David Attenborough shocks BBC viewers after coming face-to-face with white rhinos

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Callum Hoare, The Express | December 9, 2019

See link for photos & video.

For the seventh episode of his BBC show, “Seven Worlds, One Planet,” Sir David sent cameras to the continent of Africa, home to more than a billion people who speak 2,000 different languages. However, the legendary presenter, now 93, surprised viewers when he made a rare onscreen appearance for the first time in the series, coming face-to-face with a pair of white rhinos. This was not trivia though, he did so to deliver a serious message about the impact humans have had on this region.

He said on Sunday night: “Of all of Africa’s wildlife, it is the rhinoceros that has been most affected by poaching. “In the Far East, its horn is used as traditional medicine.

“All of Africa’s rhinos are now under threat, but for one subspecies it might be too late.

“The northern white rhinoceros is facing extinction.

“Scientists are working on a solution, but no male now survives, so natural breeding is impossible.

“These two females are the last of their kind.”

Sir David went on to explain the impacts on the entire continent. He added: “When they die, an entire subspecies that inhabited the Earth for millions of years will disappear forever.

“Right across Africa, human beings are having a devastating impact on all wildlife.

“Cheetah numbers are decreasing year on year, today, there are fewer than 8,000 left on the continent.

“The global demand for pangolin scales for use in traditional medicine has now made them the most trafficked animal on the planet. “And western chimpanzee are so threatened by the loss of their habitat that they are now critically endangered.”

Sir David then made an appeal to viewers. He continued: “Deforestation – and not only in Africa – continues on an enormous scale, 64 million acres of forests are destroyed every year.

“An area of forest the size of a football field is disappearing every second. “Climate change is affecting global weather patterns, rainfall is increasingly unpredictable, average temperatures are soaring.

“But, with help, even the most vulnerable can recover.

“This is a crucial moment in time, the decisions we take now will influence the future of animals, humanity and, indeed, all life on Earth.”

Sir David previously explained why he still gets the same buzz from making documentaries and hopes it will inspire others.

“He explained: “It is extraordinary. “At the time people thought we were cranks but suddenly, after Blue Planet II, you hit the right note. I’m thrilled that we’re about to share this incredible series with the world.

“Seven Worlds, One Planet celebrates the variety of life on our planet while also shining a spotlight on its challenges.”

The seventh episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet was aired on BBC One on Sunday, December 8, at 6.15pm.
Viewers can now catch up with each instalment in Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) on BBC iPlayer.


Rhino DNA backlog after contract not renewed (South Africa)

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Lowvelder | December 10, 2019

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The processing of forensic samples from rhino poaching crimes has apparently ground to a halt, with a major backlog of cases.

This follows after the contract with RhODIS was allegedly not renewed by the SAPS.

Original photo as published by Lowvelder.

In 2017 the police suddenly issued a tender for the DNA contract, stating that all cases must first go to all investigators, who in turn must first take their samples to the forensic science lab in Silverton, and then depending on the cases, it would go back to RhODIS.

This tender took almost six months to be awarded, and was given to RhODIS, who was handling the cases beforehand in any case. This already created a backlog. The two-year contract for rhino DNA and stock theft expired in July, and has not been renewed.

A source close to the matter confirmed that the processing of forensic cases at poaching scenes has also been affected and that the police stopped using the RhODIS kits as early as 2017. The police apparently developed their own processing kits, but according to the source, these kits have now run out.


Kruger Park rangers accused of poaching back on the job (South Africa)

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Landé Willemse, The Citizen | December 10, 2019

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Four Kruger National Park (KNP) rangers are back at work after they were arrested on poaching-related charges earlier this year, reports Lowvelder.

The four accused were arrested in two separate incidents and appeared in the Skukuza Court in January and February respectively.

“We can confirm that the four are now back at work,” said Reynold Thakhuli, SANParks acting head of corporate communications.

In January 2019, the media reported that Nzima Joe Shihlangu, 32, and Lucky Mkansi, 30, were arrested on January 15 after authorities believed they were allegedly involved in rhino poaching incidents at the KNP.

The duo was arrested at the Crocodile Bridge Section closest to the Mozambican border.

They were each granted R10,000 bail and were instructed not to have any contact with other KNP rangers while SANParks’ internal investigations were under way.

