Air support for South African rhinos in battle against poachers



Posted on 01 June 2011  | 
With an ultralight aircraft, rangers will be able to protect rhinos from the air.
© WWF South AfricaEnlarge
Rhinos in a South African game reserve now have extra protection with the arrival of an ultralight aircraft that will be used to patrol for poachers. The aircraft was purchased by WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which works on rhino conservation in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

The aircraft will be used by rangers for monitoring the park’s boundary fence from the air, in order to detect illegal activities and to deter criminals from entering the park. With the new technology, terrain that is inaccessible to vehicles, where poachers often choose to operate, will now be easier to monitor.

“It is essential to stay ahead in terms of physical presence, technology, equipment and intelligence,” said a member of the reserve’s anti-poaching unit. “Experience in other parks shows that once you have air support, success in anti-poaching operations increases dramatically.”

The ultralight aircraft uses standard fuel and is cheaper to run than an all-terrain vehicle. It can also take off and land on very small areas of land. Existing runways and soccer fields in the park will be used as landing-strips in order to minimize ecological impact.

The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is a partnership between WWF, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. It aims to increase the numbers of critically endangered black rhino by creating new populations where the animals can rapidly breed. The currently project operates at six sites and has translocated nearly 100 black rhinos.

With an ultralight aircraft, rangers will be able to protect rhinos from the air.
© WWF South Africa Enlarge
Bheki Khoza of WWF partner organization Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife tries out the new craft.
© WWF South Africa Enlarge
Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis); Hluhluwe Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal Province, Republic of South Africa
© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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