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Kian Barker
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Kian Barker

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Sticks of Dynamite

Greetings and Salutations,

ISimangaliso is a spectacular park, filled with the most amazing scenery and wildlife. The Zulu name implies this, as translated it means a "Place of Wonder" and that, it is! The Indian ocean forms our eastern boundary, the coast is lined with spectacular natural sand dunes, some of the highest vegetated dunes in Africa. Adjacent to the dunes is the Coastal plains, a woody grassland that stretches all the way to Ethiopia. In the southern area of this wonder wilderness there is the Great lake of St. Lucia and on the western shores a summer rainfall area. Absolutely stunning. And eastern shores is the cinderella of this world heritage site.

It is on the eastern shores that we conduct our day and night tours. Part of our tour commentary relates to grassland management. Only in the last 30 years have Park staff begun to understand the intricacies of managing grasslands. As a result it has become a whole science in itself. There is a lot to learn and understand. A key factor in understanding grasslands is the correct use of fire and people have a deeply entrenched respect and fear of fire. In the early creation of our reserves and conservation areas, fire were quickly put out and this had a negative effect on the health of our grasslands. Later when the negative effects were observed we started burning grasslands.

Well, it took many years to recreate lost grasslands and the lost biodiversity. Animals species disappeared and new species increased in numbers. Once fires were introduced we found that original populations of animals returned. It took a while and in certain areas grassland degradation was so severe trees and dense bush needed to be removed to rehabilitate grasslands. This said, fires became a critical management tool to maintain these fire-maintained Eco-systems. Seems crazy but true. And this is part of our tour commentary to discuss the use of fire as a very effect tool to create good grasslands.

So while out in our ever improving grasslands, I was chatting to a group of Norwegian tourists and I have always found them very amenable people. Especially considering their environmental conditions. Months of being stuck indoors, cabin fever is just not an option. You have to be able to amuse yourself and be very social in order to get along and not be kicked out into the snow for the night. Added to this some of the early explorers that went in search of the North pole spent months on end trapped in snow fields in winter waiting for the weather to improve. So visiting Africa is a massive attraction and contrast between snow and fire.

Recently after discussing this whole fire regime ecosystem I received an question that I never expected. A Norwegian asked me "why not use dynamite to clear the old grass?" I had no answer! There seemed no logic in his question and I spent the next three hours shaking my head in the darkness wondering "where did that come from?" later when I dined out on this question, one of my guests pointed out that the Norwegians did in fact invent dynamite! Alfred Nobel was his name! I say no more!

Hasta la vista

the Knait Whrydah

Posted by Kian Barker

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