In a separate incident, Hendrik Silinda and Musa Mlambo were arrested in February in the park on poaching-related incidents.

Thakhuli added that bail conditions were set at the discretion of judges and that they were not aware of any changes to them thus far.

Lowvelder is investigating and will publish findings soon.


Illegal horns trade continues to threaten Africa’s rhinos

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Business Daily | December 11, 2019

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The Chinese penchant for the rhino horn is driving the illegal trade in this prehistoric animal up again. With their newfound wealth, the Chinese are on a spending spree buying the horn coveted for its perceived value, ranging from trinkets to medicine that can supposedly cure anything.

The tragedy is that the rhino is from an ancient lineage dating some 60 million years ago, far longer than that of the elephant. Yet today because of our greed, the rhino is on its last leg. In the past its territory spread across much of Africa for the black rhino and white rhino. It was the same for the three Asian species — Javan, Sumatran and the Greater one-horned rhino.

Lucy Vigne has been studying the illegal trade in rhino horn since the 1980s with the late Dr Esmond Bradley Martin, who pioneered research in the business in the 1970s when he saw smuggled cargo leaving the then far-flung ancient port of Lamu. She continues with the research working towards her PhD.

Original photo as published by Business Daily: Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officer offloads part of 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns stockpile worth billions of shillings at KWS headquarters in Nairobi on April 15, 16 ahead of a planned destruction on April 30. (FILE PHOTO | NMG )

She points to a map enlarged on a screen showing a few red dots against a sweeping swathe of green that was the range of the rhino historically. The red dots are spots on the globe where the rhino is today.

Vigne was an invited speaker for the Friends of Nairobi National Park monthly meeting held beside the national park that is a stronghold for the indigenous black rhino and the imported white from South Africa. The park is an important breeding sanctuary for this iconic animal.

“It’s history repeating itself,” says the petite rhino woman, referring to the rhino crisis in the 1970s fuelled by the Yemenis’ penchant for the traditional daggers topped with rhino horn handles after the oil boom in Saudi Arabia. Yemenis flocked to Saudi Arabia for jobs returning with dollars to buy the dagger with the rhino horn handle that was once the preserve of the rich. It’s only after the political unrest in Yemen and the economic crash that the trade went down.

“This time it’s the Chinese and Vietnamese,” she says.

Demand for rhino horn in Asia has been growing since the early 2000s, with the economic boom in China and Vietnam. It increased especially in 2008 and peaked between 2012 and 2013. The horn is still in demand, with poaching mainly in in South Africa where most rhinos are today, the majority being the white rhino.

In Kenya rhino poaching is under control because of increased conservation and anti-poaching efforts but East Africa is still a conduit for the continent’s illegal wildlife trade flowing to Asia.

The Chinese population has increased in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa building the infrastructure. The economies of China, Vietnam and Laos are the fastest growing in the world today, expanding by some six per cent per annum.

During the 1970s crisis, black rhino numbers crashed from an estimated 65,000 in 1970 to about 2,400 by 1995. Kenya’s black rhino population collapsed from 20,000 in 1970 to 400 over this time — a drastic 98 percent drop. A combination of a devastating drought in Tsavo in the 1970s, the civil wars in Sudan, Zaire (today’s DRC) and Uganda, with firearms easily available to the poachers to hunt elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, caused this catastrophe on the continent.

It shocked governments into action, banning the international trade in rhino products by 1977 through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). By the late 1990s, rhino numbers began to increase. “But overall the rhino range had shrunk,” states Vigne, pointing to the red dots.

With the current demand for horn, it’s the southern white rhino which has been hardest hit in South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park with Mozambique on its long eastern border. There have not been enough rangers to protect this huge area from the onslaught of poaching. About 400 patrollers at any one time cover an area of 19,500 square kilometres, which equates to one patroller for 49 square kilometres. “Ideally,” states Vigne, “a large area requires a ranger per 10 square kilometres and double that for small areas.”

Inadequate manpower to protect the mega-herbivore in South Africa is a challenge.

Ironically, the world’s greatest success story in conservation was the revival of the white rhino that was on the brink of extinction in the early 1900s in South Africa. Shot for sport by the great white hunters and for clearance to a couple of hundred, South Africa built her population of the white rhino up to 19,000 by 2012.

Then the poaching suddenly soared to over a 1,000 rhinos killed a year for its horn. In 2015, an estimated 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa. And poaching continues with hundreds killed each year.

