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M@X Meerkat

Geocaching not allowed in the Kruger National Park

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Hi Everyone,

 

I was shocked to see the following news article posted on SANParks website. Link. I have tried discussing it in the SANParks forum but the members are very adamant about going on attacking geocaching with an uninformed opinion of what it is.

 

Oh well. Let's see what happens.

 

Cheers

M@X

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It's unfortunate that this is now out in the public domain, because I am trying to reach an agreement with the KNP authorities on a one-on-one basis. I respectfully request that no-one makes contact with the park authorities regarding this. I am doing that, and I will do my best to get past an unfortunate incident which occurred. There are some misunderstandings, because there are no geocaches in the KNP which involve breaking any park rules. There have been attempts at such over the years, but they've been ruthlessly dealt with by the responsible geo-community.

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The thing I find weird... Not to long ago the Wild magazine published an artical on geocaching. Now about face, sorry no more geocaching for you. What? It's alright to geocache, our partners promote it but don't do it in our park.

 

Adding to this confusion is the fact that this came from nowhere. If there was a serious incident of someone getting hurt by wild animals or an animal with a cache box lodged in it's throat I could understand.

 

Oh well, at least it's in the capable hands of Fish Eagle now. Thanks in advance, I can only imagine what it's going to be like trying to sort this out.

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Hey all you geocachers,

 

There's a discussion about the banning of geocaching on SANParks Forum. Here's the link.

 

We need some positive support for geocaching. If you have learnt anything about the environment or the history of the park, been given a greater respect or understanding of nature, or been taken to places in the park you would never have seen as result of geocaching, please post on SANParks Forum.

 

Please do not attack any of the members or get into heated debates about whether the ruling is right or wrong. We need to try and get their members on our side. Some members like Micetta may seem stubborn in their ways, perhaps even blind, but they are entitled to their beliefs and opinions.

 

If we can sway the members to our side or at least being respectful of our sport/hobby then we stand a better chance of getting SANParks to agree wish Fish Eagle and the future of caching in the Kruger will be assured. If not, we stand to loose a lot of really nice caches and future caching opportunities in the park.

 

Cheers

M@X

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It is quite sad - it has happened too many of the "self -regulated" leisure activities/sports I've had the privilege to enjoy. i.e SCUBA diving, 4X4 driving, Shark diving ext.

 

I don't know the details of this incident in KNP , but what normally happens in the end is that the authorities which are normally not qualified in this sport/activity (or has never actively participated in this sport) makes a decision without truly understanding the sport –or based on one (or few) incident(s).

 

Both sides will have valid points, but in the end the authorities must make a decision and guess which way it normally goes….

 

Having said that – I really do hope that Fish-Eagle will bring us good news, regarding being able to cache not just in KNP, but in all SAN Parks in SA !

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It is so sad. I have been taken to so many new places through geocaching and through it been made much more aware of the environment. Such a pity that a bit of spark and harmless fun can be snuffed out by a hard attitude. One will need a pHD in diplomacy to create a positive result. Good luck to the negotiators. We support you. I wish I could help, but don't know what I can do.

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I have read the San Parks thread with interest.

 

I would love to see Fish Eagle take some open minded San Parks people to the existing caches, show them, that they are being removed (so no geolitter left behind) and then come up with some rules (just like Canada did) with caches placed in 'our' park.

 

One concern, which I would have, if I was one of the parks people, it that caches could be placed, and then later declined. This leaves the geolitter behind.

 

I find it also a bit strange that no one (from SAN parks side) has mentioned that there is now geolitter, since the caches have been archived. This also means they don't fully understand it yet.

 

I think they just have their backs up a little to much at the moment. But they are making decisions only on the knowledge they have.

 

I think also we need to convince them a Tupperware container intentionally placed (in a good location) is 1000 better then a tin, or can thrown out of the window.

 

I look forward to the results....

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I have been taken to so many new places through geocaching and through it been made much more aware of the environment.

 

This statement says it all pooks. I suggest posting this statement on the SANParks forum. The more positive, reinforcing statements we can get on their website the more likely that SANParks will listen to reason and be more inclined to discuss caching with Fish Eagle.

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I have been taken to so many new places through geocaching and through it been made much more aware of the environment.

 

This statement says it all pooks. I suggest posting this statement on the SANParks forum. The more positive, reinforcing statements we can get on their website the more likely that SANParks will listen to reason and be more inclined to discuss caching with Fish Eagle.

I'm trying to register, but the webmaster might have gone to sleep!

