Cape Town - SANParks' decision to curtail the use of apps in the Kruger National Park has sparked controversy among park enthusiasts. Some say the apps contribute to animals being killed through speeding, and a more congested and rushed game viewing experience.
Others say the ban is futile and impossible to police. They also say the apps do more good than bad in terms of overall conservation.
Last week, Nadav Ossendryver, founder of Latest Sightings, one of the largest and most successful apps used in the park, issued a formal response to the situation saying, "Attempting to ban Wildlife Apps and social media is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater."
Now, another co-owner of a wildlife sightings app called Tracking the Wild has come forward saying SANParks should have consulted with app stakeholders first.
MyNews24 community member John White says, "As co-owner of Tracking the Wild, a wildlife sightings app, I am disheartened to see that SANParks have resorted to legal threats without first contacting us to express their concerns.
"After all, our platform was specifically designed to address SANParks’ concerns about sharing the location of wildlife sightings.
The Tracking the Wild has the option to switch off location sharing for any species within Kruger or any other park listed on their platform.
"That way people can still enjoy posting their sightings and contribute to conservation research without the sighting location being made publicly available," White says.
Ossendryver told Traveller24 that he has approached SANParks for a meeting to discuss the issue, "but have not heard back just as yet".
SANParks' Reynold Thakhuli confirmed this and said they are still "looking at diaries of various internal role players to meet up with him".
Thakhuli says the "reality is we are concerned with the growing lawlessness resulting in the unnecessary killing of wildlife. We believe that the park is about exploration and the unexpected. The element of surprise is the ultimate, and most guests are in agreement."
On the official SANPark - Kruger National Park Facebook page where the announcement was posted, the majority of Kruger enthusiasts have welcomed the curtailing of apps.
But White says it's not fair to scapegoat the dedicated wildlife sightings apps.
"I think it is important to point out that dedicated wildlife sighting apps such as Tracking the Wild and Latest Sightings are only responsible for a portion of wildlife sightings shared in places like Kruger.
"A large proportion of sightings are actually shared via standard social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp etc.
"In addition to sharing sightings via apps, a significant number of sightings are shared via word of mouth, two-way radio, cellphone, SMS and SANParks sighting boards. If all of these other methods of sharing wildlife sightings are being used, then can poor visitor behaviour really be solely down to the introduction of wildlife sightings apps?" he writes.
White also says "technology is an unavoidable part of the world we live in today and I don’t believe that banning wildlife sightings apps is the solution."
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Don't throw 'the baby out with the bathwater' - Latest Sightings on app dispute
- Wildlife sightings app restrictions to rely on 'sensible consideration' from visitors - SANParks
- SANParks to 'curtail use of wildlife apps' such as Latest Sightings