Paramount donates aircraft to combat rhino poaching


The Paramount Group today donated a Seabird Aviation Seeker light observation aircraft to South African National Parks (Sanparks) to help it fight rhino poaching.

The aircraft was unveiled at Skukuza airport in the Kruger National Park as part of a cooperation between the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and Sanparks, which will see the Paramount Group supply a number of anti-poaching solutions.

Ivor Ichikowitz, chairperson of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and executive chairperson of the Paramount Group, said that, “Advanced visual reconnaissance and surveillance will provide game reserve rangers with robust intelligence in their tireless mission to confront poachers.
“We will equip the Seeker Seabird with a FLIR [forward-looking infrared] Ball infrared detector. This thermal imaging technology will deliver more enhanced and powerful observation capability to the Kruger National Park’s rangers, making it very difficult for poachers to hide. The plane demonstrates a high degree of flexibility in terms of utilisation, use of operation and reliability. It is capable of flying at high altitude and at slow speeds with 270 degrees visibility. It can be forward positioned on short dirt strips and requires very limited logistical support,” added Ichikowitz.

Kruger National Park (KNP) managing executive Abe Sibiya said the Seeker was only a part of the fight against rhino poaching. “It’s important that we view today’s initiative as one option available to us in this war,” said Sibiya. “This is not a war that’s going to end today or tomorrow, we are in this for the long haul.”

Speaking at the aircraft’s unveiling, David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, said that, “We anticipate that by the end of this calendar year we will have lost about 650 rhinos throughout South Africa, 400 in the Kruger National Park. To date 598 rhinos have been lost to poaching, 364 in the KNP alone. South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhinos, while the KNP is home to about 60% of South Africa’s rhinos it accounts for 40% of the world’s rhino population.”
“Enough is enough; the mindless slaughter of rhinos in the wild has called for a multi-pronged strategy. We are actively enlisting and broadening our engagement with the private sector to protect and conserve wildlife. We will find the right solutions and fight this war.”
“Attitudes about the importance of wildlife in South Africa are changing. The grim realities of environmental crimes committed against wildlife and rhinos in particular are being recognised with calls for tougher law enforcement and penalties. Initiatives like these are critical to motivate potential consumers to quell demand for wildlife-based products by appealing to their pro-environment instincts,” said Ichikowitz.
“The days of talking about this problem are over – practical solutions such as this aircraft and its surveillance capabilities is the only way to make a real difference,” Ichikowitz added. “It’s time to take dramatic steps to rid this country of poachers and to save our rhinos.”
“Not only is the Kruger National Park home to the largest population of rhinos in the world, this National Park also remains the hardest hit by poaching with the park having lost 760 rhinos out of the 1369 grand total that have been killed in South Africa since January 2010,” said Mabunda.
“We’re honoured to join forces with the Ichikowitz Family Foundation because this surveillance solution gives our rangers just the right kind of support they need to win the war and it brings us one step closer to ending the devastation of our rhinos.”

Mabunda added that while arrests of poachers were certainly on the increase, the country still had a long way to go before rhino poachers would be eradicated entirely. By 27 November 2012, a total of 246 arrests had been made during 2012 with more than 640 arrests made since January 2010.

In September 2004 the Paramount Group ordered five Seeker SB7L-360 surveillance aircraft from Seabird Aviation Jordan, with options for a further five units. Four were subsequently supplied to the Ghana Police Service. The fifth aircraft was set to remain with the Paramount Group in South Africa as a demonstrator aircraft representing Seabird Aviation Jordan in the central and southern African region. Presumably it is this aircraft that was donated to Sanparks.

In September 2006 Jane’s information group reported that Seabird Aviation Jordan had appointed Paramount as the exclusive distributor of the Seeker SB7 observation aircraft in western, central, southern and east Africa and central Asia.

The Seeker has a cruising speed of between 65 and 112 knots, and can stay airborne for over five hours and loiter over its target, which is key to patrolling pipelines, monitoring power lines and performing border patrol work. The Seeker is powered by a Lycoming O-360-B2C engine, which produces 168 horsepower, driving a Hoffmann fixed-pitch pusher propeller.

The Seeker is operated by the Iraqi and Jordanian Air Forces.