By Duncan Alfreds
Rhino in the Kruger National Park will get additional protection with the donation of a light aeroplane to spot potential poaching activities.
The massive park makes it difficult for ground-based poaching prevention activities.
"The Kruger National Park covers an area of almost 19 633km² - that's roughly the size of Israel," said Bryn Pyne-James, senior general manager for SANParks fundraising.
"Protecting an area that large against poachers with ground-based vehicles alone is impossible, but with air support we have a chance," he added.
Rhino populations are coming under increasing threat and a large percentage have been poached in the national park.
According to the department of environmental affairs (DEA), 553 rhino have been poached in SA so far this year. Of these, 345, or 62%, have been poached in the Kruger Park.
Poaching is on course to nearly double the 668 total of 2012, which was also significantly higher than the 448 poached in 2011.
Rangers in the park had access to an aircraft, and it proved to be effective in deterring poachers.
"We initially used a four-cylinder Bantam light aircraft, which we traded up for a six-cylinder Bantam," said ranger Steven Whitfield. "It proved to be a very important anti-poaching tool."
However, that plane was destroyed in an accident in 2012 and this year, a chance meeting between Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit and senior general manager of San Parks Fundraising, Bryn Pyne-James, resulted the telecoms company donating an aeroplane for use in anti-poaching operations. More....