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Priority protected area support: security and protection
Protected area support involves various initiatives that provide staff at the frontlines with the services, infrastructure, equipment and training they need to protect the rhino, safeguard themselves and execute successful counter-poaching operations on the ground.

Much focus is being placed on Kruger National Park, managed by SANParks, with a specific array of projects also being implemented in Limpopo National Park, through a partnership with Mozambique's National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) and the Joaquim Chissano Foundation. Limpopo and Kruger national parks form part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park – the stronghold for 60% of the world’s remaining rhinoceros populations. By facilitating effective collaboration between Mozambique and South Africa, and assisting the government of Mozambique in elevating counter-poaching capacity on the ground, there has been a clear decrease in poaching incidents that originate from Mozambique’s shared border with Kruger National Park.

Furthermore, as the region that possesses the rhino population with the farthest reaching genetic pool, the protection of rhino in KwaZulu-Natal, through collaboration with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, is of critical importance to ensuring the viability of future rhino population growth efforts in South Africa.

Although Kruger and Ezemvelo rhino reserves continue to experience a high number of illegal incursions, their improved protection and early warning capabilities allow them to respond more quickly and effectively to such intrusions. This has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of incursions that culminate in rhino poaching incidents, as well as a substantial increase in apprehensions, arrests and convictions of poachers.

Through the provision of appropriate training and equipment, staff are now more motivated and more effective, culminating in fewer lives being lost and mistakes being made.

Kruger National Park

  • In partnership with the Southern African Wildlife College, the counter-poaching skills of more than 300 field rangers and law enforcement staff have been advanced through patrol leader, reaction force, tactical and musketry training.
  • Ranger corps were provided with advanced night-vision equipment to increase their safety, better protect rhino and apprehend poachers in the darkness of night, when most incidents occur.
  • Field patrol units were provided with all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) so as to assist with rapid response in remote locations.
  • New accommodation units have been erected to provide appropriate and critically located housing to security and dog unit staff.
  • Support has been provided for the translocation of rhino, fitted with tracking devices, from areas of high density that are also high-risk poaching areas, to areas of low density, to enable offsets by reducing poaching risks and also stimulating increased birth rates in these populations.
  • So as to address internal breaches of security and staff corruption, policies are being formulated and operational procedures put in place for the adoption of integrity testing as an acceptable labour practise by SANParks, in consultation with organised labour bodies.
  • Systems are being upgraded to improve security, identification and access control at the park’s various entrance gates.
  • A central security command centre and operational base for the eastern section of the park's joint protection zone is being established at the Southern African Wildlife College. An agreement between Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority, SANParks and Peace Parks Foundation will see the improvement of law enforcement efforts and the integration of Manyeleti Game Reserve into the aforementioned central command system. Due to vulnerable security systems, Manyeleti, positioned at a critical location in the joint protection zone, is being abused by poaching syndicates as an easy access route into Kruger National Park and other reserves along its western boundary.
  • A project is being undertaken by Peace Parks Foundation and SANParks to extend the digital radio communication system, which is presently active in the park's intensive protection zone, to include the eastern and western boundary of the joint protection zone. This will allow for secure and seamless communication between security personnel in Kruger National Park and the private game reserves on its boundaries.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

  • In collaboration with the South African Police Services and local authorities, training courses on wildlife crime scene management and processing are presented to detectives, prosecutors and Ezemvelo staff on an ongoing basis.
  • Key field staff, who rely on such skills to counter-track illegal entries into rhino reserves, attended micro-tracking and counter-insurgency tracking courses.
  • Ezemvelo is collaborating with the Southern African Wildlife College on a comprehensive training programme for rangers and patrol leaders, which will get under way early in 2016.
  • Advanced repeaters and radio systems have been installed and law enforcement staff in the Ezemvelo rhino reserves have been equipped with new digital two-way radios. The new communication system allows for encrypted, secure communication, with much-improved legibility and reach.
  • Improved gate access control is being implemented across Ezemvelo rhino reserves, to increase surveillance and identification capacity at reserve gates. This information will be used to assist investigations, as well as provide alerts on high-risk visitors and vehicles, thus increasing the chance of known suspects being apprehended when attempting to enter the park.
  • Guard observation towers have been placed at strategic positions in Ezemvelo rhino reserves to allow for the more effective monitoring of high risk entry points and of wildlife.
  • Ezemvelo was assisted in transforming eight law enforcement vehicles by coating them in camouflage green vinyl wrapping. This makes them more effective for covert law enforcement and surveillance activities.
  • Field equipment, including 230 daypack kits and 400 SWAT pepper spray units, were provided to field rangers in support of the law-enforcement operations.
  • A project to develop a central information management and coordination system to collate, visualise and manage data from various sources is progressing well. The system visualises and reports on data coming into the system and is aimed at assisting with increasing effectiveness of patrol planning and deployment, in conjunction with rhino population management.

Limpopo National Park

  • The park was provided with a brand new Savannah S Light Sport Aircraft with which to augment aerial counter-poaching and wildlife monitoring activities.
  • The installation of a new and advanced digital communication system was recently concluded. The system uses the latest technology and has a number of features that includes alarms to ensure system security and integrity. It also includes position monitoring, to improve the safety and operational capability of the field ranger unit. Furthermore, with the construction of a new repeater station located on the border between the two parks, the system enables cross-border communications between Limpopo and Kruger national parks as part of collaborative anti-poaching operations.
  • In support of improved working conditions and enhanced patrol requirements, the Mozambique Environmental Police received equipment (i.e. backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, cookware and camp accessories, solar panels, cameras and computer equipment, bulletproof vests, reflective jackets, batons, GPS devices and first aid kits)
  • During the past twelve months, field rangers received various consignments of equipment that included patrol backpacks with kit, patrol bicycle spares, raincoats, spotlights, solar powered torches, GPS units, phones, as well as computers, printers, appliances and furniture aimed at appropriately equipping new ranger living quarters and offices.
  • More than 80 counter-poaching staff received guard and field ranger training, in association with the Southern African Wildlife College.
  • Senior field rangers received training in the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART). SMART uses the GPS phones and charges procured earlier to record anti-poaching patrol activities.
  • Following an increase in wildlife poisoning in Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Limpopo National Park staff received poisoning awareness training.
  • At Mapai, Machampane and Massingir gates, roads were improved and access control upgraded.
  • Infrastructure and facilities were upgraded at Mapai and Gaza base camps.
  • A new field ranger base is being constructed at Massinger.
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