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I am not surprised by the actions taken by the Park authorities. As a self regulating hobby we need to take responsibility and play by the rules. This does seem to be the case here. Park rules were broken and abuse was hurled at Park staff when confronted that their actions were in contravention of the Park rules. Hence a formal complaint was laid with Park management and thus the response.

 

There are senior Park staff who are sympathetic to our cause and enjoy caching too. We therefore need to work together with them to ensure that we do not cause a disturbance to other guests. They find it difficult to motivate on our behalf when we don't honour our end of the agreement.

 

Another thing to remember about planting a new cache is to research the area. We need to be aware of the eco-sensitivity and cultural sensitivity of the area: ie. make sure we are not disturbing or digging in some ancient ancestral burial ground. This is where close consultation is needed with Park officials as they know the area. I have found them very willing to help and they have even suggested other potential cache sites which I was considering planting. I was informed this evening, however, that this is no longer the case, until further notice no new caches will be entertained.

Edited by BruceTP

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What a shame. But at the same time I can see where the park staff are coming from. Here in America caches are not allowed in the national parks, I understand it is slightly different in Canada. But the fact that it is a self regulating sport lends itself to abuse by some players, and this hurts the community in general.

 

I hope it is confined to only Kruger, as I really enjoyed the thoughtful placements of caches in TMNP and all the local knowledge I gained from them while living in CT.

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Park rules were broken and abuse was hurled at Park staff when confronted that their actions were in contravention of the Park rules. Hence a formal complaint was laid with Park management and thus the response.

 

Hi BruceTP,

 

It seems you have the one up on us concerning the motivation of SANParks to ban geocaching in the KNP. Please could you PM Fish Eagle and let him know of the specifics, so he can investigate the occurence and be prepared for his discussion with KNP Management. It would be a pity to loose this site because of the actions of one individual.

 

Regards

M@X

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Thanks M@X, I have taken it up with Andy and I shall continue to work towards keeping caches going in the KNP.

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Excuse the ignorance, but sitting overseas I have no idea what the cause of this debacle was. Could somebody please enlighten us as to what happened that caused SANParks to take such drastic measures? Does this affect ALL parks or only KNP? I have not seen my caches in Pilanesberg archive - yet! :D Greatly appreciated.

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Excuse the ignorance, but sitting overseas I have no idea what the cause of this debacle was. Could somebody please enlighten us as to what happened that caused SANParks to take such drastic measures? Does this affect ALL parks or only KNP? I have not seen my caches in Pilanesberg archive - yet! :D Greatly appreciated.

 

Hi cincol,

 

We're not quite sure what the incident was that caused the whole debacle. BruceTP seems to know the most of it we're standing back to give Fish Eagle some room to work. Perhaps at the end of this Andy, Fish Eagle, might explain what happened.

 

As for your cache in the Pilansberg, it should be fine, as that reserve does not fall under SANPark's care.

 

Regards

M@X

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Thanks M@X - I am sure that Andy will handle the situation admirably and will feedback to the Forum of his success. Holding thumbs as I will be in the KNP for 10 days in April or May next year and was looking forward to finding a few of the caches whilst enjoying the Park.

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It is now in the capable hands of Andy and I am sure he will be able to pour oil on troubled waters. Let us exercise restraint and circumspection especially when dealing with the unititiated on the SANParks' forum.

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I was thinking of registering on the SANParks board to give my 2 cents, but would never really visit there again, once the issue has been resolved, so decided against it. So I am adding my 2 cents here:

 

From the posts on the forum, it does seem, that the 'they' (used very loosely) are starting to understand geocaching, but don't necessary agree with it, but they are starting to listen. I think Fish Eagle and M@x Meerkat are doing an excellent job there.

 

In the SAN Parks forum, I see there is a 4x4 link on the left. I would think that in the early days, there must have been issues with people wanting to go off-road in KNP. But somehow it must have been resolved, and now there are legal 4x4 trails there. And the Park is benefiting from it.

 

I would agree they would benefit a lot more from 4x4 then Geocaching, but they would benefit never the less.

Edited by DamhuisClan

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M@x, maybe also add (if you agree) to the KNP forum, that Fish Eagle is highly respected in the South African geocaching community, as a reviewer, and as a cacher. And that we as a Geocaching community would accept, and respect the outcome of his negotiations with SAN Parks.

 

If someone disagrees with my statement above I would like to hear your views on this please.

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What was meant, on the SAN Parks forum with:

"(Especially the 'coffer' one :redface: )."

I don't understand that, can someone please explain.

