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Paul Kruger and the Kruger National Park in South Africa

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Paul Kruger, The Boers and The Kruger National Park

Paul Kruger (1825-1904) was a great leader of the Boers, who were the descendants of the Dutch settlers in South Africa. As a boy of ten he went with his parents on the Great Trek from Cape Colony and the family was among the first to settle in the Transvaal. Kruger had little schooling. Even as a boy of 13 he took part in fighting against the Zulus and as a young man he was often engaged in wars against other African tribes and in distant hunting expeditions. He won the trust of his fellow-countrymen and when in 1877 Great Britain took possession of the Transvaal, Kruger twice went to England to protest. In 1880 the Boers rebelled and won their independence. Kruger became President of the Transvaal Republic in I883 and was three times re-elected. When in 1886 gold was found in the Transvaal at Johannesburg, thousands of British and other Uitlanders (foreigners) flocked there. The Uitlanders wished to have rights as citizens of the Transvaal but Kruger would not allow them to vote as he feared that they and their foreign ways would spoil the character of the republic. This refusal led to the Jameson Raid and later to the Boer War. During the Boer War, Kruger visited Europe seeking the help of other nations, but he failed and died in Switzerland in 1904. He is buried at Pretoria in the Transvaal.

Kruger belonged to a very strict religious sect and believed himself to be specially guided by God. He had some strange ideas, thinking that the Earth was flat, but this rough, simple and pious man with his strong will and common sense was greatly loved by the Boers, who called him affectionately 'Oom Paul' (Uncle Paul). His full name was Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger.

The Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is a huge area of natural country in South Africa which is kept as a sanctuary for wildlife. In the old days, the Africans hunted wild animals to obtain food, hides or tusks, but that kind of hunting did not usually threaten to make the animals scarce. When Europeans arrived with rifles and shot the rarer beasts in order to show the heads or skins as trophies, it became clear that some animals might be wiped out. The quagga, a kind of zebra that lived in vast herds on the plains of South Africa, did actually become extinct.

Game reserves, where hunting was forbidden, were therefore set up. The first and most famous of these, the Kruger National Park, is about the size of Wales and lies near the eastern boundary of the Transvaal province. Here can be seen under natural conditions nearly every kind of South African animal. They are so used to being unharmed by man that they no longer fear him. Buck, zebra, elephants, giraffes and lions can be watched leading their everyday lives.

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