Pretoria - As the August dry season slowly approaches, Kruger National Park scientists increasingly search for ways to contain wildfires that could destroy most of the park that is home to a range of wild animals.
The world renowned park is arguably South Africa’s biggest tourist attraction and boasts the big five, namely lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo.
According to Abiotic scientist, Tercia Strydom, satellite technology has played a huge role in containing fires that could have been started by lightning, visitors or poachers who would want to keep themselves warm during cold nights.
She said another way to control fires was to use it as a management tool at a chosen landscape because fires have been part of this landscape for millions of years and were part of the natural ecosystem.
“We need to keep fires to allow it to fulfil its ecological role by burning regularly and when we do start deliberate fires we always check the weather with the technology we have.
“If we plan to have a fire and we want it controlled we check on technology to predict which direction it would be going while we map fires using satellite imagery every month.
“We monitor fires throughout the year. Every month we use satellite imagery.
We have one satellite called Modus which has two satellites that go around the world twice a day that passes over us and give us imagery of the park so they can show exactly where the fire is burning
Another satellite, Santinel can pick up a fire 10 by 10 metres when Modus can pick up a fire if it was bigger than a soccer field.”
Strydom said with the technology they were able to ascertain that the park had 18% burning.
She added: “When we have situations where there are uncontrollable fires that might have been started by lighting or it has come in from the borders of the park that was not started by park management we do have trained and equipped personnel or staff members to deal with these fires.
“We have a number of trained personnel that are scattered across the park and if needed we can even call in resources neighbouring the park or call in organisations that work fire.
Last year, a filling station at the Lower Sabie camp in the park burnt down after it was struck by lightning.
The national park’s firefighting team was able to extinguish the blaze but not before the raging inferno burnt the building to the ground.