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National Parks in South Africa May Ban Wildlife Apps

Sometimes disruptive technology is, well, disruptive.

A giraffe surprises some tourists at South Africa's Kruger National Park.

A giraffe surprises some tourists at South Africa’s Kruger National Park. (Photo: Nithin bolar k/CC BY-SA 3.0)

These days, some national park visitors spot more wildlife with their phones than with their binoculars. Thanks to a new breed of animal-spotting app, tourists who come across a lion or a leopard can crowdsource their sightings, sharing their locations with fellow parkgoers and drawing huge crowds to particular spots.

But according to South African National Parks, or SANParks, visitors might have to sharpen their other senses once again. Following an increase in road rage, speeding, and animal deaths, SANParks is considering a ban on these wildlife apps, the organization said in a statement.

Apps like “Latest Sightings,” which allows users to “ting,” or map, spots of interest, have become “a major cause for concern” for SANParks, the organization said in a statement last week. Though these apps may lead to more comprehensive trips, they also “tend to induce an unhealthy sense of eagerness for visitors to break the rules,” says Hapiloe Sello, executive marketing manager for SANParks.

Those guests committed to more traditional viewing modes are also feeling, well, cheetahed. “Most guests appreciate the leisurely drive through the parks and the potential reward of a good sighting as a key element of the visitor experience,” says Sello. “The usage of these mobile applications is in direct contradiction to the ethos of responsible tourism espoused by SANParks.”

Nadav Ossendryver, the creator of Latest Sightings, told the BBC he’d be happy to work with SANParks to make his app safer. For now, though, humans headed to Kruger might want to charge up their eyes instead of their phones.

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