsikazi River was
added to the Reserve in 1906 and part of the area between
the Olifants and Letaba rivers in 1914.
In 1903 the Shingwedzi (Singwitsi) Game Reserve, between
the Letaba and Limpopo rivers, was proclaimed and this was
also placed under Stevenson-Hamilton's authority. The boundaries
were altered in 1913 when the part north of the Luvuvhu River
and a section in the extreme north-western corner, south of
the Luvuvhu River, were excluded.
In 1916 the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves were consolidated
and placed under the control of the Provincial Secretary of the
Transvaal Provincial Council, and referred to as the Transvaal
Although the entire Shingwedzi Game Reserve consisted of
government-owned land, a considerable portion of the Sabie
Game Reserve - 152 farms and six portions of farms - was
privately owned. As a result, the western areas of the
Sabie Game Reserve were excised in 1923, in preparation
for the creation of a national park.
In 1926, the Parliament of the Union of South Africa passed
a National Parks Act, and the Reserve was renamed the
Kruger National Park, after Paul Kruger, President of
the ZAR from 1880 to 1900. (Ludorf et al. 1918).
THE ERA 1926 TO 1946
The remarkable legacy of Eileen Orpen
Given the growing interest in conservation, the Executive
Sub-committee of the National Parks Board decided to approach
the Minister of Lands with a view to adding to the Kruger
Park all the State-owned farms on its boundaries. Vigorous
negotiations for the inclusion/exchange of privately owned
properties, especially those along the western boundary of
the Central District, also took place.
In 1934 the first private land was added when Mrs Eileen
Orpen bought the 4 492 ha farm Chalons and donated it to
the Government for inclusion in the Park. At the time of
its purchase from the SA Townships Company there were
still prospecting and mining servitudes on Chalons, but
these were subsequently relinquished by the original owners.
The Board undertook to build quarters on Chalons for use
by the Orpens. Chalons was finally transferred to the Board in 1935.
With further generosity in aid of a good cause, Mrs Orpen
purchased the 4 185 ha farm Kingfisherspruit in 1939 and
informed the Board (November 1939) that she intended to
donate it to the Kruger Park. Even before the farm had been
formally transferred to the Board, the Kruger National
Park's entrance gate was effectively shifted to the western
boundary of Kingfisherspruit and the Board assumed responsibility
for the conservation of the wildlife on the farm. The legal
formalities for the transfer were only finalised in 1941. In
1940, Mrs Orpen acquired the entire farm Red Gorten, of
which she had previously owned a portion, and donated it
to the Park as well. The original owner, Dr Loubser, retained
certain minor rights, such as free access through Kingfisherspruit
to his other farm Hartbeesfontein and the right to a limited
number of poles from mopane trees. Dr Loubser had previously
tried to exchange his portion of Red Gorten and Hartbeesfontein
for land in the Park but had been refused (Board August 1937).
In 1941 Red Gorten (4 024 ha) was finally incorporated into the
Park. Mrs Orpen also bought the farms Hengel (832 ha) and
Sikkeltoukloof (4 050 ha) and donated them to the Kruger
National Park (Board May 1941). The legalities of their
incorporation were finalised in 1942. The purchase and
transfer of Blackberry Glen (3 547 ha) followed. In 1943
Mrs Orpen purchased the farm Houtboschrand and donated it
to the Park (Board May 1943) with formal transfer taking
place in 1944.
During 1946 Mrs Orpen presented yet another farm, Newington,
to the Board (July 1946). With Mrs Orpen's consent, this
land was offered to the Department of Native Affairs in exchange
for land in the Numbi area. However, the Department was not
amenable to such an exchange as it was illegal because the
two areas fell under different tribal authorities. Newington
was therefore returned to Mrs Orpen.
Eileen Orpen was thus solely responsible for the addition of
24 528 ha to the Kruger National Park - a truly remarkable legacy!
