Anti-poaching operations in South Africa’s premier game reserve have been boosted with the addition of 10 quad vehicles making the ranger corps even more mobile in their ongoing quest to stay a step ahead of particularly rhino poachers.
The latest additions to the fleet of anti-poaching vehicles tracking down poachers were unveiled in the Kruger National Park this week.
“We continue to be invaded by well-equipped poachers who aim to illegally capitalise on our rhino on daily basis. For as long as this scourge continues at the rate it is on at the moment, we need to continuously equip our rangers with the latest field equipment available; including all-terrain vehicles such as these to enhance their effectiveness,” William Mabasa, General Manager: Communications And Marketing for Kruger, said.
Last month Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa indicated there were at least 12 groups of poachers active at any one time in the two million hectares that is Kruger. Statistics show that by the end of August more than 1 500 incidents positively involved with poaching had happened in the park resulting in contact between rangers and suspected poachers “close to three times a week” she said.
Molewa told a briefing where Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and State Security Minister David Mahlobo were present that there had been a 27% increase in the number of suspected poachers entering Kruger in the first eight months of this year.
Rhino kills nationally totalled 749 by the end of August with Kruger still the preferred hunting ground for poachers losing 544 of these Big Five animals.
Six of the quad vehicles were bought with funding from the Howard Buffet Foundation which has made more than R250 million available to SANParks for anti-poaching operations. Two Airbus AS350B3e helicopters were bought to improve Kruger’s air mobility capacity which will now be backed by improved ground mobility thanks to the quad vehicles. Funding for the other four quads came from other sources, including the Honorary Rangers.
Soldiers deployed in Kruger as part of the national border protection effort, Operation Corona, assist Kruger personnel wherever possible with anti-poaching operations. The primary transport used by soldiers is a strengthened one ton 4×4 bakkie which carries a stick of six soldiers.