The rhino slaughter in the Kruger National Park shows no signs of abating even though park management is cautiously optimistic that its new “militaristic” approach will, in time, bear fruit.
With 42 of rhinos killed in the world famous park in January alone, a further security measure has been introduced. As from today guests, visitors and contractors entering Kruger through any of its nine gates will be met by new, trained, additions to the park’s ranger corps in a further effort to beef up security and prevent criminals accessing what has become fertile poaching territory.
“The new rangers will help with search and seizure and where necessary, arrest offenders,” SANParks communications head Wanda Mkutshulwa said.
SANParks chief executive, Dr David Mabunda, said despite increased incursions from Mozambique, in particularly the Limpopo Transfrontier Park region in the north of the Kruger National Park, anti-poaching operations were starting to yield results.
“We bled in December, but as of January 1 there has been a change in strategy from conservation management to greater law enforcement, and this is working. Our operations are more militaristic. The number of poachers arrested has increased inside and outside the park. Three suspected poachers were killed in contacts and a further eight arrested.
“Despite the flooding that has left large parts of Kruger inaccessible to vehicles and rangers on foot and totally destroyed the camp at Shingwedzi, patrols never stopped and helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft meant surveillance remained fully operational,” he said.
Aerial surveillance to provide real-time intelligence to ground-based patrols in Kruger has been further boosted by the presence of a Denel Seeker II unmanned aerial vehicle system.
The first deployment was executed in collaboration with SANParks wildlife anti-crime unit, under the leadership of new head of operations, retired SA Army major general Johan Jooste.
“That operation saw vital information obtained to assist Kruger management in its overall anti-poaching efforts,” Denel’s Group Communications Manager Sinah Phochana said.
The UAV is being utilised as a force multiplier and together with other aerial elements will provide fuller surveillance of the close to two million hectare park. “This will greatly assist in defining future deployment doctrine to combat poaching,” she said.
There is an SA Army deployment in the park. Working from the Sand River base its major task is border protection with the secondary task of assisting rangers in their 24/7 anti-poaching operations.