Rhino watch: R4?mln to fund ’copters

2013-05-10 00:00

EAST Coast Radio’s KZN Rhino watch has received massive support.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has approved a R4 million sponsorship for two anti-rhino poaching helicopters with two full-time pilots to continue aerial patrols for one year.

The sponsorship is crucial because, despite all the efforts to stop rhino poaching, they are still in danger. The Department of Environmental Affairs reports that 18 rhinos have been poached in KZN, and 249 countrywide, so far this year.

ECR’s KZN Rhino Watch co-coordinator, Diane Macpherson, said: “This is superb! Ezemvelo has really come to the party …”

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa ­Mntambo said the sponsorship was its statement of real intent.

“We have long since motivated for additional funds to fight this war and great thanks must go to our provincial government that came up with a total of some R48 million earlier this year.

“We have earmarked R4 million towards these helicopters and even though we can’t state it for certain yet, there is every chance that this will be extended for two years.”

One of the helicopters, which is bigger and faster, was sourced from King Shaka Aviation. It will cover an expanded area around the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park. In its surveillance operation the helicopter will also cover the Amakhosini-Opathe reserves outside Ulundi.

King Shaka’s operations manager, Justin Louw, said the helicopter can carry three anti-poaching field rangers.

The second helicopter was secured from BAC Aviation. It will operate in the north-east of the province, covering the iSimangaliso World Heritage Park, Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park and servicing private game farms.

• annzra.naidoo@witness.co.za

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