 

I am glad to see the tone changing in the SAN Parks forum. Maybe we have one or two more cachers in our midst soon.

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Good Luck Andy - we are all wishing you well with the negotiations - and trust that you will prevail.

 

There are some excellent caches in the Park - and I'd hate to loose them.

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What was meant, on the SAN Parks forum with:

"(Especially the 'coffer' one :redface: )."

I don't understand that, can someone please explain.

 

I am glad to see the tone changing in the SAN Parks forum. Maybe we have one or two more cachers in our midst soon.

 

Anton - it was used in the context of generation of funds [coffers] in that KNP can/will/does get money from all visitors - cachers included.

 

I agree with you, aprt from one or two hard headed individuals - especially micetta [sp?] - there seems to be a very definate softening in the thread with a lot of support for M@X and Fish Eagle coming our way.

 

Good luck for the negatiations. We are all holding thumbs.

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Thanks for that, I will re-read the post with that understanding.

So in the end it all comes out to money hey...

 

I think I have removed more rubbish by weight, then the combined weight of all the caches I have hidden. That must be good for the environment.

 

Also with the YE braai we had at Gillooly's I think we were the only park users that removed the used coals from the park, and it was the only spot that was left clean (as we found it). Closer to the dam, I was amazed at the amount of bear cans littered all over the place.

 

I wanted to have a CITO event there to help clean up the items in the water, but now am VERY strongly thinking no longer so.

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Anton, this is the time we need to show attitude and character. We can also invite the difficult ones on their forum as well to show them what we do. Maybe if we show responsibility by cleaning the park they will understand that we are not a threat.

 

On the other hand I would love to see if you are going to get the permission for a CITO. You have to get pass FishEagle and the park officials. Maybe you should run this pass FishEagle first before any action – I have no idea of the negotiations between him and KNP. But it could be delicate and any action can tip the scales negative towards FishEagle. On the other hand he could use this as leverage and as an invitation to the officials to see cachers in action to see that we are normal people. Good Luck. gerhard

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Thought we would just share this mail with you. This just goes to show the effect that geocaching has on other peoples lives around the world. If we can just help 9 childrens lives, what hasn't the entire geocaching community achieved throughout the world.

To all geocahers, friends and family, Kruger Park Staff - A blessed Christmas to you all.

 

Hi Andre,

Thank you for your kind reply and willingness to assist me in the release of the TB. I have to admit I'm very excited about it starting off in what from my perspective looks like a land that is so far away on the African continent (I live in the state of Michigan in the USA, if you were looking at a map it's the state up north that looks like a hand). However, I think the neatest part will be when I get to explain to my 5 year old niece that the childrens duck whistle she gave me and said I could send on a journey is so far away already.

 

My sister who is the mother of the niece I mentioned above (along with 9 other of her brothers and sisters) home schools her children and is always looking for new ways to keep the children interested in learning. I'm sure she'll use this TBs journeys as a learning aid to get them interested in African geography and who knows what else. I go out geocaching with 3 of my nephews from the same family (when the weather permits) and she's been thrilled that geocaching is not just a fun sport, but is actually a very educational past time for them.

 

Thanks again and if there's every anything I can do for you don't hesitate to let me know. Have a safe holiday season and happy caching. Oh, by the way I'll be mailing out the TB to you this afternoon. My printer is not working right now and my handwriting is very bad and I don't want to send a note in my poor penmanship so there will not be a note in it, but there are not any special instructions. Basically just release it and we'll see where it goes. Thanks you!!!

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Robert

Edited by cownchicken

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AND ..... wouldn't be wonderful if this TB could visit one of the greatest national parks in Africa? Wouldn't these children learn a whole lot more!

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Once this has all blown over and life returns to normal again, it behooves each one of us to be more vigilant when new caches are published to ensure that they are neither insulting, degrading nor inflammatory towards any individual or organisation. In addition, if such a published listing encourages actions which would result in overt antisocial or illegal behaviour we need to treat it with the censure and contempt which it deserves. Posts of this nature may still slip through without Andy noticing or him taking action but then we all need to take responsibility to alert him to the fact so that he can take action before it reaches the public domain where individuals and organisations take offense and mar the good will and reputation of geocaching.

 

In conclusion:

On behalf of all the geocaching community, I would like to offer an unreserved apology to the game ranger (not a janitor), whose duty it is to ensure the safety of the public whilst they are in the bounds of and enjoying the beauty of the Kruger Park, who was, in the words of the cache listing, told to "bug off", resulting in further verbal abuse from the cacher.

