The current rhino poaching crisis is akin to a counter-insurgency war and history has shown that these wars are won only by addressing three key requirements. These include:
2. Skilled and motivated manpower
3. Winning the hearts and minds of local communities
To address these requirements, The Sabi Sand Wildtuin is pursuing two projects as follows:
Working for Wildlife:
Over the past two years, the Sabi Sand Wildtuin (SSW) has been actively engaged with Government at all levels on the value of the economy of wildlife to the country. Since Government is already heavily invested in avoided losses through the ‘Working for’ (Working for Water and Working on Fire) programmes, SSW motivated that they invest in the fight against poaching to prevent the extinction of a natural asset and to prevent reputational damage to South Africa as a wildlife tourism destination. Government responded very positively and immediately recognized the potential of establishing a “Working for Wildlife” programme.
A pilot programme was agreed on whereby SANParks, through the National Resource Management Programme (NRMP), would contribute R150 per day per field ranger for an additional 25 field rangers to be deployed on the SSW, subject to the SSW funding their selection, training, uniform and equipment. Furthermore, the minimum wage for the security sector is R185 per day and it is therefore incumbent on the SSW to subsidize the salary portion to meet the PSIRA Grade C minimum wage so that these individuals can be deployed in the field as full-fledged armed field rangers.
In an effort to secure support within the neighbouring villages, where unemployment amongst the youth is a major problem, it was agreed that the additional manpower would be sourced from these villages. (i.e win hearts and minds). Accordingly the local traditional leaders were approached to outline the opportunity and to request applications from interested parties. Within two weeks, over 600 young men from the surrounding villages submitted their CV’s for the 25 positions on offer.
SSW have been in discussions with SAPS crime intelligence unit and a highly experienced ex Special Forces soldier regarding initiatives to improve the flow of information and the conversion of this into actionable intelligence. Indeed, intelligence is the only pro-active weapon we presently have in our arsenal to take the fight to the poachers. For this reason it is perhaps the single most important aspect in the fight against poaching. Without intelligence, the rhino are dead. Without it, the pochers hold all the aces – they know where, they know when and they know how yet the security forces need to remain alert continuously and try and cover massive expanses of land. The latter reactive approach will simply not suffice. Hence, if we get only one thing right, it needs to be effective intelligence. All the successes that have been achieved against the poaching syndicates have been made possible only by reliable and actionanle intelligence.
Together with SANParks, SAPS, SANDF and WESSA these projects have taken off with great success. Poachers have been arrested and the poaching of rhinos was significantly cut down.
Give it Horns, an organisation dedicated to supporting these anti poaching initiatives is holding a Fun Run to raise proceeds for the above mentioned projects.
The run will be held at St Stithians College in Sandton on 1st May 2013 at 08:00. Entries will open on 1st Feb and close on 25th March 2013 and will cost R150.00 per entry. The race is limited to 10 000 athletes and the distance will be 9.8km. Our website is www.runrhinos.co.za and the facebook page is www.facebook.com/giveithorns.