'Stop feeding wild animals,' SANParks urges responsible behaviour after hyena attack

2016-06-27 12:36 - Louzel Lombard
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Hyena. (iStock)

Cape Town - William Mabasa, head of communications for SANParks, has urged holidaymakers to stop feeding animals from the campsites, as this encourages them to come closer to humans, and become aggressive towards guests in the Park. 

Mabasa emphasised the devastating consequences of feeding wild animals. "The animals become more aggressive towards visitors," he says, because they regard visitors as a source of food. He says feeding creates an expectation with the animals, which might place future visitors in danger. 

The warning from Mabasa came after one family's bush holiday was turned into a nightmare when their 15-year-old boy was attacked by a hyena at 04:30 on Saturday morning, 25 June, in his tent at the Crocodile Bridge Camp in the park. 

Erco “Boela” Janse van Rensburg was camping with his parents when the incident occurred. According to News24, Janse van Rensburg's face was crushed before he was dragged by his pajama shirt by the animal. 

The boy was attended to by a nurse at the camp, before his parents rushed him to a hospital in Nelspruit. He was then transported by helicopter to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg where he underwent plastic and reconstructive surgery to his mouth and jaw.

The Rangers came to the camp to look for the hyena but could not find the animal. They did, however, find a hole under the parameter fence where the animal could have came in. 

The hole is believed to made by a warthog, one Kruger visitor suggests. 

Janey Coetzee writes on the official SANParks - Kruger National Park Facebook page, "I sat and watched a Warthog make a hole under the fence at Crocodile Bridge last month... The hole that the groundsman had fixed that morning. The scenario was played out every day. Fix and dig a new one. SANParks cannot be blamed in this instance. Animals are tenacious if they want to get in."

Mabasa said that although the incident was an unfortunate occurrence, park visitors should always be conscious of the fact that they are in wild territory. He compared the attack on the boy to a road accident when speaking to Traveller24. "You can be as cautious as you like, but there is always a chance of danger and injury," he says. 

Kruger National Park visitor George Wendelstadt agrees. "It is very unfortunate, but it is still a wild animal game park and nobody, but nobody, can give any guarantees that this can't happen. It is the risk each one of us take when entering the park..." he writes. 

Alexa Bisschops, another member of the Kruger group also says she has often seen people feeding the hyenas through the fence of Kruger camps.  

Hyenas are of the boldest scavengers, and have been reported to scavenge in many SANParks camps, especially at night. Deborah Gage writes on the Kruger Facebook group that they were camping at Letaba in April when they had an encounter with a hyena. "The Ranger told us that hyenas enter the camp nightly. Sure enough we heard a noise outside our tent at 03:00, and saw a hyena taking an empty cereal box off of our table."

Jan Fokkens suggested on the group that electrified cattle grids, like the one at the Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp entrance, should be implemented at all camps in the Park. "Nobody can walk over it, one can only drive in and out of the camp," he says. 

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