THE ERA 1946 TO 1940
Fencing the boundaries
The question of fencing the Kruger Park boundary was considered
seriously for the first time towards the end of the previous
era. Sandenbergh, who followed Stevenson-Hamilton, endorsed
the view that the Park would ultimately have to be fenced,
stating that "... I am certain that sooner or later some
means must be found to confine the game to the Park if we
are to ensure the existence of all species. I suggest that
there is urgency and that the whole question of segregation
of game from farming areas should be gone into at the earliest
As early as 1930, some farmers along the Crocodile River (the
southern boundary of the Park), had been supplied with wire
and poles to erect fences to protect their crops from animals,
but their efforts met with little success. The failure of
this scheme was described by Nel (1951), who quoted Ranger James
(In litt. 1950.12.22): "During my period of service at Malelane,
fencing material was supplied by the Board to the farms Riverside
and Kaapmuiden. Fences were erected by the farm occupiers.
Prior to my taking over Malelane Section, material was also
supplied to Mr Rodriguez of Rockvale Farm, and to Mrs Newman
of the farm Thankerton. Rockvale Farm changed hands, and the
buyer dismantled the hippo fence and used the material to fence
his farm boundary. I took down the boundary fence ... I understand
that the fence supplied to Mrs Newman of Thankerton was carried
away by a flood ... Riverside fence has been neglected to such
an extent that most of it is now lying flat on the ground.
Kaapmuiden fence is, I understand, still in serviceable
Types of barrier to be considered and investigated included
the sisal boundary at Hluhluwe Game Reserve; the Wiid hippo
fence; the rinderpest fence of AD Thomas and NR Reid; electric
fences (which had been erected, for example, in Nairobi for
buffalo, in the USA for deer and in Malaya, now part of Malaysia,
where they were reported to be 70% successful against elephants);
and the Addo elephant fence.
A barrier of plants
It was reported in 1948 that "... we received sisal plants from the
Conservator of Game, Zululand, and experimental patches have been
planted on our borders. If these are successful I propose starting
a sisal fence on the borders of the entire Park. Not only will
such a fence play a large part in preventing our game going out of
the Park but it will also do much to prevent poachers getting into
the Park. I realise that it will be many years before such a fence
will be completed, but the sooner it is started the better"
In 1953 it was stated that *"... during the past year the Board
again expressed itself in favour of fencing the Park, that the
western boundary be given priority and that, apart from sisal,
other plants also be investigated for their suitability as
boundary barriers by means of experimental plantings".
The suitability of various plants was considered.
- Exotics: Agave sisalana rigida (Sisal), Bougainvillea
glauca, B. spectabilis (Bougainvillea),, Rosa multiflora.
- Indigenous: Commiphora glandulosa (Tall Firethorn Corkwood),
Dovyalis caffra (Kei-apple), Carissa grandiflora (Num-num),
Euphorbia tirucalli (Rubber-hedge Euphorbia), Capparis tomentosa
(Woolly Caper-bush), Acacia ataxacantha (Flame Thorn), A. pennata
(A. schweinfurthii?)(River Climbing Thorn), Balanites australis
(B. maughamii?)(Green Thorn), Cardiogyne Africana (African Osage
Orange), Dalbergia armata (Thorny-rope) and Pterolobium exosum
Sisal appeared likely to be the most effective, and a strip of
some 1 100 yds was planted in the Tshokwane area, to determine
its general suitability and its ability to withstand the
depredations of animals. Sisal plants (Agave sisalana) were
introduced to South Africa originally for commercial purposes.
Fibre is extracted from the leaves for the production of hessian,
which has wide applicability and serves many useful purposes.
Sisal plants are armed with formidable thorns, particularly a long,
straight thorn at the point of the leaf. This heavy armament,
together with an ability to grow in different soil types and in
relatively arid conditions, made sisal a prime candidate when
means were sought to constrain the movements of both humans and
wild animals across the boundaries of the Kruger National Park.
