Kruger tightens security to stop poachers entering park through gates as 'guests'

2017-03-28 06:32 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The iconic Kruger National Park (KNP) is being forced to tighten security at its southern gates in an attempt to protect rhinos and prevent poachers from accessing the park.

This is according to South African National Parks (SANParks) Chief Ranger Nicholas Funda, saying that the park has picked up that some poachers enter the area as guests and get dropped off.

“We realised that the gates became our weakest point… Some of the poachers are paying at the gate as guests. For example, when they come in, there are four of them in a vehicle and on the way out, there is only the driver. 

“We call them ‘drop-offs’," Funda says. And they are a "problem because we can’t track their spoor in the veld."

The fight against rhino poaching is intensifying on both a global and local scale - and SANParks hopes new security measures will aid in ending the epidemic.  

How are visitors affected? 

As part of the gate access control system, guests who visit the KNP will now be expected to produce a permit, the vehicle registration will be checked against the vehicle disk, the number of people in the vehicle will be checked against the permit, whether guests are staying for the day or overnight.

The new security measure is expected to be implemented at the southern gates of the park within the next month. 

The gate access control system will be implemented at the northern gates at KNP at a later stage, SANParks says. 

Visitors to the KNP are urged to work with officials to ensure a smooth process. 

Rhino poaching intensifying 

According to figures released recently by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, a total of 662 rhino carcases were found in the KNP last year, compared to 826 in 2015. This represents a reduction of 19.85% in 2016.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: 10% rhino poaching decline in 2016 but still 1 054 rhinos too much

Despite the decline, the number of illegal incursions into the Kruger National Park continues to increase. 

For 2016, there were a staggering 2 883 instances of poaching-related activities (such as poaching camps, contacts, crossings, sightings, tracks and shots fired) in the Park, compared to 2 466 recorded in the same period in 2015. This is an increase of 16.9%.

ALSO SEE: The plight of baby rhinos: SA conservation steps up

The park, however, is increasing its anti-poaching range, with Postcode Meerkat wide area surveillance marking the latest move. 

The Postcode Meerkat comprises a suite of radar and electro-optic sensors that detect, classify, monitor and track humans moving in the park over a wide area.

This is according to SANParks technical operations manager Mark McGill, who says the system gives the KNP an added advantage as it can show the operator more or less where the poacher is going and rangers can be positioned to arrest them.

SEE: Postcode Meerkat: Saving Kruger's primary rhino stronghold

“We are fighting to protect our rhinos - that is our objective," McGill says. "For every rhino that we can save, it’s a success. We don’t only want the poachers in handcuffs, we want the rhinos to be safe so we are trying to get to the poacher before he can get to the rhino."

McGill said the system has been very successful in the operations, as it has had a 90% success rate. The KNP is hoping to have three wide area surveillance systems by 2019.

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