Boost for poaching fight

The US Consul General Shelly Sykes with Peace Parks Foundation CEO Werner Myburgh inspecting White Rhinos in a boma PHOTO: Larry Bentley

ONE of the biggest challenges facing anti-rhino poaching efforts has been the delay in reacting to information around incursions into particular conservation areas.

This, however, has changed in KZN with the launch of a ‘nerve centre’ which offers a 24-hour surveillance facility through the use of camera traps, observations being logged by field rangers and the tracking of suspect vehicles.

At any given moment staff manning the centre can see and follow an operation with icons on the screen showing the movements of all parties, including the poachers, ground staff and aerial support.

All information gathered will also be accepted as evidence in a court of law and this will hopefully increase the numbers of convictions.

ALSO READ: Kruger rhino deaths down, but KZN up

Wildlife crime data monitor Carmen van Tichelen said everything happens in real time.

‘We can see the patrollers, where the camera traps are and where the helicopter is flying.’

The system allows the monitor to see where and when a rhino had been shot, where the patrollers and rangers were at the time of the shooting and how they reacted to the poaching incident.


Funding was received from the South African Peace Parks Foundation.

At the official launch of the centre last Wednesday, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Acting CEO Bheki Khoza said reports are received almost daily about poachers being spotted or incidents of poaching in KZN.

‘The centre represented a ‘new era’ in anti-poaching operations. A partnership with the police is also vital to the success of the system.’

The system now in operation at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is the same model used in parks in America.

Werner Myburgh of the Peace Parks Foundation said 13 rhino were poached in a year in South Africa in 2007, and from then on the number escalated.

He said rhino poaching was increasing by almost 25% annually and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is feeling the pressure.

The Kruger National Park has adopted a similar system and this is bearing fruit, with poachers now finding it tough and moving into other provinces.

Myburgh said it has now become important to focus on the consumers and educating those who purchase rhino horn about the effects.

KZN key to survival

US Consul General KZN Sherry Sykes said KZN is key in the effort to preserve the world’s biodiversity and that wildlife must always be protected.

Poaching has a human cost, for the poachers and law enforcement officers.

She said she was proud of the work being done at the centre and that she was able to work with Ezemvelo and the Peace Parks Foundation.

Last year 222 rhinos were killed by poachers in KZN (an increase of 60 from 2016) and a further 12 have already been slaughtered this year.

Other parks

The system will be going live at all Evemvelo parks and reserves across the country.

All information is recorded and co-ordinated.

It is now possible to track vehicles en-route from Kruger to KZN and many successful interecptions have already been made.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park Manager, Jabulani Ngubane, said the nerve centre is a heartbeat of the operation and will coordinate everything around a poaching incident.

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Larry Bentley
Journalist / Editor: Agri Eco

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