This all coincides with the disposable income of the Chinese. Between 2012 and 2013, the price of rhino horn on the wholesale market in China and Vietnam peaked at $65,000 per kilogramme. Two years late it had declined by half because of a glut in the market making it affordable for the average Chinese, and prices have continued to fall, making it available to many.

China shares borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Vietnam has a long coastline, making it easy for smuggled goods to enter. Goods are then easily sailed along the Mekong River which flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The price of rhino horn items for retail sale halved to about $53 per gram in Vietnam in 2015. It has made the horn even more available to the Chinese who hop over the border for a shopping spree around Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, despite rhino horn being illegal in Vietnam and China. In neighbouring Laos the Chinese as in Africa are building infrastructure. With this insurgence, shops in exclusive hotel boutiques selling rhino horn trinkets and ivory items have escalated and are sold to Chinese (or any buyer).

In addition, gilded casinos attract the Chinese holiday makers to gamble, after which the winners usually head to buy the coveted rhino horn trinket in the boutiques.

The criminal trade in rhino horn is big money, controlled by kingpins who are protected by people in high places. Although there are international organisations like CITES to protect trade in endangered species, they prove to be inadequate.

“It’s down to the political will,” states Vigne. An example is Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

“The policy is no trade and there is one ranger per square kilometre to protect the animals with income shared fairly amongst the local communities in the buffer zones who receive 50 percent of the park tourist revenue. They are thus motivated to help protect the rhinos and be the eyes and ears of the Park. This is similar in India”.

From 200 Greater One-horned rhinos in India and Nepal in 1900 there are over 3,500 today.

It’s something we can emulate – the recovery of a species.

‘Sides of a horn’: How Richard Branson short is raising awareness about the global rhino poaching crisis

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Anthony D’Alessandro, Deadline | December 6, 2019

Read the original story and 17 minute-plus short here

Sir Richard Branson’s new short film production, Sides of a Horn, is looking to shed light on the rhino poaching crisis that exists in South Africa. The goal is the same as the 2006 Leonardo DiCaprio movie Blood Diamond, which opened the world’s eyes to the underbelly of the diamond trade.

In fact, the 17 minute-plus short is already making waves.

Directed by British-born, LA-based filmmaker Toby Wosskow, the short follows two brothers-in-law on opposite sides of the rhino poaching argument, one a poacher and the other a game ranger. You can watch it above.

Rhino poaching is a vicious circle. Poachers receive $3K for rhino horn, enough to support their family for a year. Meanwhile, international crime syndicates will sell the same horn for $300K, using the profits to fund drug trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism. In turn, the rhinos, who’ve survived for 50 million years, are expected to go extinct within the decade.

Wosskow came up with the idea for the short while visiting South Africa, where he witnessed the severity of the poaching crisis first hand. He reached out to Branson, who has a long history of global humanitarian work, and who inspired the filmmaker since his teenage years.

Sides of a Horn is unique in its depiction of the poaching war, in that it is sympathetic towards both sides of the struggle in communities torn apart by the conflict between poachers and rangers. Wosskow worked closely with one such community where wildlife crime was most prevalent.

Though fictional, Sides of a Horn depicts the actual dilemmas impacting South Africa’s rural communities, which are torn apart by the conflict between poachers and rangers. Poaching is connected to poverty, inequality, or corruption, and the rhinos’ suffering is closely linked to the suffering of people. As the recipient of a Mandela Washington grant, Wosskow went to Uganda this November for grassroots screenings in rural communities, where rhinos were once poached to extinction, but are now being reintroduced.

More positive global effect: The short amassed over 800K views in its first week of release in China, sparking a dialogue about China’s rhino horn consumption and the effect on the poaching war in Africa.

WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, and Virgin Unite have been screening the film for policymakers and world-leaders in order to humanize the complex social and environmental issue.

African Wildlife Foundation CEO, Kaddu Sebunya, says about the short, “I have spent 25 years talking in circles with politicians, trying to explain the complexities of our poaching war. Now, I can show them Sides of a Horn, and 17 minutes later, we are having a productive conversation. That is the power of this film.”

