Want to have the best chance to spot elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and African buffalo in South Africa? There’s an app for that. And it may be causing trouble.
National Parks in South Africa (SANParks), especially Kruger National Park, are reporting an increase of traffic, congestion, and reckless driving as a result of mobile phone apps that allow tourists to report sightings of animals. The increase in speed and eagerness in tourists run counter to the philosophy of the parks, which is to encourage leisurely driving and fortuitous animal sightings. In a statement from South Africa Parks’ tourism department, managing executive Hapiloe Sello says the parks appreciate that tourists are excited to use technology to enhance their trip, but as a whole, SANParks must “discourage the use of these mobile applications as they tend to induce an unhealthy sense of eagerness for visitors to break the rules and, we are exploring legal mechanisms to curtail the use of sightings apps.”
Apps, such as Latest Sightings, are used to give tourists real time sightings of big game mammals within the parks. The use of such apps turns a leisurely drive through the park into a rush to catch a glimpse of a rare animal. Proponents of such apps note the benefits of real time updates: an increase in interest in wildlife, the ability to alert park rangers to injured animals, and the opportunity to inform rangers of poaching snares.
Currently, sightings of rhinos cannot even be legally reported via social media and social apps, because of the number of poachers seeking the endangered animal. However, there is no legal prohibition against reporting other animal sightings.
SANParks is currently looking for a legal way to decrease the usage of such mobile apps, and for now, encourages tourists to look for animals the traditional way: calmly, leisurely, and without endangering anyone.