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BruceTP clearly knows more about this incident than the rest of us...

 

It cetainly is most regrettable that an individual seems to have behaved inappropriately but it is even more regrettable that a whole organization gets dragged into the mud for it. It should be seen as an individual and isolated incident - by geocachers, park official and the public at large. From what I read so far (and that is all I have to go on) it seems as if an individual cacher was rude to a park official and in response the park banned geocaching in the KNP - that is quite a reaction.

 

It is also a pity that earthcaches and virtuals have been mentioned as alternatives, because they will be grabbed by the objectors as a useful substitute. Of the reasons virtuals were discontinued on GC were 1) park officials offered it as a substitute and reason to disallow traditionals 2) a virtual is just not a geocache as it does not contain a logbook to sign.

 

GC introduced Waymarking as a substitute to virtuals, but it just not have the same appeal to it. There are continuous discussions in the forums about it. Earthcaches, to my mind, generally have a geological aspect to it, so is not applicable to any sort of place.

 

We need to push the point that traditional caches are the way to go and bring a lot more positive to the table (entertainment for adults, entertainment for kids, educational) than negative (that there is a tiny tupperware container hidden on a property in areas where people are allowed outside their cars that is hidden so that 99% of the time only those looking for it will see it).

 

The positives I mentioned here (and those are just what came to mind - there must be many others) are very much within the objectives of park authorities (with the ultimate objective being sustainable conservation) and that is what all the infrastructure is there for (camps, roads, 4x4 routes, swimming pools). The benefit/space occupied ratio of a geocache must be pretty high compared to the rest.

Edited by the pooks

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I've just made the following post on the SANParks forum, and I'll make another post or two here later today.

Just going to grab a quick breather, and think through what I want to say here first....

OK, I've been in communication with KNP management, and would like to share some feedback.

 

Up front I'd like to say that I have always believed that the KNP management are doing an excellent job, and recent communications have reinforced that belief, and actually increased my respect. Keep up the good work!! :laughing:

 

I don't intend to go into any detail here, but in a nutshell, there's good news and bad news for geocachers.

 

The bad news is that the KNP has decided that geocaching cannot continue in the park in it's present form. After hearing their concerns, some of which are obvious, and others which are not obvious at all and would only be apparent from a park management viewpoint, I must agree. I might be lynched by the geocaching community for saying that, but it comes from my heart.

 

The incident which caused this to flare up was actually only the catalyst which brought the bigger and broader issues to the fore. It is therefore irrelevant to mull over that specific incident, beyond regretting that it happened, and offering the sincere apologies of the geocaching community to the ranger who was treated badly.

 

The current status is that all KNP geocache listings have been archived (deleted). The rangers have removed a few of the geocaches, and I've requested that they leave that up to the geocaching community. It's not necessary to waste the rangers valuable time on that. I'll be communicating shortly with all the KNP cache owners, and arranging for removal asap.

 

The good news is that the KNP management, despite having closed the door to geocaching in it's present form, have left it partially open for further discussions in the new year. Now that I understand more about their concerns, and having intimate knowledge of the rules and many variations of geocaching, I am hopeful that common ground can be found for the future. It's obvious that we have similar goals - conservation, awareness, education, love of nature, etc, and I believe that these common goals and open communication will take us all forward together.

 

In closing, I'd like to re-iterate the geocaching community's apology for having taken liberties with permission, I want to thank the KNP for the professional manner in which they have handled this issue, and for providing the opportunity for further discussion in the new year.

 

Fish Eagle

Geocaching.com Volunteer Reviewer for Africa

 

Malelane Camp : 22-29 Dec 2008 :D

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I'll be making some posts later today about permission issues, etc, and where I think we should be going into the future.

For now, lets confine this thread specifically to the KNP.

 

What can I say?

I think that the KNP has handled their side of this unfortunate debacle very well, and I'm thrilled that I'll have the opportunity for further discussion next year. I've learnt a lot through this process - specifically that we take getting proper permission too lightly, and that we might think that we know all about the potential issues and have them covered, but we actually don't. The landowner can, and does see things differently. My correspondence with the KNP is confidential, so I can't share that here, but I have become aware of considerations that I had never thought about, and I'm sure none of the other KNP cache owners did, or even any geocacher for that matter. There are things that are important to running a big customer-orientated business like the KNP, which have nothing to do with actual placement of caches.

 

Regarding caches themselves, placement of containers by 3rd parties in the KNP is a problem, especially plastic containers as plastic is a very dirty word in their dictionary. We've all seen many man-made structures in the KNP - from windmills, to borehole pumps, roadsigns, etc, etc, but I cannot recall ever having seen anything plastic placed in the field by the KNP....?