Original photo as published by Deadline

3 testify in high profile Malawi wildlife crime case involving Chinese national

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Harold Kapindu, The Nyasa Times | December 6, 2019

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The hearing of Malawi’s most wanted suspected wildlife trafficker and notorious king pin, Chinese national Lin Yun Hua’s case has started at Lilongwe Magistrates court. Appearing alongside Malawian James Mkwezalamba, Lin Yun Hua is answering charges of money laundering offense and dealing with government trophy.

Presided by Chief resident magistrate Violet Chipao, both the defense and the state cross examined and reexamined two witnesses, South Africa based veterinarian, University of Pretoria Director of veterinary, genetics and laboratory, Dr Cindy Kim Harper and Liwonde National Park Field Operations Manager Lawrence Munlo.

It was established that on 28 February, 2016, a Rhino went missing at Liwonde National Park and was later found killed with its horns cut off.  The found Rhino horn specimen were further sent to South Africa were Dr Harper conducted the DNA tests. On Thursday, witness, McPherson testified and made the defense to seek for an adjournment. The defense addressed the court that they will have to go to Zomba Magistrate Court to get the case file for the case as they claimed that some issues raised by the state witnesses are not in the witness report.

Speaking to Nyasa Times, State council Andy Kaonga said the two witnesses are very important to the case. “Bringing in the foreign witness, Dr Harper who is an expert in DNA testing would have been a challenge. We are therefore happy that she came and testified. We have eight witnesses. We are done with two and remaining with six,” Kaonga said.

In his brief remarks, Defense Counsel Chrispin Ndalama said the court would determine whether Dr Harper’s tests on samples are relevant or not. In November, Lin Yun Hua pleaded guilty to the charge of Illegal possessions of specimen of listed species, 103 pieces of Rhino horn.

Facts were presented and court convicted him on his own plea of guilty. A total of ten Chinese and four Malawian nationals have been arrested this year in relation to the syndicate in question and are at various stages of trial. Meanwhile, Chief Magistrate Chipao has adjourned the case to 21 January 2020.

How poachers turned wildlife protectors in Assam’s Manas National Park (India)

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Ratnadip Choudhury, NDTV | December 7, 2019

Read the original article and 4-minute video here

GUWAHATI:  Budheswar Bodo knows Assam’s Manas National Park like the back of his hand. A “wildlife protector” for the past 15 years, the 45-year-old begins each day with an evening drill and briefing to fellow volunteers deep inside the woods. He knows that if it’s not for those like him, the wildlife reserve will lose all its inhabitants to poachers who sneak in under the cover of the darkness.

But Budheswar Bodo wasn’t always this concerned about wildlife. Decades ago, when he was a notorious poacher, he had lost an arm in an encounter with a wild boar.

Manas was home to 22 of India’s most threatened species of mammals and 26 endangered birds before poachers killed almost all of its hundred-odd rhinos, most of its swamp deer and water buffaloes, and a large number of elephants and tigers in the 1980s. A lot of the forest’s prime timber was also illegally cut down at a time when the region was a hotbed of insurgency.

“We used to hunt animals for money. We killed many deer, elephants and rhinos, among other animals. We plundered Manas,” Budheswar Boro admitted to NDTV.

The Manas biosphere reserve, which houses the Manas Tiger Reserve and National Park in northwest Assam, was declared as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1985. However, the region was plunged into violence soon afterwards amid an armed struggle for a separate Bodoland state, and a substantial portion of its wildlife and pristine jungles was wiped out.

A revival initiative spanning 15 years has changed all that, with the region regaining the world heritage tag and the United Nations proposing to make Manas a hub for trans-boundary conservation efforts in the eastern Himalayas. And with the 2003 Bodoland accord in place, the same people who once poached and plundered the region are rebuilding what was once destroyed.

“After the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was formed in 2003, we encouraged local residents to participate in the conservation process. So they formed NGOs and became partners in the effort to conserve forests and protect animals,” BTC Deputy Chief Khampa Borgoyary told NDTV.

Today, the park is manned by hundreds of volunteers who were poachers at one time. The rhino count has gone up to around 40, there are at least 30 tigers and the old elephant corridors are abuzz with activity again. “I’m still haunted by memories of how I killed animals in the past. This is the only way I can atone for it,” said Joycharan Basumaty, another poacher-turned-volunteer.

