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How the Kruger spent R250m on anti-poaching

09 September, 10:21 AM

“Technology makes things possible, only people can make things happen.”

This is how anti-poaching operations head, Major General Johan Jooste, opened his presentation on how SANParks spend the R250 million American businessman and philanthropist Howard G Buffett donated.

The park – which is home to about 8000 rhinos and 17 000 elephants – has been struck by poaching in the past few years.

Great efforts have been put in place to fight the scourge and it has proven to be quite costly.

Some of the money donated has gone into equipping the park with helicopters and communication tools.

“It’s a lot of money, but this park has been geared for the next decade – with infrastructure, technology and methods we are still developing,” General Jooste said.

Jooste said they would have liked to spend the money on conservation efforts but have to react to poaching with more equipment and mobility.

The park also invested in tools to help them work through the night, as this is when most poachers operate.

Rangers are constantly tracking and trailing poachers and the introduction of the software program Cmore has aided rangers in this task.

Cmore – a product of CSIR – maps out where poachers have treaded and where carcasses are according to what the rangers report.

“This definitely paints a picture of poacher tendencies. It enables us to follow what’s happening in the park,” Operational analyst of the Control Centre, Charmaine Swart, said.

Speaking on concerns raised on militarizing rangers, General Jooste said: “We’re in the business of saving rhinos and to save rhinos you have to save rangers.

“Giving the threat that they face on a daily basis, we have to train, equip and organise them to be able to counter that threat. In Africa, ranger has become warrior and it’s not through anybody’s choice, but it is not by default, it is by design,” he said.

“We are sober, rational and clear about the necessity now to make sure that while all the other initiatives take course our rangers in the park are prepared for the task,” Jooste added.

Jooste highlighted that there will never be a shoot to kill policy. “That is not a solution.”

He also pointed out that the size of the Kruger poses a challenge. The park is two million hectares, which equals the size of Israel.

“People are saying this campaign is expensive. We’ve spent the odd R200m but the monetary value of rhino horn is billions of rands,”General Jooste said.

He added that rhino poaching syndicates use tens of thousands of rands to get rhino horn and the cost of protecting the endangered species is high.

The infrastructure was upgraded to house rangers, police and operation centres, also to deploy helicopters as the need arises. Training went into reaction forces and the canine unit.

The canine unit has been praised with being involved in about 85% of the arrests made.

Watch video for K9 unit simulation.

“Sometimes I trust canines more that I do technology,” General Jooste said.

“The man’s best friend has become the rhino’s best friend.”

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