28 June 2017
‘It is vital that we develop the capabilities that exist within the region for the protection of all species by enhancing the effectiveness of management authorities and resources,’ said the GKEPF Director of Operations, Colonel (Retired) Otch Otto. ‘We are actively trying to ensure collaborative conservation management and enhanced security as a result of the effective exchange of information, sharing of equipment and advanced technologies, skills, training, experience and moral support.’
Monday, 26 June 2017 marked the official declaration of these partnerships with the opening of the GKEPF Command and Communications Centre (ComCen), situated at SAWC and forming the central point of coordination of activities as managed by GKEPF. With financial support from PPF, the ComCen has been staffed and equipped with technology, communications and data management systems, to allow for optimal execution of monitoring and response, as well as administrative and logistical functions. Funded by generous donors of SAWC, a hangar was erected as part of the ComCen, enabling rapid deployment of aerial assets within the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Alliance (GKEPA) support area.
While exerting primary efforts on establishing capabilities and strategies that would improve the environmental management capacity of all GKEPA partners, the initial phase of the project also saw specific focus being placed on improving security infrastructure at Manyeleti Game Reserve. Manyeleti – positioned at a critical location within the JPZ – was being targeted by poaching syndicates as an access route through which to enter KNP and other reserves. PPF provided funding to upgrade a vulnerable stretch of the Manyeleti boundary fence, and installed an electro-pulse monitoring system, which feeds data directly back to the GKEPA ComCen.
Cooperative partnerships are an essential part of the GKEPA strategy, and with the ComCen and aerial capability perfectly located at the SAWC, it also exposes upcoming conservationists to best practice through applied learning to bolster species protection and counter rhino poaching. ‘With the support of these alliances we are able to further facilitate education, training and skills development opportunities and harness available resources which, with the support of our neighbouring communities, will help improve security within the GKEPA area where the college is based’, added SAWC CEO, Theresa Sowry.
With the capability provided and the joint assets created, GKEPF is also able to respond to community support programmes, medical emergencies, and support government agency initiatives such as the National Counter Poaching Strategy ‘Operation Rhino7’, which would otherwise not be possible.
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