Kruger steps up efforts to save rhinos

3 June 2015

In continuing efforts to save its rhino population from poachers, Kruger National Park (KNP) has installed three boom gates on access roads north of the Sabie River into an area designated as an intensive protection zone (IPZ).

A combination of resources and technology has been intensified in the IPZ to provide a more secure environment for the rhino in the park. The boom gates are meant to control night movement of people to minimize risk factors associated with late travelling between sunset and sunrise.

They will be manned by the park’s rangers and will be operational effectively from 5 June. The IPZ barriers are found on: H1-2 road north-east of the Sand River low water bridge, H12 road on the Sabie high level bridge and on H10 between Lower Sabie and Tshokwane.

“We are continuously taking steps to increase security in the park in our quest to continue to provide security for our rhino, which [are] severely under attack by poachers. Restrictions at these areas will allow us to closely monitor the movements associated with nightfall,” said the Kruger’s general manager of communications and marketing, William Mabasa.

Part of the long-term plan around the IPZ is to improve fencing on the western and eastern borders, which will include fixed obstacles. “These strategies are expected to improve on assessment in terms of surveillance, early warning and detection,” Mabasa concluded.

Forensic trailers

In a second move to bolster the fight against rhino poaching, four 4X4 forensic trailers were handed to South African National Parks (Sanparks), the North West department of economic development, environment, conservation and tourism, the Limpopo department of environment and tourism, and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency.

The trailers, bought by the national Department of Environmental Affairs through funding provided by the Global Environment Facility and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP-GEF) Rhino Programme, will help in the investigation of rhino poaching and other wildlife crime.

Improved investigative capacity and crime scene management in respect of rhino poaching cases are among the measures outlined in the government’s Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros. The programme was launched by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on 12 August 2014.

When urgent forensic sample results are required for bail hearings involving suspected poachers, it is vital the samples are processed to ensure that the evidence in question is not only acceptable, but delivered within a specified time frame for court purposes. This would be one example of when the trailers would be used.

Furthermore, correctly collected and handled samples meet chain of custody requirements critical for successful prosecution. This type of evidence can help in among others, placing suspects at poaching crime scenes, identifying weapons used, and linking horns seized with rhino poached.

The trailers have been equipped with, among others: generators; mobile fridges to store genetic material; metal detectors; electronic calipers; and, scales and knife sharpeners.

“This newly available equipment will further aid crime scene management in outlying areas where the correct equipment needed for on-scene forensic investigations is not readily available,” Molewa said.

The overall goal of the UNEP-GEF Rhino Programme is to improve efforts to combat wildlife crime in South Africa’s Protected Area System, with a focus on rhinoceros. This is done through improved forensic technologies and capabilities, particularly DNA-based forensics, and data sharing and co-ordination systems between relevant groups, to better control the recent upsurge in poaching of rhinoceros in South Africa.

The four forensic mobile units will be used by the four environmental management inspectorate institutions that have been prioritised given the large volume of biodiversity rhino crime scenes.

The trailers were officially handed over by Molewa. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Free State have already received similar trailers through a donation from the US Department of State.

“The Department of Environmental Affairs has long acknowledged that the fight against rhino poaching cannot be won alone, and in this regard we are grateful for the support of our international partners,” Molewa said.

Funding from the UNEP-GEF Rhino Programme was also used to provide advanced crime scene management training. Further courses are scheduled for later in the year. Funding from the programme will also be used to convene a Magistrate Awareness Symposium in August, as well as a Prosecutor Training Conference planned to take place in November.

Source: South African National Parks