When the fencing of the Park first received serious consideration,
in the 1940s, a line of sisal plants was seen not only as an
effective barrier but also as a possible source of income!
However, porcupines, elephants and other animals, soon put paid
to the 'impenetrable barrier'. No specific experiments were
undertaken with other plant species as they were considered
It was stated that *"... the western boundary, especially the
portion between the Sabie and Olifants rivers, attracted much
attention in South Africa and overseas ... The most important
reason for this, as in many years past, was the distribution of
Foot-and-mouth disease. With the increase in farming activities
along this boundary, the scope of this and other boundary
problems (e.g. the damage to crops by game) has increased.
This led to the agitation for the Park to be fenced. The advantages
and disadvantages of fencing, as well as the possibility thereof,
were discussed by various interested parties during the course of
the year" (Annual Report: Biologist 1955).
In September 1955 a meeting of all parties who could be affected by
the fencing of the western boundary of the Park, particularly the
stretch between the Sabie and Olifants rivers, was convened at Skukuza.
The Department of Native Affairs gave its support in 1947 to the
fencing of the western boundary of the Park, as it would be to
the benefit of both agriculture and conservation.
The Transvaal Provincial Administration was also in favour of
fencing the Kruger Park. The Secretary of Lands was approached,
asking "... that the Union Government be requested by respectful
address to assist the National Parks Board, either to fence
in the Park, or to take other steps to prevent the migration of
game and vermin from the Park" (Board May 1951).
In 1949, the Southern Lowveld Farmers' Union submitted to the
Board a request for a fence. Their major area of concern was
the southern boundary along the Crocodile River, where extensive
damage to crops by hippos was reported.
To protect their crops, the farmers were issued with a Provincial
licence which permitted them to shoot hippos on sight, on their
own property. This did not particularly suit the farmers, who
argued that hippos were nocturnal animals and that hunting
at night 'exposed them (the farmers) unnecessarily to
malaria'. Their suggested solution was simply to kill all
the hippos in the river. Naturally, Sandenbergh (In litt.
1951.01.15) strongly opposed this suggestion. In his opinion,
"... the only alternative which will ensure complete protection
of the farmers, is the erection of a barrier" (Nel 1951).
To address the problem, repellent measures and the
possibilities of counter-control were examined. A plan for game-proof fencing, which would have the added benefit of preventing the spread of Foot-and-mouth disease, was drawn up in 1953 and submitted to the Department of Veterinary Services. It was decided to construct a hippo-proof fence along the Crocodile River, similar to the one erected by Mr Wiid, one of the neighbouring farmers.
THE ERA 1960 TO 1970
Additions and excisions
A number of land additions and excisions were made,
primarily along the western boundary between Orpen and
the Olifants River, and along the south-western boundary
in the Nsikazi area. Kruger Park land on the western
boundary of the Shangoni Section was exchanged for land
between the Luvuvhu (Levubu) and Limpopo rivers.
Three changes were made to straighten the western boundary
of the Central District in 1960/61. The purpose was to save
fencing costs and facilitate better management. The farm
Addger 105, which was approximately 2 000 morgen in size,
was purchased by the Government and added to the Kruger
Park, while two areas were excised - the spear-shaped
portion of the farm Middelin 202 (490 morgen) and
Diepkloof 91 (1 328 morgen) to the south of the Olifants River.
Also in 1960/61 an area of 1 722 morgen was excised in
the south-western corner of the Park, immediately to the
west of the Nsikazi River in the Sibhamu Block (Kaap Block,
Section E). This was done to facilitate the building of a
new main road through the area by the Transvaal Provincial
Administration (Board: Annual Report 1960/61).
In 1964, an area along the western boundary immediately to
the north of the Olifants River was exchanged with the
Phalaborwa Mining Company for the farm Peru, approximately
4 000 morgen in size. As the farm Peru jutted into the
Kruger Park along the western boundary of the Kingfisherspruit
Section, its incorporation into the Park straightened the
boundary in this area. Fences were erected along the new
boundaries in 1965 to finalise the exchange.