 

Anyway, we need to wait and see what the future holds. Geocaching has sufficient permutations that I'm confident that we can have geocaches in the KNP in the future which fit in with both the KNP and geocaching's rulebooks. I do have some ideas, and would welcome discussion about how you think we should proceed..... Then I'll be better armed for the discussions in January.

 

The actual incident which sparked this off was the catalyst for the bigger and broader issues to come under the spotlight, because an official complaint was lodged. The lesson we need to take from this is that we geocache in beautiful spots thanks to the landowners, and that we need to always be grateful and respectful of that privilege.

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Thanks Fish Eagle for all the hard work you have done on this KNP issues. :laughing:

 

Just a idée on the containers:

If all the containers are standard made with stainless steel and covered with camouflage tape, it will last a VERY long time and will be indestructible by any animals or weather. On one side a geocache sticker can be added and for proof of the KNP for placement of the cache a KNP sticker must be added (inside or outside) the container. This KNP sticker can then only be given by the management and thus all parties have a control of the placement of the cache. If any cache is found (by geocachers or KNP personnel) without these stickers it must be removed immediately.

 

Yes I know the containers will cost a lot but this will be our price to pay for placing caches in the KNP and still enjoy caching in the KNP.

 

Practical problems:

I do not have any idée how to make these containers waterproof but it can be investigated.

I do not know if it will be possible to make containers out of stainless steel.

Maybe two sizes of containers can be offered.

What if a cache went missing?

 

Just my 2 cents

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I like that idea RedGlobe. It should not be difficult to have containers made in stainless steel. Circular ones with a screw top lid should be even easier to have made. It all depends what the authourities have in mind of course. In another topic Damhuisclan referred to a multicache in Central Park in which they refer to cooperation with the Park Conservancy. There is also a geocoin that finders get. One should find out what they did to keep the channels open and wide. I'm also thinking of some limited edition KNP coins that are offered in the Park shops, although that is probably commercial.

Edited by the pooks

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In America all the Earth Caches (it’s the only type of cache allowed) in the national parks they get a permit number from the authorities that needs to be added with the listing to the reviewers. If there is no permit number the cache will not be listed on the web.

 

Maybe we can adopt this permit idée for the control of the KNP management and Fish Eagle can only list the cache if he received from the cache owner this permit number.

 

This permit number can replace my idée of a sticker.

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I'm enjoying reading these posts - please keep them coming. :D

 

Metal containers get past the plastic issue, so it's a step in the right direction. However, that doesn't solve the problem totally because agreeing to anyone leaving anything behind in the park could be awkward for them even if the container, location and motives are OK. As an example, it would be very difficult for TPTB to allow geocaches to be left, but have to deny requests to inter a box of a departed loved one's ashes, or deny the making of small memorials, etc. They could easily limit the total number of geocaches in the park, but if they once allow placement of small memorials, then how could they limit that..? That would open the door for potentially thousands and thousands of them....? Or be a major issue if there were "qualifying criteria" - that could be a minefield.

 

However, something that seems to work well overseas where they have similar issues, is that the park authorities actually "own" the geocaches. Obviously, they can do anything they want to on their own property without setting a precedent and exposing themselves to "But you let so-and-so do XYZ, why not me". In some cases, there are park staff who are geocachers and do it, in other cases geocachers approach the authorities with an idea, and if approved, provide everything for the cache. But it's still listed as owned by the park, maybe giving credit to the geocacher who actually provided the cache, etc.

 

Another idea to consider could be themed educational multi-caches. For example, visit all the bird hides in the southern park and collect virtual clues, or trees - find virtual clues at specific specimens of various trees around the park. The clues collected would then take one to the final cache located in a rest camp. This cache might not be "hidden" at all - it could be a steel box with a combination lock bolted to a wall like some TB hotels. As a last resort, a cache like this could have a final hide just outside one of the entrance gates, but all the virtual waypoints are collected inside the park.

 

Another idea - how about a bison tube (metal) micro, hidden (eg) at/inside a bird hide. Attached with cable to (say) a fencepost (so animals can't take off with it), and hidden by dropping it down inside the fence post pipe. That might be acceptable?

 

Food for thought - the more ideas I have by January, the more options I'll be able present to be able to fit in with the park.