One of the biggest challenges to the wildlife reserve comes from its shared border with the Royal Manas National Park in neighbouring Bhutan, claims Field Director Amal Chandra Sarmah. “There are poachers who enter our territory and kill animals before heading back. We caught two Bhutanese poachers recently, after which we intensified patrolling,” he said.

However, the cross-border geography of Manas is also turning out to be a huge advantage, with the United Nations now proposing to include it in the trans-boundary conservation landscape. And the rising tourist footfalls only go to show that the national park has come back to life.

Original photo by David Lloyd

Skills panacea for poaching (Botswana)

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The Daily News | December 8, 2019

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An increase of poaching incidences, especially killing of rhinos, worries President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Speaking on December 6 at a graduation ceremony of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC), President Masisi urged graduates to utilise skills they had acquired to win the war against poaching.

“You have graduated at a time when this country is facing the challenge of poaching. Poaching has the potential to wipe out our wildlife resources thus threatening the tourism industry, one of the key engines of the growth of our economy, not to mention the ripple effect it will have on the livelihoods of the persons who live proximately to such wildlife resource,” he said.

He said the BDF graduates should pass down what they had learnt to their subordinates, thereby maintaining a sustainable, well informed, trained, disciplined and agile workforce.

“I’m informed that while appreciating the utility of the military and other security players in the country, you were also introduced to the defence and strategic studies component. This has enriched your understanding of how the defence policy and national security fit into foreign policy and diplomacy as well as democratic civil military relations,” Dr Masisi, also Commander in Chief, added.

He said a number of diplomats had been at the college giving lectures on issues of international security, diplomacy and foreign policy. He said this served to enrich the curriculum and its growth.

Dr Masisi said the input from the diplomatic community had enhanced the prestige of the college.

“The presence of students from Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe in this college demonstrates our unwavering commitment to promote both bilateral and regional cooperation. It also resonates well with my statement during the recent State-of-the-Nation Address that Botswana continues to nurture friendly relations with other countries and forge strategic partnerships with the international community for her benefit and the greater good of humanity,” he said.

He said such encounters formed part of the meaningful relations that must be cherished and grown from strength to strength.

Dr Masisi said the graduates’ qualification would go a long way in preparing them to comprehend and manage any threat that might be dictated by realities of today’s security environment which was volatile, complex and ambiguous in nature.

For his part, DCSC commandant, Brigadier Papadi Monnatlhare said the graduation of the senior command and staff course class 12 of 2019 was the culmination of a year of hard work and commitment.

He said the college had done its utmost to equip them with the tools of their trade and their supervisors and subordinates were looking forward to reap the rewards.

“It is incumbent upon yourselves to live up to expectations through embracing high levels of professionalism, providing exemplary leadership, exercising integrity and selflessness as well as providing mentorship to your subordinates,” Brigadier  Monnatlhare said.

Original photo by Gerald van der Walt

Kaziranga bids adieu to Jorba, a police dog (India)

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Sanjoy Hazarika, The Telegraph India | December 8, 2019

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Like Ali Baba who helped catch 40 thieves, Jorba, a police dog, helped catch 40 poachers at Kaziranga National Park in Assam during his seven years of service before he retired on Friday.

The skilled dog was accorded warm felicitation at Kaziranga by the authority and well-wishers of the park.

The Belgium Malinois, owned by Aaranyak, an NGO working for environment conservation, was taken to Kaziranga in February 2013 after a series of rhino-poaching cases there. The male dog, bought by the NGO in August 2011 and engaged first in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in 2012, was trained in Guwahati by a foreign expert in tracking poachers.

The in-charge of sniffer dogs at Aaranyak, Anil Das, said Jorba is a dedicated dog and never created problems during his service period. “Though he was a bit scared of rhinos in the beginning, he later got accustomed to the animals of Kaziranga and helped the authority catch a poacher on the very first day in Kaziranga,” he said.

The expenditure for the dog was borne by Aaranyak, Das said.

Aaranyak secretary general Bibhab Talukdar said Jorba helped the forest department to catch as many as 40 poachers. “He was taken to Kaziranga from Pobitora because he was needed there,” he added.

Original photo as published by Telegraph India: Jorba with forest officials in Kaziranga. Picture by Sanjoy Hazarika

“We use this particular breed because of their extreme prey-drive capability. They are very helpful in arresting suspects. Once they pick up a scent and get a lead, they are capable of outrunning and bringing the suspect down if he tries to escape. This breed has been successfully used as military working dog by the US and European forces,” Talukdar said.