Rerouting Selati line causes boundary changes
Owing to the expansion of mining activities at Phalaborwa
as well as agricultural development, the South African
Railways decided in 1962 to increase the payload on the Selati
line. For this purpose certain portions of the line within the
Park had to be straightened and it was also decided to build a
station at Huhla, the railway siding to the immediate north of
Skukuza. Work on this project commenced in 1963. The situation
was, however, reconsidered and it was decided rather to build a
new line to the west of the Kruger Park. This move necessitated
the deproclamation of a portion of the Park to the west of
the Nsikazi River. Negotiations with the Department of Bantu
Administration and Development resulted in the decision that
portions of the Park to the west of the new railway line would
be deproclaimed and added to the adjoining homelands, while
areas to the east of the line would become part of the Park.
In terms of this agreement, some 880 morgen to the west of the
Nsikazi River in the Sibhamu Block went to the Department of
Bantu Administration and Development, as did an area of 4 189
morgen to the north of Numbi Gate which included Numbi Hill.
The area acquired by the Board from this exchange was 3 160
morgen to the immediate north of Numbi Gate. The net loss to
the Board resulting from these exchanges amounted to 1 909
The exchange of 23 572 morgen of Kruger Park land along the
western boundary of the Shangoni Section for an equal-sized
area between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers, known as Makuleke's
kraal, was officially made in 1968. In 1969 the fence was
erected and the inhabitants of Makuleke's kraal settled on
their new land.
A sisal barrier
In January 1976 the Transvaal Provincial Administration and
the South African Defence Force began planting a sisal
barrier which was to extend from the Crocodile River in the
south, to the northern extreme of the Kruger Park. This
barrier was planted approximately 50 m to 500 m inside the
Park and parallel to the eastern boundary fence. Along the
Limpopo River instead of sisal two Acacia species, A. ataxacantha
(Fever-tree Acacia) and A. schweinfurthii (River Climbing Acacia)
were used. By December 1977 considerable progress had been made
and construction teams of the Board were given the
responsibility of completing the project. However,
by 1978 it was clear that elephant and other animals
were destroying the sisal barrier. Undeterred, the SADF
fenced off an experimental area to the east of Tshokwane
in February 1979 and stationed an officer, Mr J Venter
there to find ways of protecting the sisal against the
onslaughts of animals. After ten months the efforts had
been proved fruitless and the officer was withdrawn in
December 1979. This project was a total failure and must
certainly go on record as one of the most ignominious and
ill-conceived operations ever undertaken in the Kruger Park.
Keeping elephants in ...
In 1977 an elephant-proof fence stretching over 11 km
was erected on the western boundary from the Olifants River
to the Phalaborwa Gate. Not entirely successful, this section
of the fence was electrified in 1984, in a further attempt to
discourage elephants from leaving the Park.
During the summer months of 1981/82, increasing numbers of
elephant bulls were found along the Crocodile River and
incidents of elephants marauding on neighbouring farms
increased. In an effort to curb these excursions without the
elephants being destroyed, an experimental electrified fence
was attached to the Snyman fence on the boundary of one of the
farms belonging to Mr Piet Maritz in the Hectorspruit area.
This fence proved successful in containing the elephants, and
other farmers in the area were encouraged to erect similar
It was found, however, that the electrified fence only operated
efficiently if it was satisfactorily maintained. After
consultation with the Veterinary Department, the Transvaal
Provincial Administration and the local farmers, it was decided
in 1982 that the Snyman fence was not suitable for holding
the electrified attachments and a new electrified fence should
be erected inside the fence line. For this purpose two stretches
were initially decided upon, 12 km in the Hectorspruit area and
20 km eastwards from Crocodile Bridge. By 1985 the first
section was in operation while the section east of Crocodile
Bridge was still under construction. It was envisaged that
the entire southern fence would eventually be electrified.
