You’re standing at the perimeter of one of the rest camps in our game reserves and you see someone throw his chop bone over the fence to lure a hyena or other animal. Do you join in and do the same, despite clear signs telling you not to? Or do you politely engage him to explain why feeding wild animals is a bad idea?
But did you know that if you’re caught you can be fined up to R400? And if you’re caught a second time you can be banned from any national park for six months?
Even though we know it’s against the rules to feed animals in a national park, some of us still do it in the hope of a private sighting along the fence or at a picnic site. This is despite warnings that feeding animals is like signing their death warrant because they start to see humans as a source of food. As a result, they might become dangerous and have to be put down.
‘Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons are very easy to habituate by feeding, so they lose their natural fear of humans and become a real pest,’ says Joep Stevens of South African National Parks (SANParks). They can become so brazen at picnic sites that they’ll snatch food right out of your hand and go and eat it in a tree just a few metres away.
‘We’ve had cases of them threatening or even attacking guests at picnic spots, sometimes injuring the guests,’ he says. ‘They become problem animals and in most instances have to be destroyed.’
Baboons are clever enough to open your car doors too, so keep windows closed and doors locked if you have food in the car when you stop to watch them on your game drive.
This is the price we have to pay to invade their wild environment, so we shouldn’t add to the problem by deliberately feeding animals. That’s why the rules are there. That’s why SANParks can fine you up to R400 if you’re caught.
What if you don’t learn your lesson and repeat the offence?
‘If a person persists then we bar them from entering our parks for six months,’ says Mbongeni Tukela, Area Integrity Manager at Kruger. ‘We communicate this information to reservations so they can block them from any of our parks during that period.’
Think about that next time you ask yourself what harm you’re doing by throwing your chop bone over the fence.
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