Former divisional forest officer of Kaziranga, Pradipta Baruah, said Jorba is very skilled. “He helped us track a dreaded gang of poachers in Lohore sapori and recover arms and ammunition used by them,” he added.

Outgoing Kaziranga DFO Rohini Ballav Saikia said the dog also helped to prevent poaching. “Jorba is a dedicated dog. He served us whenever we needed him,” he added.

Three more dogs owned by Aaranyak, Leon (male) at Bokakhat wildlife division, Shila and Emy (females) at Bagari range and Burhapahar range respectively, are engaged in duty at present.

Rhino warriors honoured for their bravery (South Africa)

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Lowvelder | December 9, 2019

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Spear is an acronym for “Stop Poaching Our Endangered African Rhino”. Its main aim is to create awareness and attract funding for the role players on the front lines. The CEO of Spear, Estelle Roe, explained that the greatest assets in the park are the rangers.

The aim of the awards was to credit the rangers, prosecutors, pilots and police officers for their relentless work, but also to bring local businesses into the fight against poaching.

These heroes over the years have fought relentlessly against the onslaught that the Marula South region, also known as the Intensive Protection Zone (IZP), has experienced from rhino poaching syndicates for the past decade.

The rangers were involved in more armed contacts per day than the SANDF soldiers were during the Border War. This team has, through its individual efforts, played a major role in the drastic year-on-year reduction of 48 per cent in rhino poaching since 2016.

Prosecutor Ansie Venter and legal adviser Coert Jordaan were also honoured for their relentless assistance in the fight.

• Neels van Wyk – section ranger: Crocodile Bridge
An excellent marksman with a natural talent for intelligence gathering with exceptional bushcraft, tracking and anti-poaching skills.

• Albert Smith – section ranger: Malalane
The founder of the highly successful camera trap systems and instrumental in
the development and implementation of other critical technology systems currently in the IZP.

• Marius Snyders – section ranger: Stolsnek
Showed consistent tenacity during follow-up operations.

• Craig Williams – section ranger: Pretoriuskop
Personally involved in five contacts in one day. Probably been in more armed contacts than any other section ranger in the history of the KNP.

• Mark McGill – technology operations manager
Best known for his role in developing, deploying and managing the Wide Area Surveillance System or Meerkat in the IZP. In two years the Meerkat was responsible for 45 arrests and the recovery of 15 firearms.

• Sgt Wilson Siwela – field ranger sergeant: Crocodile Bridge
Exceptional bush skills and anti-poaching talent and always leading from the front. Single-handedly took on, overpowered and arrested an armed group of poachers.

• Sgt Enock Manyike – field ranger sergeant: Malalane
Second-generation sergeant who has been at the forefront of numerous anti-poaching operations. Also the recipient of multiple bravery awards.

• Field ranger Tyson Maluleke – dog handler: Stolsnek
With his K9 partner, Kilalo, in four years have been involved in 61 contacts resulting in 183 arrests and the recovery of 47 firearms.

• Field ranger Derek Maluleke – dog handler: Malalane
He and his K9 partner, Charlie, in two years have been involved in 20 contacts resulting in 34 arrests and the recovery of 15 firearms.

• Charles Thompson – helicopter pilot and air-wing safety officer
Recipient of a bravery award for his flight that saved the life of a ranger who was shot in a contact, and is considered to be one of the best chopper pilots the KNP has had.

• Brad Grafton – helicopter pilot
The first pilot to be shot at by poachers and the only one to be shot at twice, both times saving the aircraft and passengers with his exceptional flying skills.

• Section ranger Richard Sowry – section ranger: Kingfisherspruit
Founder of the free-running pack hounds in the KNP. Persisted with the pack hound concept until a great number of successes silenced the pessimists.

• Johan van Straaten – K9 manager: Southern African Wildlife College
Trained the first tracking dog, that is still operational after many successful follow-ups.

• Johan de Beer – K9 manager: SANParks
Developed the K9 unit at Phabeni. His contribution to the fight against poaching is recognised by all.

• Steven Whitfield – regional ranger: Marula North region
Groundbreaking work done to formalise relations between KNP and Mozambique conservation and law enforcement agencies.

Original photo as published by Lowvelder