Cape Town – South African National Parks (SANParks) says the latest addition to its anti-poaching operations means the organisation is now able to respond to incidents in the Park quicker as well as monitor the park at night.
SANParks was the proud recipient of a brand new Airbus AS-350B3e helicopter with night flying capability, thanks to funding from the US based Howard G Buffet Foundation (HGBF).
SANParks Board Chairperson, Mr Kuseni Dlamini, stated that SANParks had received an initial grant funding of R254.8 million in 2014 to support anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park.
“This incorporated the establishment of ‘Air Mobility’ capacity’ and included the purchase of the first helicopter in September 2014.”
He said subsequent to the initial grant funding, the Howard G Buffet Foundation granted SANParks an additional R37.7 million to purchase a second Airbus AS350 B3e helicopter, with similar specifications of night flying capability, to further increase the capacity of SANParks’ rhino anti-poaching flight operations in the KNP.
“In addition to increasing our current flight crew capability of flying at night, the helicopter is expected to improve our response time in dealing with contacts and other incidents in the Park,” Dlamini said.
The second helicopter started operations on Thursday and will be used to fight against rhino poaching.
“In accordance with the much needed aerial support to the anti-poaching teams around the clock, this helicopter will further assist in quick tactical response particularly at night where we have been lacking due to limited resources, therefore it is only proper to thank HGBF for bringing this much needed resource in our fight to curb poaching,” Dlamini said.
He said as an integral part of the current strategy to combat rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park, SANParks is in a process of applying and evaluating various technologies which include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s).
“This aims at investigating the effectiveness of various UAV technologies as instruments in rhino protection efforts under a range of operational conditions”, Dlamini said.
According to Mr Dlamini, the UAV project will run for a full year… “and by the end of the project we will have a lot of information about the use of available technology in anti-poaching operations and be able to make informed decision on what is best for our environment.”
The testing of UAV technology in Kruger National Park is implemented as one component of a suite of anti-poaching initiatives supported by the Rhino Protection Programme (RPP). The RPP is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South African National Parks (SANParks), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), and Peace Parks Foundation (PPF).