Fury over dead Kruger cheetah

A hit-and-run driver killed this cheetah at the Jock of the Bushveld turn-off. Photo: Ralph Kalwa Facebook

PRETORIUSKOP – Kruger National Park-related groups on Facebook are abuzz with comments by park lovers who are infuriated over the incident in which a cheetah was hit by a vehicle and killed this week. Cheetahs are an endangered species and listed on appendix 1 of the CITES Treaty.

The majority of Facebook groups’ members feel that the accident was probably the result of not adhering to the Kruger National Park (KNP) speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour on tarred roads.

When ecologist Mr Ralf Kalwa came across the carcass in the road near the Jock of the Bushveld turn-off north of Afsaal on the way to Skukuza on Tuesday afternoon, he immediately reported the incident to the local section ranger, Mr Rob Thompson.

Kalwa took a photograph and posted it on the Road Ecology Facebook group.

Mr William Mabasa, SANParks head of communications, confirmed on Wednesday that Thompson removed the carcass from the road and ordered that rangers at all gates be on the alert for any vehicle that displayed evidence of a possible collision with an animal. Allegations that it even may have been a ministerial vehicle that had hit the cheetah were also later aired on social media.

Mabasa denied this and said, “There was no minister in Skukuza this week.”

However, he did tell Lowvelder that on Tuesday there was a meeting involving officials from the Department of Land Reform, in connection with a function to be held on May 21, for repatriation of people who made claims to land in the KNP.

Mabasa later said in a statement on Facebook that it pained staff of the park when people came to the KNP but did not want to behave responsibly by following the rules.

“Our law-enforcement officers can only do so much, because they cannot be everywhere to police every vehicle that is in the park from the time they come in until they go out,” he said.

He requested that anyone who has information on the incident or who knows who the culprit is, to contact him.

Spokesman for the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Ms Zithini Dlamini, confirmed that officials attended a meeting on the day.

“None of the officials were involved in an accident,” said Dlamini.

She explained that the minister and the deputy ministers were attending a budget vote speech at the National Assembly in Cape Town at the time.

Mabasa considered this a very serious matter. “We request anyone with information to come forward. We are conducting our own investigation by having interviews with all concerned.”

He confirmed that there were no CCTV cameras at the gate.

The majority of social-media commentators felt that the culprits should be brought to justice. Others made suggestions that perhaps more speed bumps might be the answer.

One claimed that disregard of the laws is not only a phenomenon in the park, but that it is part of a bigger South African problem.

Three day visitors to the KNP were recently killed on Sunday when the taxi they were travelling in overturned between Shingwedzi and Mopani.According to eyewitnesses, the car veered off the road and overturned.Two people were certified dead on the scene and another died on the way to hospital.Several others who suffered minor injuries were treated on the scene while the more seriously injured were transported by ambulances to hospitals in the area.

Photo: Ralf Kalwa, Facebook

Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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