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The lingua franca of the present day Central Lowveld is generally Sotho and to a lesser extent Tsonga (Shangaan) in its easterly and southerly regions. This is a generalized description of two languages whose proto-origins date back some 5,000 years to the cradle-lands of the Benue Valley and the grasslands of western Cameroon.


Numerous traders and explorers were attracted by the purported riches to be found in the interior of what was know as Monomotapa following the seventeenth century discoveries of gold and iron by the Portuguese. However the Central Lowveld remained difficult to penetrate and, until 1725, largely unknown by any colonial power.



Miners and prospectors were attracted to the area from all around the world, hoping to strike lucky. A high fatality rate (principally due to malaria) did not prevent people flocking to the Klein Letaba, Selati, Haenertsburg, Thabina, Leydsdorp, Freestate Camp, Klein-Spelonken and Birthday.


European colonists tended to avoid the Lowveld; the sleeping sickness laden tsetse fly and the near certainty that they would contract malaria gave the region an evil reputation.  The whole area was populated by indigenous tribes, most of whom had never seen white men before and were far from welcoming.



Disease was the single largest obstacle to the emergence of substantial agglomerations of people in the Lowveld, irrespective of their origins. Human concentrations, with the necessary attendant cattle and crops, were together an ideal reservoir for the storage and transmission of disease.


The Lowveld was a landscape rich in human and natural resources sufficient to sustain permanent stratified agricultural, pastoral and mining based societies for over two millennia prior to the arrival of Dutch and British settlers.  Prior to Portuguese control, Tsonga people traded goods with the Arab and Indian dhows that landed at the coast with people living inland.



In the last two generations, substantial efforts have been made to restore the ecosystem to something resembling its former extent. Some of the land excised in 1923 proved unsuitable for cattle ranching or agriculture.  By the 1970s some very large properties, notably Londolozi in what is now the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, had been turned back to nature with the establishment of a new breed of luxury game reserve.


The first proposal to establish a Transfrontier Park linking Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe was in 1938, when the ecologist Gomes de Sousa proposed that the Mozambique colonial administration negotiate with the neighbouring states to establish Transfrontier Parks.  In 1986 the Rupert Foundation initiated a Transfrontier Peace Park proposal with the Mozambique government



The hidden foundation of the Boer Republics' economy, and the imperialist objectives of the exploitation of Africa's resources, saw the extermination of an estimated twenty million head of game between 1780 and 1880 on Southern Africa's once densely populated vast interior basin plains.


The last Bloubok was shot around 1779 in the Swellendam district. This antelope was the first historically recorded African mammal to become extinct. Seventy-three years later, the Quaggawas last seen in the Orange Free State, the second mammal to become extinct at the hands of mankind in Africa's documented history



In 1884, Transvaal President Paul Kruger's government declared Africa's first nature reserve, Pongola, close to the border of Swaziland in what is now northern KwaZulu-Natal. As the land had already been hunted to extinction, this "gameless" game reserve was a curious project, bravely supported by a handful of courageous politicians and conservationists for fourteen years.


In 1923, a large portion of the new Sabie Game Reserve was expropriated and returned to the use of mankind. This included the preferred habitat of a number of endemic antelope - roan, sable and tssessebe. This land was simply fenced out of the Park and turned over into public hands.


History in the Kruger to Canyons Region is diverse and very colourful from early evidence of Stone Age people from around 1.5 million to 9 000 years ago, through to more modern historical sequences such as the political development of South Africa.

Records indicate that the San were the first inhabitants of this area, however, they seemed to have been killed off by the early Black immigrants that moved down here from the North.   This seems to line up with the early Iron Age People (AD 200 - AD 1400).   Populations of these early immigrants were very small and were mainly metal workers, farmers, potters and herders.    Large portions of the lower lying regions in the K2C region were uninhabitable on a permanent basis due to the presence of both Malaria and more so, the dreaded disease known as “sleeping sickness” transferred by the tsetse fly and affected both man and his cattle.

The first Europeans arrived into the area around 1838, with a second group arriving in 1844.  Neither was able to settle permanently as a result of the losses sustained from sleeping sickness and the tstetse fly.    Many of the initial European settlers, as with their native counterparts, settled in the higher lying regions and moved down into the lowveld to hunt game for trade and for the pot.

As more and more settlers moved to the region, there were greater pressures inflicted on the wildlife population.   It was only in 1891 that any kind of hunting legislation was introduced and finally in 1898, the Sabie Game Reserve - the precursor to the world renowned Kruger National Park, was established. (Carruthers 1995).   The Anglo Boer war broke out in 1899 during which time there was little control or protection offered in the original reserve and it was only in 1902, once the victorious British “proclaimed” the reserve once again, that conservation of our wilderness started in earnest.

Policy, focus and strategy of conservation has changed greatly over the years, yet Kruger National Park still remains one of the leaders in the industry and has been able to establish a great deal of data and historical records on conservation attempts implemented that are able to guide and assist more advanced and informed decisions made today.

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