Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
Tourism Officer for the Khomani San, Dirk Pienaar, says something meaningful has been started from nothing by Peace Parks Foundation, which manages the ‘Khomani San – Living in Peace’ project, sponsored by Rotary International and the German government. There has been capacity building and job creation – especially around Erin Game Ranch, which is the flagship project of the Khomani San. Camp staff, guides, trackers and skinners have all been employed in this highly successful game farm venture. Ranger Katrina Koper is one of the Erin wildlife rangers and says she has had lots of other jobs, but this one is by far the best. ‘I have learnt so much here and I keep learning every day. I enjoy working with wildlife more than anything else.’ Her passion is palpable.
Charl Page, as manager of Erin, says the game farm ‘is definitely the success story of the Khomani San at the moment. ‘It’s one of six farms which total 20 000 ha handed over to the Khomani San when they won their historic land claim in 2000, in compensation for being relocated out of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park when it was proclaimed. The other five farms are still to be developed.’
‘Sure, there were challenges rehabilitating Erin from a stock farm into a game farm,’ explains Charl, ‘but now it is all going very well and the farm is a money-producing project for the Khomani San. It is also sustainable game farming that I think will just keep growing because we work on a formula to know how many animals to take off each year.’
We meet visitors in camp, who are back at Erin for the second time. They laud the staff – over 50 in total – and say all they are brilliantly trained and qualified. Charl explains that Erin is a special and unique experience ‘because all sustainable resource use is done on foot accompanied by traditional Bushman trackers, so wildlife is respected. We have three times the number of people wanting to book than we can accommodate, explains Charl, ‘so we will develop some of the other farms too and create more employment in the process. We are also looking into developing a game breeding farm for which SANParks is willing to donate game. Wildlife here is a different gene pool, which is highly saleable.’
Down the road in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, manager of the park Steven Smith says: ‘Peace Parks Foundation has made it easy for us to assist, as they provide the platform’. The park has been assisting with ranger training and community projects, and Steven says capacity building is now important so the community can run projects themselves. Outside of winter resource use season, Erin will be used for game-viewing and tourism. A new eco-lodge, Dawid Kruiper Lodge, is also planned and will be 7 km from Twee Rivieren and managed by SANParks, but will employ community members and operate on a 50% net profit share principle with the Khomani San. Steven says this will further open up tourism and development options to the community.
‘Importantly, if it wasn’t for our sponsors and supporters – like Rotary International, the National Lotteries Commission of South Africa, SANParks, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Wildlife Ranching South Africa and Peace Parks Foundation – little would have happened, says Charl. ‘They picked up the community. Without them it wouldn’t have been such a good story. But with their help, we aim to make Erin the best game farm in South Africa and in so doing help the Khomani San to live sustainably.’
Story and photos by Keri Harvey