GAME RESERVE ETIQUETTE – PART THREE

Littering is a problem that has been with us for decades. Please don’t! Keep your litter in your car (it helps to carry a couple of empty packets to act as litter bins, and dump it in a bin back at the resort. Apart from it being unsightly, litter poses several threats to wildlife. Our old friends the monkeys and baboons are past masters of spreading litter further than any visitor could ever dream of doing.

Sadly, antelope have choked on plastic litter, and birds have become enmeshed on old discarded fishing line tossed out onto the river bank or beach by an unthinking angler. Much has been written in previous editions of this newsletter about the very real threat to marine life caused by plastic litter in our oceans. It’s been amusing to to see some of the posts on Facebook showing images of anti-littering signage in other African countries.

To a creature like a great big leatherback turtle a clear plastic bag looks just like its favourite food – jellyfish. Unfortunately for the leatherbacks, their throats work on a system of inward facing spikes to enable it to swallow a slippery jellyfish. This means that once it begins to bite on something and swallow, it is irrevocably committed. We have found dead leatherbacks with their intestines jammed by a rock-hard collection of plastic that has blocked the digestive tract.

etiquette-a-nesting-leatherback-sea-turtle

Feeding wildlife is a big no-no too. Animals very rapidly become habituated to being fed, with the result that they become aggressive in their demands for food. Baboons and monkeys are a real menace in this regard. We once encountered a warthog in iMfolosi that banged on the door our unit demanding food, and had a hyena lurking just beyond the light over our braai, waiting for scraps. There are tales of hyenas loping in and stealing the entire braai frame off the fire, or monkeys raiding chalets in our coastal parks. All this begins with a bit of thoughtless feeding. The end result is inevitably tragic because should an animal become a problem and pose a threat to visitor safety we are obliged to destroy it. Moving it to another area doesn’t help either – it has learnt the tricks and this cannot be unlearned.

The speed limit in all Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife protected areas is 40 km/hour. This too is not an arbitrarily determined limit. Travel any faster and you will not see anything interesting, you inevitably create a massive dust cloud and the chances of having a collision with an animal or another car coming from the opposite direction on the typically twisty roads are pretty good. Travelling slower is the way to go as it gives your eyes more chance of spotting that beautiful kudu standing motionless in a thicket – or seeing that flicker of ear that reveals the pride of lions resting in the shade…

The bottom line with regard to the way you behave as a visitor to any protected area is simple. Maintain a thorough-going regard for other people no matter what you might be doing. If everyone paid attention to this simple maxim, all our visitors would all have a wonderful experience. Now go out there and enjoy yourselves!

etiquette-a-nile-crocodile

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