LOOK: Wildlife at Garden Route National Park thriving during lockdown
Dassies basking in the sun, leopards crossing hiking and cycling trails and water birds enjoying the estuary are some of the ways the animals are enjoying lockdown at the Garden Route National Park.
While it is too early to tell the impact of lockdown is to the animal, photographic evidence show that animals are enjoying some quiet time. SANParks rangers patrol the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) forests and waters from Tsitsikamma to Knysna to the Garden Route National Park daily, to monitor the behaviour patterns of animal and birdlife in the park.
Andre Riley, Acting General Manager for the Garden Route National Park, said the park has a zonation map including wildlife mapping as well as activity hubs for tourism.
He said SANParks played a significant role in the tourism and socio-economic development Victor Mokoena, Park Manager for Tsitsikamma, talks about the animals’ behaviour during the lockdown: “Bushpigs were snapped in Bloukrans, part of the Tsitsikamma section of the GRNP during the lockdown. Hundreds of dolphins were seen playing close to the shore daily and there have been frequent reports of whale observations.
“The Cape hyrax or 'dassies' were also observed. As I was driving through an area, the dassies were seen basking in the sun. They eventually ran off in different directions, which is unusual. It seems they're now used to less traffic.”
Elsewhere in the Knysna section of the Park, water birds were spotted in large numbers at bait reserves in the Knysna estuary while rangers were on the lookout for any changes in the waterbody.
Megan Taplin, Park Manager for Knysna, said the lockdown period allowed animals to expand their range and use all the habitat available to them.
Taplin said: “In Harkerville, animal tracks on access roads are still visible. Rangers have seen animals crossing hiking and cycling trails including bush pigs, leopards, boomslang and others.”
SANParks scientist in the GRNP Lizette Moolman, who set up trap cameras in the forest as part of a mammal study, said the project targeted the forest's busy hubs to examine how wildlife responds to busy and also less busy roads.
She cautioned against drawing to conclusions too quickly about the resurgence of animals as a result of lockdown.
“Animals know their own paths and habitat better and will stick to quieter routes. Scientists will release their findings on the real impact of lockdown on wildlife later this year. We will analyse busy stations against the less busy ones. Marine scientists will analyse fish movements from underwater cameras after lockdown,” said Moolman.