This article first appeared in the Sanparks Times Spring Edition (September 2013) and was written by René de Klerk.
Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) is the only national park in South Africa
where owners are allowed to walk their dogs. This however comes at a price as
irresponsible owners do not always clean up after their dogs. It is estimated that
around100 000 dogs set foot in the park annually. The park is ideal for walkers as sections include forest areas such as Newlands and Cecilia Forest.
With such big numbers of dogs passing through the park it is inevitable that nature will call, but owners should learn to be more courteous to others.TMNP addressed the problem by placing clearly marked bags and bins specifically for dog faeces,but this has not eliminated the problem. It is also not a case of signage not being clear enough. “Signs are as visible as possible to the point of actually being ugly.
People that are aware of the conditions of their permits should already be carrying
their own bags,” explains Wanika Rusthoi, SANParks public relations officer for the
Cape region.Silvermine used to be known as a bin-free environment, but now you will see bags and bins especially for dogs.
This poses another problem as people discard food and other waste in the same bins. This in turn attracts baboons and can have other health risks.
Dog faeces contain diseases such as E.coli and tapeworm that can be contracted by
humans.Bacteria seep into mountain water systems and because it thrives in water, it
can affect fish and other water species.
But who cleans up after inconsiderate owners?
In the end rangers and even maintenance teams will assist with keeping the tracks clean.
The problem also causes a lot of complaints from the public.
Although dogs are to be kept on a leash at all times, some do not adhere to these rules.“Dogs that run free are likely to follow animal tracks. Other dogs will then follow the same path, eventually resulting in new paths,” said Rusthoi. The park then needs to rehabilitate these paths.
Most dogs will follow their instinct and attack moving objects. The park has
received reports of tortoises,oystercatchers, otters, moles and porcupine that have
been attacked. In extremeb cases dogs attack rangers and visitors. “One person had
suffered severe injuries and had to put her horse down after being chased and attacked by a dog.”
Dog owners are currently getting away with the act as rangers first have to give a
written warning. Only if the person is caught a second time, a fine will be issued
and the permit cancelled.
“The park has completed an Enviromental Management Plan, but at this stage
regulations and fines still need to be gazetted,” says Rusthoi.
There are many responsible dog walkers using the park that leave only their footprints
behind and the park is grateful for their support and cooperation, but more will
have to be done to rid TMNP of unsightly surprises along the pathways.