The effectiveness of horses in anti-poaching operations is being tested by way of a pilot project in the northern part of the Kruger National Park.
2016 marks the return of horses to “active duty” in Kruger said Chris van Gass of SANParks Honorary Rangers, who have facilitated the pilot and have high hopes for its expansion.
Phalaborwa section ranger, Karien Keet, is in charge of the pilot. An experienced rider, she sees horses as a practical addition to the arsenal of tools and equipment deployed in the ongoing fight against poaching of rhino and other species in the world famous game reserve.
The Phalaborwa section of Kruger needs to be patrolled daily. Horses, far quieter than vehicles and able to negotiate rough terrain with ease, are well-suited for anti-poaching work. Keet sees the use of horses as being beneficial to the park’s overall conservation management plan as a bonus.
Funding for the pilot project has come from the Bushveld and Highveld regions of SANParks Honorary Rangers with the section ranger’s husband, veterinary surgeon Dr Dewald Keet, ensuring compulsory inoculations and regular check-ups are done on the pair of endurance horses selected for the pilot. They come from stud breeders, Gerhard, Lizet and GD Kotze, also honorary rangers.
The horses were selected for temperament and spent time as trails horses on a 4 000ha game farm ahead of being taken to stables at Phalaborwa, outside Kruger, in mid-November. The game farm time was to introduce and familiarise the horses to wildlife.
Since arriving in Limpopo, the section ranger has been introducing field rangers to the concept of mounted bush patrols.
Van Gass reports a high level of interest from younger rangers who have been given basic riding tuition and “cannot wait to go on patrol”.
If the equine patrols deliver, the honorary ranger corps will look to expand their support in the hope that “horses could well be a new best friend for both ranger and rhino”.