By Janine Lee
The Eastern Cape has acquired a micro light aeroplane to carry out patrols over private reserves and national parks in the province in a renewed effort to combat rhino poaching.
The number of rhino's poached in South Africa has reached 750 this year. The Eastern Cape lost three rhino to poaching this year.
The micro light plane was donated by a pilot who no longer had use for it. Now it will be carrying out a much more important role in collaboration with foot patrols.
Between June 2011 and June 2013 teams supported by the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative were involved in the arrest of 80 suspected poachers in the Eastern Cape.
"We have brought down from 11 in 2011 to 7 last year and 3 this year. We have excellent co-operation with the Government and private reserves as well as excellent intelligence structures in place," says Anti-Poaching Task Team Coordinator, Rodney Visser.
While global awareness about poaching has grown, policy and legislative challenges remain.
"It is unfortunately the most valuable illegal substance right now. It is worth 25% more than the cost of gold and that is the problem," says Wilderness Foundation's Andrew Muir.
The aircraft will be activated during poaching threats and will be flown by a local pilot who will donate his time to the cause.