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I quite like the idea that the geocaching park rangers own the caches. That way it is completely under their control. But they must please

 

I think a few of the multi themed caches would be interesting, and could enhance our visit to the park as well, but if there are to many of those, or only, multi point caches, people might race from one point to the next to get all the clues, rather then ambling along, enjoying nature, and get the "bonus" (read as cache) at the end, when getting to the next camp.

 

Would the caches need to be only stainless steel? Would aluminium also be acceptable?

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These nano magnetic type cache containers can be used inside the camps or the bird hides, with or without being part of a multi cache. They are VERY small and are not made from plastic. They adhere to the minimal standards of geocaching.

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........ Another idea - how about a bison tube (metal) micro, hidden (eg) at/inside a bird hide. Attached with cable to (say) a fencepost (so animals can't take off with it), and hidden by dropping it down inside the fence post pipe. That might be acceptable?

 

Fish Eagle - you have visted a few too many of my cachers recently!! :D

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Here is another idea: Seeing they allow webcams at water holes (which I find more obtrusive than a hidden cache) why can't we set up some webcam caches. They have already set the precedent. I would presume, rightly or wrongly that it all boils down to who is receiving the kickback for allowing the webcam in the first place. The coffers again!

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Here is another idea: Seeing they allow webcams at water holes (which I find more obtrusive than a hidden cache) why can't we set up some webcam caches. They have already set the precedent. I would presume, rightly or wrongly that it all boils down to who is receiving the kickback for allowing the webcam in the first place. The coffers again!

Sadly, webcam caches were "grandfathered" a few years ago same as virtual caches, and no new ones are permitted visit link.

 

But, your point is very valid. As you say, the webcams are unsightly (which underlines what I said earlier that they can do what they want to almost without question, but won't let 3rd parties do those sort of things). The webcams also illustrate their willingness to embrace technology and their customers' wishes/needs, even if it is at a small cost to the environment.

 

Edit: spelilng

Edited by Fish Eagle

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Here is another idea: Seeing they allow webcams at water holes (which I find more obtrusive than a hidden cache) why can't we set up some webcam caches. They have already set the precedent. I would presume, rightly or wrongly that it all boils down to who is receiving the kickback for allowing the webcam in the first place. The coffers again!

 

Haa haa, no way I am gonna stand at a watering hole in the Kruger to get my pic taken with a webcam.... You are more than welcome... just tell me when so we can take an interesting pic. LOL.

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I do not want to discuss this issue. My line of thinking is different and sometimes very confusing to my fellow cachers. To provide a solution one need to be analytical and you must use approved tools and techniques. If you do not have this in place you can walk into very difficult situations where answers can not be given and they will rip you apart. Many cachers are already thinking about solution but yet the issue must be researched and analysed. You must first discover all the “WHATS” before the “HOW”, WHEN”, WHERE” and “WHO”. Solutions are always easy but to discover the issues is much harder.

 

I am a trained engineer and that is what makes me tick but I am also a qualified environmental auditor. Yes, I am also a bunny and tree hugger. Very few engineers are competent in both fields. I am watching this forum and the one on KNP were closely. I am not concern about 30 caches in a reservation which to my opinion they are trying to commercialize. I am doing this in terms of the approaches and the viewpoints of each person and to learn something. It is so amazing that people can grab one single thing and make a huge thing out of it. There is nothing in this world that is environmentally friendly. Even when you die and they put you 6 ft under you have an impact and aspect. The moment you enter the Kruger Park you have an impact and aspect. Everyone loves tress but they cause an impact and aspect when they die and decompose. The worst of all is that trees rotting away are generating formaldehyde. There is a possibility that this could cause cancer. So what do we do? Should we all give up caching to make sure that you are not subjected to cancer agents? No it is about consequences, probability and exposure. Dying trees generates very small quantities of formaldehyde with other words exposure is low. One must be very careful with environmental issues. Walking pass a decaying tree will cause no harm but if I lock you inside a massive room for the rest of your life with decaying trees you could get cancer.

 

There are extremist among us that will grab one specific point and they will run with it and they will prove to you that the world will come to an end. To be objective there is only one thing that needs to be done to keep you from going insane in terms of environmental. You put the issues on a scale and you weigh them. If the issue is heavy then you better do something to it. You can not try to do everything environmental friendly because there is no such thing. Risk is always present – an aeroplane can fall on your home. Are you going stay under your bed for the rest of your life? My standpoint is clear on this issue. First we need to determine the impacts, aspects and the risk. Put it on the scale and weigh it. If it is an issue then we do something to it. If it is not an issue then you leave it. Ok, this is nice but what does it mean? To resolve this issue I will do two separate studies. Be careful to mix safety issues with environmental issues. Mixing the two will really confuse you and serious issues will be lost.

