Milkor today handed over 40 mm underbarrel grenade launchers to South African National Parks (SANParks) in Pretoria to assist it in the fight against poaching in the Kruger National Park.
The grenade launchers will be fitted to the R1 rifles used by SANParks rangers and will only be used to fire less lethal ammunition, including tear gas, flares, flash bangs, rubber rounds and smoke. The latter will be useful for marking targets for aerial support. The underbarrel grenade launcher (UBGL) gives the user an added advantage over the traditional type launcher as it forms part and parcel of the main weapon.
Marius Roos, CEO of Milkor, told the media at the handover that Milkor approached SANParks to help it with its anti-poaching efforts and offered its 40 mm grenade launcher. “SANParks will be able to deploy these weapon systems as part of their arsenal of weapons to combat poaching activities nationally. Milkor is committed to the fight and we continually improve our weapons to adapt to these unique requirements.”
William Mabasa: Acting Head of Communications, SANParks, said that each year rhino poaching statistics have grown, except for last year when they stabilised somewhat. Nevertheless, he said South Africa continues to have a lot of poachers coming into its parks. “We cannot allow criminals to win this war. Our national heritage belongs to all of us.”
He said SANParks appreciates the donation of the grenade launchers and will make good use of them. He added that he looks forward to the day when every ranger has a grenade launcher, not just in Kruger. For obvious security reasons, SANParks and Milkor could not disclose how many grenade launchers are being delivered.
Retired Major General Johan Jooste, Commanding Officer Special Projects, South Africa National Parks, said the number of poaching incursions has increased this year and that poachers routinely resist detention and fire at park rangers. He said the acceptance of the grenade launchers will make rangers more effective and stop them from having to go into thick bush when chasing poachers as they can use tear gas to flush them out. Jooste said the launchers would send a strong signal to poachers, that if they come into the Kruger National Park they will “have a hard time”.
Jooste and his team have evaluated a wide array of technology to assist in the prevention of rhino poaching, and recently concluded a one year unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) trial. A report on their effectiveness is due out in August and SANParks will thereafter decide whether to regularly deploy UAVs in the fight against poaching.
Jooste told defenceWeb that the technology used in the Kruger National Park is used mainly for situational awareness and the park is commissioning a number of mobile and static systems. Surveillance, early warning, detection and tracking are vital in the vast park as intelligence is essential to finding and engaging poachers.
Jooste cautioned that no single piece of technology will be a game changer, but that every item of equipment is part of a solution. At the moment SANParks is using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to carry out daily patrols in the Kruger. New equipment has been acquired through R255 million in funding from the Howard Buffet Foundation, such as canine solutions, communications equipment, two helicopters, perimeter detection solutions, mobile observation systems etc.
The retired general cautioned that combating poaching in places like the Kruger National Park is part of the overall anti-rhino poaching strategy and that part of this is reducing demand, managing the rhino population, intervening in local communities and combating crime networks.
SANParks is home to the largest population of rhino in the world and the majority of these rhino reside in the iconic Kruger National Park. SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said that with the increased incursions in the Kruger, SANParks will continue to look at new and innovative ways in fighting the relentless incursions that we are dealing with in order to protect the rhino.
“The South African rhino population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world which makes it extremely vulnerable. South Africa is therefore the remaining hope for the world in terms of rhino conservation and as such, we have no choice but to conquer this war,” he said.
The last official rhino kill figures released by the Department of Environmental Affairs was early in May and showed a national loss of 363 rhinos, compared to 404 for the same period last year.
Milkor’s 40 mm UBGL has been on the market for several years now and has been evaluated by the South African National Defence Force. It can also be fired by itself when a butt stock is added. The launcher features a patented trigger system that uses a button, rather than a trigger, to fire the grenade. This is so that a soldier does not get confused between his rifle trigger and the grenade launcher trigger – something which could have fatal results.
For more than 30 years Milkor has specialised in manufacturing grenade launchers, and has sold more than 60 000 to 50 different countries.
Pic: From left to right, Andre da Silva, Johan Jooste and Marius Roos at the handover of the 40 mm UBGLs to SANParks.