The Kruger Park was first proclaimed in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve by the then-President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. As early as 1884, he believed there was a need to protect the animals of the Lowveld but it took 12 years before the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting and his revolutionary vision for a wildlife sanctuary was realised.
James Stevenson-Hamilton (b. 1867) was appointed the Park’s first warded on 1 July 1902 and many accounts of the Park’s early days can be found in the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library in Skukuza. Stevenson-Hamilton – a short, quick-tempered Scotsman – was named Skukuza (a Shangaan word meaning ‘he who sweeps clean’ or ‘he who turns everything upside down’), hardly surprising considering his constant war against poachers! He was responsible for expanding the Park, incurring the wrath of local farmers who had experienced lion attacks on domestic stock and people who felt the reserve and wildlife sanctuary was a breeding ground for these predators.
Stevenson-Hamilton won the fight however, and in 1926 the Bill on National Parks was passed and the area was renamed Kruger National Park. A year later, three cars entered the park. Two years later, the number had risen to 850. The next 50 years would see 150, 000 visiting the Kruger National Park each year. Today, the annual number of visitors to this wildlife sanctuary is 700,000 people in search of Big 5 sightings. Guest numbers are carefully controlled however, and given the vastness of the area, the Kruger National Park is never overcrowded and the kings of the area remain its permanent inhabitants – the animals.
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