Kruger rangers receive specialised grenade launcher to fight poachers

2016-07-22 18:23
Oupa Manzini, a member of the ranger core and Nonhlanhla Mbatha examine the weapon system. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Oupa Manzini, a member of the ranger core and Nonhlanhla Mbatha examine the weapon system. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Pretoria - The fight against rhino poachers at the Kruger National Park has received a boost with the gift of a 40mm Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL) from a private company to South African National Parks (SANParks).

Head of special projects at SANParks Johan Jooste said adding the UBGL to the capacity of the anti-poaching unit at the national park would make the rangers more effective and help avert shooting incidents. He said while the 40mm grenade launcher might look aggressive, it came armed with non-lethal ammunition.

"We don't have any lethal ammunition that you will shoot and a grenade will explode. It comes with teargas, comes as a stun grenade launcher that shoots pieces of rubber that will hurt you. That will [stop] poachers hiding in the bush and will prevent the necessity of rangers exposing themselves and going into thick bushes after poachers," said Jooste.

Jooste said much was being said these days about the militarisation of rangers but few solutions were being offered to tackle the problem of poaching.

"What should we do about the escalations of poachers in the park coming into the park illegally from South Africa and neighbouring countries, plundering our resources repeatedly? We are not saying as SANParks that this should be force on force, that anti-poaching units will solve the problem," he said.

"While this is happening and the incursions continue, there is a 30% increase this year, we have to have rangers that protect our resources."

'Rules of engagement'

Jooste said they were not oblivious to the rules that rangers have to adhere to while combating the scourge of rhino poaching.

"We have rules of engagement; we go according to rules of engagement. We are not ignorant at all about the law. We are not ignoring any legislation or regulation that guides our mandate in the park. We must arrest poachers. In the process you have armed incursions. When the arrests need to be effected, poachers resist and not only physically but try and shoot rangers," he said.

The UBGL also has a smoke grenade that they believe will be helpful in target indication for the unit’s helicopter and reinforcements. He said that was another reason they had to deploy the system in the park.

"As we go ahead with this, we are mindful of the other facets of the rhino campaign. How do you manage, breeding, relocate, how do you collapse the crime network? Ultimately the park will be cleared from the outside but in the meantime we will have an effective well-trained, well-equipped and motivated anti-poaching unit consisting of rangers, air wing, protection service, crime unit and K9 unit," he said.

SANParks acting head of communication William Mabasa welcomed the handover and said the organisation would continue to do whatever it takes to bring an end to rhino poaching.

"We continue to have a lot of poachers coming into our parks every day. We can't stop bringing in whatever we can to help to deal with the problems because at the end of the day this is a [fight] we must win. We can’t allow criminals to win this war and wipe out our rhinos," he said.

Addition to main weapon

Marius Roos, chief executive officer of Milkor, the company donating the artillery, said they had identified the plight of rhinoceros and felt they had to do something to help.

"We know of the problem for the past few years and we approached SANParks and said we can help in terms of a solution," he said.

Roos explained that the grenade launcher was a complimentary addition to the main weapon system used by rangers from SANParks as assault rifles. The UBGL attaches to the weapon.

Roos said the less lethal approach of the system makes it possible for rangers to shoot different types of ammunition that can help in specific operations.

"In the trained hands of the rangers, this is very helpful in the sense that a lot of different situations can be handled with the different types of ammunition. If you want to get someone out of the bush, you can use a certain type of ammunition, if you want to indicate a target or if you want to call someone in with a helicopter - that can be done with this. Because it attaches to the main weapon, it means you don't lose your main capability. You will still have your live ammunition as well as non-lethal part next to it," he said.

Media specialist at SANParks Ike Phaahla said it was important to warn the poachers of the sophisticated weapons rangers used to deter them from coming into the Kruger National Park.

"One of two things will happen - you are going to get arrested and spend the rest of your life in jail through some of the weapons we have, and the other thing is that we have tightened our security from within. Once you get in it becomes very difficult for you to leave. That is why we have to let them know. Those being recruited are just level ones and if they see the weapons we have they wouldn't want to risk their limbs or lives," he said.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  animals  |  rhino poaching

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