By Alan Straton
Addo Elephant National Park’s Honorary Rangers handed over the keys to a brand new anti-poaching vessel to the Park and its marine team today. (Scroll down for video and image).
The Gemini Waverider Pro, fitted with two Honda four-stroke motors, will replace the existing and aging 14-year old vessel currently stationed off Bird Island in Addo Elephant National Park’s (AENP) Marine Protected Area (MPA).
“As a skipper out at sea, our rangers shouldn’t worry about the reliability of the vessel they’re skippering, and whether it’ll place their or the lives of their crew in danger. Also, as an enforcement officer out at sea at night, combating illegal activities conducted by organised crime syndicates, they need the best equipment available to achieve the maximum positive results,” said Addo’s Conservation Manager, and acting Park Manager, John Adendorff.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) Honorary Rangers (HR) is a group of unpaid conservation volunteers who work in support of our national parks. The SANParks HR corps supports the work SANParks does, on various levels, from assisting at entry gates, raising funds for counter-poaching activities, assisting in visitor management and even by giving specialist advice on infrastructure and scientific projects. They also contribute considerable funds in support of SANParks activities such as counter poaching and nature conservation.
“The Addo Elephant National Park’s management team drew up a shortlist of priority items (a ‘wish list’) which would have the greatest impact on countering the poaching activities in the Park and submitted this to the SANParks Honorary Rangers in the Addo Region. If funds allowed, the Honorary Rangers would purchase one or more items on the list and in 2013 the decision, together with Park Management, was made for the boat,” said Rob Holliday (2013 Addo Region Honorary Rangers Chairperson). “It was decided that the vessel was the most effective support we could offer the AENP in their attempts to curb abalone poaching off our immediate coastline,” continued Holliday.
The vessel, christened the “JMB Malusi”, is named after three former AENP Marine Rangers who were killed in a car accident near Alexandria in 2010: “J” – John Molefe Mapheu, “M” – Marvin Ricardo Williams and “B” – Bonga Richman Skotsho, while “Malusi” means “shepherd”. The three were on their way to Port Alfred to launch the vessel “Kadouw” from Port Alfred Harbour to go to Bird Island to carry out enforcement operations at sea and in the Bird Island MPA when a truck veered off the lane it was travelling in and hit their Land Cruiser head-on.
“Naming our latest vessel after John, Marvin and Bonga is a fitting tribute to these staff members, and a way in which we can ensure that their legacy will live on,” said Adendorff.
The Bird Island group (Bird, Seal, Stag Islands and Black Rocks) is situated at the north-eastern side of Algoa Bay and forms ecologically distinct subtidal habitats, containing many endemic species of invertebrates, seaweeds and fish. It is also of particular importance due to the threatened abalone species found there.
Large scale illegal harvesting of abalone by organised crime syndicates started in the Eastern Cape, and mainly along the Port Elizabeth coastline, in 1996. However, from about 2002, as the resource continued to be plundered and became scarce, this illegal activity expanded in the direction of Bird Island.
In 2004 the MPA was established around the Bird Island group to try and curb the illegal harvesting of abalone. This, unfortunately, had little effect on the plundering that took place and in 2006 a complete dive ban was implemented. This had some effect, but still the plundering continued.
At the same time, the area around the Bird Island MPA became a popular fishing zone for recreational and commercial fishing vessels. This was due to the fact that the MPA created a safe haven for over-exploited line and reef fish to breed, that had a fish spill-over effect in the surrounding area where these fishing vessels liked to fish. Unfortunately some fishermen were not prepared to fish outside the MPA and were on a regular basis caught fishing inside it.
In 2008 a South African National Parks (SANParks) Marine section was established to provide an ever-vigilant presence in the area. The nine-person team alternates between being based on Bird Island and on vessels in and around the MPA, and have made a number of arrests and confiscated numerous vessels over the years. Video. Image.