State of the art military technology and retired Major General deployed to fight rhino poaching in Kruger17/12/2012 15:34:57
Retired Major General to lead fight against poachersThe South African National Parks (SANParks) has announced that retired decorated army Major General Johan Jooste will oversee the overall anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park.
Major General Johan Jooste said "the battle lines have been drawn and it is up to my team and me to forcefully push back the frontiers of poaching. It is a fact that South Africa, a sovereign country, is under attack from armed foreign nationals. This should be seen as a declaration of war against South Africa by armed foreign criminals. We are going to take the war to these armed bandits and we aim to win it."
December 2012: Military technology is being introduced to combat a surge in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, where the world's largest concentration of rhinos lives. The Ichikowitz Family Foundation, led by South African philanthropist Ivor Ichikowitz, has donated a $2.5 million state-of-the-art aerial surveillance aircraft equipped with infrared detectors, similar to those used in unmanned drones, to help fight the poachers.
More than 50% of Kruger rhinos have been killed since 2010
Since 2010, 760 rhinos out of a total of 1,269 in the Kruger National Park have been killed by illegal poachers selling their tusks to traders in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where the horn is prized. The Seeker Seabird aircraft is equipped with advanced thermal imaging technology that means it can identify poachers from the air, and then send in police units to makes arrests on the ground.
Ichikowitz said: "Poaching gangs have become more and more sophisticated and well-resourced. You have to fight fire with fire. This is the first time thermal imaging technology has been used to monitor poaching in Kruger National Park. It will deliver greatly enhanced and powerful observation capability to the park's rangers, making it difficult for poachers to hide.
"Our world-class electronic systems technology and advanced visual reconnaissance, including the use of a FLIR Ball infrared detector on the aircraft, will provide game reserve rangers with better than ever intelligence in their tireless mission to confront poachers. Attitudes about the importance of wildlife in South Africa are changing. The grim realities of environmental crimes committed against wildlife and rhino's in particular are being recognised with calls for tougher law enforcement and penalties.
Earlier this month Magistrate Prince Manyathi handed out a stiff 40-year sentence to self-confessed rhino trader and smuggler, Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai in the Kempton Park Magistrate Court.
Speaking at the unveiling, Dr David Mabunda, CEO of South Africa's National Parks said: "The environment is in the news and does not make for good reading. The mindless slaughter of rhino's in the wild has called for a multi-pronged strategy. We are actively enlisting and broadening our engagement with the private sector to protect and conserve wildlife. The strategy is to reach out to a new set of stakeholders that would complement and fundamentally strengthen existing efforts.