Zainul Dawood, IOL | April 19, 2021
Field rangers are still searching for more poachers, after one was trampled by elephants and another was arrested in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Sunday.
Managing executive of the reserve, Gareth Coleman, called on the community living close to the park to assist with information.
SA National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson Isaac Phaahla said the deceased and his accomplices were fleeing from rangers on Saturday, when they ran into a breeding herd of elephants in the Phabeni area.
Phaahla said rangers were out on a routine patrol, when they detected incoming spoor.
They followed up and spotted three poachers. With a foot chase ensuing, the air-wing and K9 unit were called as back-up. Phaahla said the poachers dropped an axe and a bag with their provisions, in an attempt to escape from the rangers.
“The arrested poacher informed rangers that the group had run into a herd of elephants and was not sure if his accomplice had managed to escape.
“The rangers discovered his accomplice badly trampled. He died on the scene. The third poacher is said to have been injured in the eye, but continued to flee. A rifle was recovered,” Phaahla said.
Coleman said that only through discipline, teamwork and tenacity would they be able to help stem the tide of rhino poaching in the park.
“The campaign against poaching is the responsibility of all of us. It threatens many livelihoods, destroys families and takes much-needed resources to fight crime, which could otherwise be used for creating jobs and development,” he said.
DA spokesperson on environment, forestry and fisheries Dave Bryant called for an explanation on how constantly moving rangers around would assist anti-poaching efforts.
Bryant said the KNP simply stating that the rotation policy would help to “share the workload” was not an adequate reason for moving experienced rangers away from key hot spots.
Phaahla said the park’s rhino population has been on the decline for the past 10 years, despite the many efforts in place to secure it.
“Despite the huge effort of our rangers and great cost to SANParks, the organisation has struggled to reverse these trends. The conditions of service is a requirement that rangers should move periodically. This is for many reasons.
“Some are related to security. Also to ensure that the workload is shared. Rangers working in demanding areas, which experience regular contacts with poachers, are rotated. Additional operational reasons for transfers would include learning opportunities, skills development, capitalising on individual strengths, and mentoring,” Phaahla said.