In assessing the role of the boundary fence, Pienaar (1983c)
stated that "... after 20 years of evaluation of the positive
results of the boundary fence of the KNP and some of our
other national parks, our firm conclusion is that a clearly
demarcated boundary fence holds many more advantages than
disadvantages for the conservation authority in question."
For the Kruger Park there were four benefits that were noted.
- The curtailment of contagious diseases, that were
endemic in wild animal populations, spreading to domestic
- The curtailment of destructive marauding by
elephant, hippo, lion and other species in adjoining
- The prevention of animals being lured to adjoining
areas by the planting of crops, the provision of water or
- The prevention of emigration of animals that could
cause management problems, e.g. elephants.
Although the traditional migratory routes of many animal
species were affected, the confined populations adapted to
the man-made obstacle and established new seasonal migration
patterns within the park.
Pienaar (1983c) conceded, though, that fences had some
negative impact, especially where they did not conform to
natural boundaries. In the Kruger Park, the western boundary
fence caused the demise of the last two herds of roan antelope in the
Central District and also led to the "... progressive loss of thousands
of wildebeest and zebra from the Pretoriuskop area of the Kruger Park
during the 1947 - 1953 era when the Warden, Colonel Sandenbergh, rather
injudiciously abolished the existing veld-burning regime in the Park".
Pienaar concluded that, owing to the boundary fences, "... a
situation exists in the KNP where the KNP authorities have
complete control over the population ceilings of elephant,
buffalo, hippo and, under certain circumstances, also of
impala, wildebeest and zebra" (Pienaar 1983c).
THE ERA 1985 TO 1994
The Hoheisen properties
Mr Hans Hoheisen donated his wildlife estate in the Central
Lowveld, to the South African Nature Foundation, on the
understanding that the property would be managed as an
integral part of the Kruger Park (Board September 1989).
The property consisted of three farms Kempiana, Morgenzon
and Springvalley, totalling about 14 000 ha, adjoining the
land previously donated to the Kruger Park by Mrs Eileen
Orpen in the 1930s.
Pienaar (In litt. 1989.08.30) responded to the donation
by stating that "... we are confident that once the fence
between our respective lands is removed, your block of
farms will not only make a most significant contribution
to our greatest and most prestigious National Park, but
that the additional traditional summer grazing will be of
immense benefit to the animal populations in this area,
and will re-establish age-old migration patterns which
were disrupted by the boundary fence".
In 1990 the Hoheisen property was formally transferred
to the Foundation and, after the conclusion of contractual
and legal formalities, the property was placed under the
custodianship of the Kruger Park (Board March 1990), and
in 1994 Pietersen (1994) tabled a draft management plan
for the area.
In spite of these developments, the fence between the Kruger
Park and the Hoheisen properties remained intact until
March 1993 when the area was integrated with the Park at the
same time as the four major private nature reserves.
The Timbavati, Klaserie, Umbabat and Sabi Sand private
In 1949 the Sabi Sand Private Nature Reserve was formally
constituted, followed in 1954 by the Timbavati Private
Nature Reserve. The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and
the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve were constituted in
1972 and 1991, respectively. By the beginning of the
1980s three of these reserves were well established with
legally binding constitutions and no remaining domestic stock.
At the close of the previous era, Dr Pierre Hugo, Chairman
of the Timbavati, approached the Minister of Environment
Affairs, Mr J Wyllie, regarding the possibility of removing
the fence between the Timbavati and the Kruger Park. A report
was compiled detailing the history of the fence, all the
arguments for and against its original erection, and the
benefits and drawbacks of its possible removal (Joubert 1985c).
Even though the great ecological benefit of removing the
fence was evident to all parties, when the possibility of
removing the fence was first raised, some concerns were
still at issue. The Kruger Park management wanted control
of the conservation management strategies, and the
Veterinary Department wanted to prevent the spread of
Foot-and-mouth disease (Joubert 1985c).
