Southern Africa is facing the worst drought in decades. With almost no rain to speak of, there are far reaching effects on the people and the land, from food and water shortages to economic catastrophes. The drought is severely impacting over 49 million people and leaving 14 million on the edge of starvation.
But it’s not just the people that are effected. When you drive through the iconic Kruger National Park, the haunting evidence of the drought surrounds you. Where there was lush bush and green grass aplenty a year ago, you now see nothing but dried out grass and the bare arms of once thriving trees, reaching to the skies begging for rain.
The animals currently suffering the most are hippos and buffalo, their carcasses strewn sporadically on dry riverbanks throughout the worst hit areas.
But there is a silver lining to this morbid situation. Just like the Fynbos regions of South Africa depend on the destructive force of wild fires to thrive, so will the wildlife population survive this drought with the best and the strongest still standing. It is simple genetic selection that has ebbed and flowed since time immemorial.
SANParks has certain measures in place to help in the direst of circumstances, such as using boreholes that were made in the 1960s during another severe drought, which are usually left dormant to decrease the human impact on natural patterns. A close eye is kept on vulnerable and endangered species and as for the rest, the dictum of conservation is about creating an environment where nature can do what nature does best. And what nature needs to do right now, is a bit of housekeeping. Testing all, and sparing only those animals with the best genetics and overall chance of survival.
Looking at this from a tourism perspective forces you to see Kruger National Park through different eyes than two or three years ago. The harshness of the park at the moment might be unappealing to some, but to the eyes of the open-minded, it is just a different kind of spectacular. It reminds you that you are in the African wild where no quarter is given and none asked. It reminds us of just how precious life is, and what a gift it is to share in the lives of the animals that call the Kruger National Park home.
For one, the number of big cat sightings has grown rapidly and guests are rarely spending a day without seeing at least a few, with one day delivering four different leopards on a single game drive for our guests.
Sightings of predators taking down big game is usually quite rare, but in recent months it has been happening more frequently as prey weaken and become easier targets for predators. As carcasses of victims of the drought litter the bush, scavengers such as vultures also now have more access to food, allowing them to thrive.
Larger and larger herds of animals are now congregating at the rivers, making for spectacular scenes. The elusive black rhino is also easier to spot as its green hiding places are becoming less and less lush.
This is not the first drought to hit Southern Africa and will not be the last. It is very severe due to the fact that El Nino now has a friend called Global Warming. But nature and its living things have an uncanny way to adapt – and the rains will come again.
Experience these incredible animals and book a safari in the Kruger National Park with Outlook Safaris.