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The contribution the military makes to counter-poaching operations will not be improved by the current mission preparedness training employed by specifically the SA Army, according to the man in charge of SANParks special projects.
Retired Major General Johan Jooste told a border surveillance technology co-operation seminar that one of the biggest problems facing him in the ongoing campaign against rhino poachers was that of turning people trained as conservationists – rangers – into “operators”.
“I ask myself if it’s right to train people whose function is protection of species, from grass through to birds and animals to become almost like Special Forces operators.
“When rangers go on patrol in search of rhino poachers they are up against an enemy who comes into Kruger for one to four days at a time with the express intention of killing rhino. He has the bushcraft and skills to survive on very little for that period of time and I am putting people in harm’s way trying to stop and apprehend him.
“Sure their job is to protect species and anti-poaching operations are part of it but it is a worrying aspect of current operations in the Kruger National Park.”
On the military, particularly the SA Army, making a bigger contribution to stopping rhino poaching, Jooste said it wouldn’t happen until there was a shift of focus in training doctrine of the landward arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
Unitrans Volkswagen re-affirmed its commitment in the fight against rhino poaching with the signing of a new sponsorship agreement with the South African National Parks (SANParks) Honorary Rangers at SANParks Head Office in Pretoria today.
South Africa is home to approximately 22 000 white and black rhinoceros of which more than 10 000 are found in the Kruger National Park. This represents around 70% of the world’s total rhino population. The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world, which makes its survival crucial.
The Unite Against Poaching initiative has contributed almost R7 million to the SANParks’ counter poaching effort over the past three years.
“As the SANParks Honorary Rangers we are very excited about the continued relationship with Unitrans. It is partnerships of this nature that allows us to provide the desperately needed support in terms of training and equipment to the counter poaching teams who are in the bush at this very moment. Unitrans Volkswagen has shown the true commitment of a patriotic company which is dedicated to look after one of our country’s most iconic animals and a valuable conservation resource” says Louis Lemmer, Chairperson of the National Executive Committee, SANParks Honorary Rangers.
Divisional Chief Executive of Unitrans Volkswagen, Kevin Gillmer confirmed the sustained commitment to ensuring that the field rangers on the ground have the skills and equipment to allow them to continue their fight against Rhino poaching. “Unitrans Volkswagen, through the Unite against Poaching fund are honoured to have been able to contribute to the fight against rhino poaching, within South African National Parks (SANParks). Together with the SANParks Honorary Rangers we will continue to empower the dedicated field rangers in the protection of our rhinos.”
SANParks has called on corporates and individuals for extra support for the Honorary Rangers' counter poaching effort in order to assist its rangers in the field. The partnership with Unitrans Volkswagen is a great example of what can be done. Through the sale of vehicles by the ten Unitrans Volkswagen dealerships across the country, the company is able to sustain its support and make a major contribution in the counter poaching war.
SANParks Acting CEO, Abe Sibiya acknowledged and appreciated the re-affirmation of the partnership with Unitrans. “Unitrans Volkswagen is setting a good example of what other corporate citizens should be doing in securing the future of parks. We are truly indebted for Unitrans’ generosity and putting their money where their mouth is. Thanks again to Unitrans VW”.
“The time is now for everyone to Unite Against Poaching and help ensure this precious heritage for our children’s children,” concluded Sibiya. For more information visit www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za
(From left to right) Glenn Phillips, SANParks Managing Executive: Tourism Development and Marketing; Kevin Gillmer, Divisional Chief Executive of Unitrans Volkswagen and Louis Lemmer, Chairperson of the National Executive Committee, SANParks Honorary Rangers at the signing of the new sponsorship agreement.