The sophisticated weaponry used by poachers has pushed the [South African\ North West Parks and Tourism Board and Madikwe Game Reserve management to support retraining programmes for its anti-poaching staff. Members have lately faced difficulties in tracking and arresting heavily armed assailants who do not hesitate to shoot at the park’s personnel.
Veteran elite British Forces specialist Alan Ives has designed a training programme to beef up the combat skills of the park’s anti-poaching units. The pilot training programme was initiated by Paramount through its Ichikowitz Family Foundation, and was completed at the weekend. Last year Paramount Group donated a Seabird Aviation Seeker light observation aircraft to Sanparks to help it fight rhino poaching. It is equipped with surveillance gadgetry including thermal imaging to detect poachers.
Not all national parks in the country have been able to secure South African National Defence Force (SANDF) assistance. Declan Hofmeyr, operations manager at Madikwe Game Reserve, said on Friday [October 11\ a number of rangers, counter-poaching unit members, police and even members of the SANDF have come under serious firepower in the past year as poachers became desperate for rhino horn.
Per kilogram, rhino horn is believed to cost more than gold. Rhino horn is prized by many upwardly mobile people in Vietnam, where it is believed to possess medicinal value. Research found that up to 12% of people in Asia had expressed a willingness to buy products made out of rhino horn, such as decorations on wristwatches and medicinal potions claiming to offer cures for various conditions. More than 700 rhinos were slaughtered in various parts of the country last year alone. “While in the past poachers carried homemade guns, today we are confiscating high-calibre hunting rifles with silencers, pangas, AK47s, shotguns and pistols,” Mr Hofmeyr said.
According to Mr Ives, the training has equipped the units with skills in conducting surveillance using Special Forces tactics. More....