Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
Jointly funded by the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development, through KfW, and Agence Française de Développement, the construction of Limpopo National Park’s new field ranger base at Mapai Gate was completed towards the end of 2012. The base was constructed by the park’s infrastructure team and includes 16 separate accommodation rooms, an operational office for the northern region, a storeroom and a central meeting and training room.
Mapai field ranger base functions primarily as headquarters for protection operations in the northern region and will support anti-poaching operations from Pafuri in the north to the park’s central regions. It also provides a support base for other management and community department activities of the northern region.
The secondary purpose of the base is to function as a training venue, with two training courses already successfully completed. Late last year, two groups of 20 field rangers received field ranger refresher training, facilitated by the Southern African Wildlife College. In March 2013, thanks to the park’s community department, a group of field rangers and community agricultural extension officers received human/wildlife conflict training at the base.
Correction on poaching statistics
Recent media reports have claimed that an estimated 300 rhino have been killed by wildlife criminals in Limpopo National Park, with 15 being poached during the past month.
This statement is not correct. When Limpopo National Park was proclaimed in November 2001, there was no wildlife in the park. From 2001 to 2008, as part of developing the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, almost 5 000 animals of various species were translocated from Kruger National Park to Limpopo National Park. Included in these translocations, was a total of 12 white rhino.
Over the past three years, a total of 17 rhino have been killed in Limpopo National Park. The number of rhino in the park is not fixed, as the animals move freely between Kruger and Limpopo national parks where the border fence has been dropped. Nevertheless, the number does not exceed 20 animals at any given moment, given the low density of rhino in the 50 km stretch where the fence was removed.
Disciplinary measures are being taken against four rangers who have been found to have aided poachers, not 30, as was reported.
Dropping approximately 50km of the border fence between Kruger and Limpopo national parks has resulted in more than 1 000 elephant and more than 1 000 buffalo crossing the border of their own accord, thereby providing substantive evidence of the success of the transfrontier park for animal migration. Additionally, elephant collaring research has recorded a healthy movement of the animals between the three components (Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe) of the transfrontier park. An ongoing carnivore research programme has furthermore identified 12 adult and eight dependent cheetah in the central region of Limpopo National Park, unexpectedly positive news for the survival of this species. The estimate is that there are 30 adult cheetah in the park, which is impressive for a park still in a growth phase and compared to the approximately 200 cheetah in Kruger National Park.
With almost two rhino being killed in Kruger National Park every day, Limpopo National Park recognises the critical role it has to play to stem the slaughter, which poses a real threat to the future of both the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Limpopo National Park.
Over the past three months, the protection unit has arrested eight poachers and confiscated two rifles, with the expectation of further positive results following the recent securing of additional funding for rifles and patrol equipment, as well as for increased joint operations and training with Kruger National Park. In accordance with Mozambican law, 50% of fines levied against poachers accrue to the field rangers involved in the operations.This law serves to support funding for conservation areas, while at the same time serving as an incentive and reward for field rangers.
Additionally, Limpopo National Park welcomes the arrival of its new protection coordinator, Mr Francisco Vasco Augostine, as well as the return of Mr Jose Zavala, who has been appointed as the protection section leader for the northern region.
The voluntary resettlement programme entails relocating 7 000 people residing in the park, with the first 1 000 people successfully relocated in 2012. The process will now be fast-tracked to ensure that the park’s core zone is fully protected within the next three years.
Limpopo National Park provides an environment for wildlife and tourism growth in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and is in the process of creating a fully protected eastern buffer for Kruger National Park of up to 70 km wide.
For further information, kindly contact the park warden for Limpopo National Park, Mr Antonio Abacar
Story and photographs by Antony Alexander
Limpopo National Park