Tech makes small gains in rhino poaching fight


Technology is making some small gains in the fight against rhino poaching in SA.

This emerged from environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa’s speech on the progress of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros this week.

The Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros is the government’s multi-sectoral, interdisciplinary approach involving the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service, South African State Security Agency, Justice and Correctional Services Department, South African National Parks (SANParks), and the provincial conservation agencies.

Molewa this week presented the first comprehensive report-back for 2017 on the state of rhino poaching in SA, as well as on the progress of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach.

On the technology interventions against rhino poaching, the minister said: “Although the campaign is far from won in the KNP [Kruger National Park] and elsewhere, we are reaping the benefits of our anti-poaching endeavours supported by so many state and private parties.
“We continue to look into the employment of new technological interventions, with the latest breakthrough being our home-grown mobile radar system which has the ability to cover hundreds of square kilometres to ensure early warning and assist with the night engagement of poacher groups.”

The Postcode Meerkat radar system was launched during an introductory function in the Kruger National Park on 7 December 2016. The system comprises radar, cameras and information analysis software able to detect, track and classify people entering protected areas within a game park in support of rhino anti-poaching operations in the park.

SANParks and the South African government are facing increasing pressure from the public and other stakeholders to stop poaching. Compounding the problem is the fact that the criminals are highly organised and have vast resources, including sophisticated technology, at their disposal.

According to Molewa, there has been a slight decrease in the number of rhino poached nationally. A total of 529 rhino have been poached since January 2017, compared to 542 in the same period for 2016, representing a decrease of 13 rhino, she noted.
“With regards to the Kruger National Park which as you know has traditionally borne the brunt of poaching, a total of 243 rhino carcasses were found between January and the end of June 2017. This is compared to 354 in the same period in 2016. This represents a decrease of 34%.
“As we have always stated, these declining numbers do not mean we can proclaim victory. Nevertheless, the downward trend is being established, which is cause for cautious optimism. While there has been a decrease in the number of rhino killed for their horns in the Kruger National Park and Mpumalanga, the number of rhino poached, unfortunately, increased in some other provinces.”

She pointed out it is with concern that in 2017, 30 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park. The interventions being implemented to counter rhino poaching are also used to respond to this emerging threat, Molewa said.
“It is clear that more resources are required to address this challenge that we are experiencing, in terms of both rhino and elephant poaching. Because we are battling a threat on so many fronts and spread across the expanses of the country, this has necessitated that almost the entire ranger corps have been converted to anti-poaching units. They are well trained and supported by canine units, small air wings, and relevant technology.”

In the reporting period, a total of 359 alleged poachers and traffickers have been arrested nationally. The number of arrests inside the Kruger National Park totalled 90 alleged poachers with 112 arrested adjacent to the KNP.