Schedule V (or Contractual) national parks
In an effort to address the issues and establish a protocol
for similar situations, the Board adopted a policy of
Schedule V (or Contractual) national parks whereby private
land could be incorporated into State-owned national parks
by way of contractual agreement. On the basis of the broad
conditions outlined in the report, Dr D Griesel, Chairman
of the Timbavati, formally began negotiations to acquire
contractual national park status for the private nature
reserves. This initiative ultimately also included the
executives of the Klaserie, Umbabat and Sabi Sand reserves.
After a series of meetings, the Board (March 1992) accepted
four guiding principles for the integration of the private
nature reserves into the Kruger Park.
- "The areas are declared to be part of the Kruger
National Park in terms of 2B(1)(b) of the National Parks Act.
- The National Parks Board undertakes the wildlife
management of the areas in accordance with the Master Plan
for the management of the Kruger National Park, while
specific management actions that may be required, or
may become so, are approved by a joint committee.
- The existing commercial and other individual
activities by owners, which may not be incompatible
with management, as in the point above, will continue
without the least interference by the Board, while any
new actions of this kind are subject to the approval of
the parties and the joint committee.
- Financial arrangements provide for the joint
committee to create a special fund which is funded from
normal existing income sources, as well as special joint
income-generating projects as approved by the committee
and from which the Board is remunerated for its management
input as provided for in an annual budget to be submitted
to the joint committee" (Board March 1992).
Although some minor amendments to these principles were
made, they remained essentially the core of the agreement.
Dismantling the fence
In 1993, when the Hoheisen property and the four major
private nature reserves were incorporated into the Kruger
Park, the entire stretch of the western boundary fence
between Orpen Gate and the Olifants River was dismantled.
The redundant fencing material, albeit in poor condition,
was donated to the local communities.
An official ceremony, held at the Hoheisen Research Station
on 7 July 1993, marked the removal of the fence. Addresses
were delivered by Mr D Hough, Administrator of the Transvaal,
Dr GA Robinson, Chief Executive Director of the National Parks
Board, Chief SDW Nxumalo, Chief Minister of Gazankulu, and
Mr MP Rattray, on behalf of the private landowners.
In his address, Mr Hough highlighted the creation of the
partnership between the Province, the Board and the private
sector. This was regarded as a major milestone as "... ecotourism
is without question one of the most important industries of
the future in South Africa, and in my opinion, close
co-operation between public and private sectors is the
only way that this huge potential of our country can be
unlocked." Dr Robinson regarded the integration of the
private nature reserves as the first step towards the
creation of a trans-frontier park. "Should the project
[the trans-frontier park] come to fruition, it could
incorporate different managerial models in one ecological
entity and be a world example of regional co-operation and
environmental rehabilitation, to the benefit of both man
and the natural environment. Ecological processes could be
reinstated on a mammoth scale and the threatened elephant
populations could be afforded a sustainable future,
unhindered by political and artificial national boundaries."
The potential for wealth creation and benefits for the rural
communities were also emphasised (Robinson 1993).
In his address, the Chief Minister of Gazankulu, Chief SDW
Nxumalo, acknowledged the historical role the Kruger Park had
played in providing jobs for his people and lent his full
support to the initiatives that had been taken (Nxumalo 1993).
Mr Rattray made a passionate appeal for the economic value of
privately owned conservation land to be acknowledged as it
outclassed cattle and dry-land farming in the Lowveld.
"Satisfying a nation does not mean destroying the
pristine nature of the various ecosystems, but rather
ensuring that their renewable attributes continue renewing
themselves for the benefit of posterity and of economic
well-being." He urged that "... representatives of all citizens
and environmentalists ... should loudly and publicly spell
out the important economic and environmental factors so
that all South Africans will be very well informed of the
real issues at stake" (Rattray 1993).