 

Before I even jump to the study I will form a group of people consisting of all kinds of people. I will include a game warden, visitors, cachers and I will try to get a management representative to join in. The first study I will do will be a safety study. This is the easiest to do and it gets the group to think. Use an excel sheet and you start off with hazards and risk. List them all. We have a special acceptable grading system for these. When all the hazards and risks are identified we then place them on the scale. We use a very simple grading system. For example – how many times did this hazards occur in the past (exposure), how severe was the consequences and what is the probability of it occurring. We multiply these three factors together and we get a number. In our system 100 and above is a major risk and should be addressed. We then apply some management and other control systems to the high risk items and we then weigh it again. This figure will now tell you if the control is sufficient enough. If it is still above 100 then you better get something going and fast and you have to find some controls to get it down. Let us take one safety issue – cacher safety is at risk while attending to the cache. As an auditor I will ask you the following question – how many cachers was eaten in the last 6 years, how many near misses were experienced, how many underpants had to be changed after an encounter with an animal? You will probably tell me none and no underpants were hurt. I will then ask you what will happen if the cacher is attacked – worst case scenario. You will tell me that there will be one dead cacher. Ok, this one is going right off the scale. My next question will be how many times this will occur. You will probably tell me several times a year. That is heavy. If I now plug this into excel I will probably have a major risk. Yes, this is a real issue. I now have to protect cachers from getting attacked and killed. You now start off with mitigating factors – what can we do to reduce the final figure. We can fence off the cache, we can remove the cache, armour plating around the cacher, pull the teeth of the animals, and place it in a safe location inside the camp. The idea is not to stop innovation but to record all possible solutions. Go back and analyse each one. Armour plating around the cacher is not a solution, to fence of the cache is not a solution, people do not like to see animals with no horns and teeth, so leave that alone, Ok, we have now one solution. Remove the cache to a safe location. You now ask the very same questions to weigh your answer. What are the consequences of this control – nothing? What is the severity of anything – none. Yes, you have a solution. So we have to remove the cache to a safe location. You now have a nice little excel sheet with a professional approach which clearly shown that you had a risk and you have done something to that risk and it is no longer a major risk. Case closed and no arguments.

 

I will then do a second audit based on environmental. Here you have impacts and aspects. Let us use one example to highlight the use of the tool - impact will be containers. Aspects will be “animals can chew on plastic and can die”. Once again you can get on the gravy train and prove to everybody that all animals can die in the next two years because of 30 containers. Therefore you must weigh the issue. How many animals died in the last 6 years due to plastic containers being swallowed? (Exposure) How many times can it happen (frequency) and what is the probability of this happening. Ok, it is under rocks. Do animals have any spades and shovels to remove the rocks? Can they remove it without tools? Multiply the three factors and get the final result. The issue is now measured. If above 100 then do something, do it again when you have a solution to prove effectiveness.

 

This is my personal opinion and this is how I would tackle this issue. My mind is analytical and I do not work with feeling. If I should loose 30 caches in a reserve I will not cry but I will act objectively based on scientific research. You present the two audits to the management of KNP – the safety risk assessment and your environmental EIA. Out of the two audits you will then present your final plan based on the findings. It consists of columns, it is professional and objective evidence is presented. You shown all issues on hand, weights before mitigating circumstances were done and the weight after control measures are in place. These two audits are the baseline and it removes commercial issues away from the table. You force them to think about hazards and risk in terms of safety and on the other hand you talk about impacts and aspects in terms of environmental. It stops the arguments in their tracks. They have no chance to side step the real issues – they can not force you into commercial issues because we are focussed on the relevant issues. Ok, they are the guardians of the land and they can use their legal rights and they can say “No caches”. End of the line. If you want to run with the big dogs one should not whine like a puppy. Do it right the first time and you will win. Use the right tool and get control of the situation. If they take control you lost it.

 

Maybe I managed to confuse some cachers. But this is my way. Ok, let us see the comment on this one. Gerhard

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Some good points, Gerhard.

 

I'm not competent to comment on all your issues, but regarding the one on safety, and the risk of death or injury, I must say that I felt much safer in Kruger than in public parks in Johannesburg. I think there is more risk in those parks of being mugged and possibly killed than at the spots I found caches in KNP. Most in Kruger were in protected areas open to all pedestrians. The few exceptions were also in relatively safe places well out in the open. There was nothing there to protect me from an airplane falling from the sky though. :)

 

In my country the parks, and other government agencies, do go through exhaustive studies of environmental impact before placing even a park bench. Sometimes public comment is solicited, and can sway decisions. A park in my area recently wanted to revert more to nature by not allowing anything that would result in an experience different from that of 100 years ago. For instance they wanted to ban outboard motors from the river so people would not be subjected to the noise. There was so much negative comment from the local fishing clubs that the plan was scrubbed. Not sure if there is anything to be gained from that tale in dealing with the situation at Kruger, but hopefully their final decisions will be based on studying all the facts as you suggest, not just a knee-jerk reaction to maintain the status quo.

 

~eriK~

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Very well said Gerhard. It all boils down to safety risk and environmental impact. If a cache is planted in the safety of the camp, what are the chances of you being eaten by an animal in the camp while you retrieve it and what is the chance of an animal eating the cache and choking on it? It will mean than Andy will have to make sure that where the caches are planted in a rest camp they would then pose no risk to the cacher or environment. ie. If you have to climb a snake infested tree, albeit in the confines of a rest camp, or walk along a narrow ledge to retrieve the cache then it would be irresponsible of the cache planter no matter how the cache was defined in terms of difficulty and terrain.

A level headed approach is now needed when negotiating with SANParks, sticking to the facts and a tactfully analytical presentation which removes emotion and vested interests. It sound like you could be the man for the job! Seriously though, maybe you and Andy should work on a joint presentation to SANParks management.

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Erik

 

Thanks for the feedback. I was trying to get a concept across. I was not trying to explain in real time with real facts. I myself can not comment directly on any caches in the KNP. I tried to stay clear of this. If one analyse my caches then I have found none up to date in this area. To do a proper assessment one will have to look at each cache as well. This is one of the reasons why a group must be formed. You get cachers together that have done the caches, you get an environmental guy, you get a game warden, and you get a management representative to show openness and even a person that have never found a cache. Each one of these role players holds a part of the jig saw puzzle. Only when they are together you get the desired results and sometimes a person with no knowledge whatsoever is the one that notice something that was missed. Experts think in the sky and the man in the street thinks lower and more practical.

 

The problem is that when you go to Russia and they do not speak English you must speak their language. If you go to Germany you need to speak their language. If you communicate with an environmentalist they speak a language. Everything they do is how much risk, what is the risk, what is the consequences, what is the frequency, what is the probability, how did you get to your conclusion, what is the basis of your findings, what is the mitigating circumstances, is the risk acceptable with mitigating factors, is legalisation breached? If you speak their language your ideas is more acceptable and you appear more professional. They can see that your homework is done and you have the answer.

 

With this model it is easy to state the problem, the magnitude of the problem and what we are doing to it. If they start with “But what if…”. Your model can explain the outcome.

 

Just to highlight this scenario with a different scenario. We are busy with a major hazardous factory and we had to get the community involved. Our expert told them about the risk and that an explosion could kill people around the factory and could release potential lethal gasses. About 120 people went white in the face. He then showed them a dispersion model (a study to show the effect on the surroundings and magnitude) without controls. About 120 people went whiter and very quiet. We then told them our control methods. We then showed the model again with controls and the impact. There are so many control systems in place to prevent an explosion that it is not funny. With the controls the risk is minimal. About 120 people started to breathe again. Then the questions started. What if that and this is not working? With the model we could show that the risk is still acceptable. At the end of the day the community accepted the project. The model was correct.

 

Unfortunately we live in a changing environment. If I change a software program or I modify any machine it is expected from me and enforced by South African legislation to do a risk assessment. If person is hurt due to a modification the machine inspectors will request to see the risk assessment before and after the change took place. If none is in place I will then need to explain myself in a court of law. Maybe I am a bunny hugger but if anything is changed that could impact on the environment then you must do a study. Sometimes the little thing you chance can have a disastrous effect.

 

One very lonely man took a cat with him to an island. Nothing wrong and an innocent action. Today there are thousands of cats all over the island killing the bird life. They have search and destroy teams killing cats on a regular basis. Same applies to geocaching. Something was introduced in the environment – something that is not natural and which was never there inside a conservation area. They want to talk and we need to show them what they want to know. If I was in control of KNP my reaction would be easy “Stop geocaching immediately and remove the caches until someone shows me the effect it can have on the environment and on conservation, show me the controls, show me if the risk is acceptable”. They have reacted correctly. We now have to counteract this with the correct tool. We need to do the talk which they understand.

 

Eish, my fingers is aching – wonder why? :)

 

Gerhard

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