Tag

anti-poaching unit Archives - Rhino Review

All-Female Ranger Unit Protecting Kenya’s Wildlife

By Antipoaching, Conservation No Comments
Voa News | March 07, 2020

Read the original story here

KAJIADO, KENYA – Kenya’s Amboseli National Park is home to herds of elephants that have been the target of poachers trafficking in the illicit trade in ivory. Now a program that has brought women on board in the fight against poaching is gaining traction.

At the start of another day at the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch, 23-year-old park ranger Purity Amleset, the leader of this all female ranger unit, sets out the day’s plan with her team, ensuring that each member has her orders correct.

Today’s task: locating an elephant and her newborn calf.

Original photo as published by VOA News: Members of Team Lioness are seen in traditional garb on a day off from work. (Photo: Patrick Papatiti, Commander of the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers)

Team Lioness

Dubbed “Team Lioness,” the ranger unit is made up of eight women whose core duties involve protecting wildlife within the 1,230 square kilometer stretch of parkland that surrounds Amboseli National Park.

They are chosen for their academic achievements, physical stamina, integrity and discipline.

Amleset says joining an all-female ranger unit has been beneficial to the traditionally patriarchal Maasai community.

She says her community held the view that women and girls were the weaker sex and that girls could only do menial jobs and housework, which included only raising a family. However over the course of time, the female rangers have been showing and telling them the importance of being a ranger just like the menfolk.

Gateway for poachers

The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch’s proximity to the Amboseli park makes it a likely gateway for poachers who may seek entry into the national park to hunt illegally.

Patrick Papatiti, the commander of the Olgululului Community Wildlife Rangers has about 76 rangers under his charge. He says integrating women has not been easy.

“We have the same mentality even within the male ranger unit, the same mentality that ladies cannot do it. But surprisingly we have the best young women who can run, who can move faster than these guys, who can go long(er) distances than these guys,” he sad. “So from that, working together helped us to clear the norm that these are the same ladies the same girls that you see in the village.”

Despite the challenges, in the end James Isiche — the regional director for East Africa from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — says starting an all-female ranger unit was a risk worth taking.

“Communities in Kenya are male-dominated, but this particular one is extremely male-dominated,” he said. “So getting young ladies to engage in what is seen as a man’s job is a huge success and what we (are) seeing is that it’s encouraging other girls to step up and say that ‘when I finish school I also want to join the female lionesses.’”

Poaching trial to resume in May (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Sue Maclennan, Grocott’s Mail | March 13, 2020

Read the original story here

The trial of six men facing rhino-poaching charges continued in the Grahamstown High Court this week. East London residents Francis Chitiyo, Trymore Chauke, Misheck Chauke, Simba Masinge and Nhamo Muyambo, and Abraham Moyane were arrested in July 2018 during Operation Full Moon – the Eastern Cape Rhino Task Team’s code name for its anti-poaching operations.

All six have since been in custody. They are accused on four counts. The first two fall under the riotous assemblies act – statutory conspiracy to commit a restricted activity involving rhinoceros, and conspiracy to steal rhino horn. The second two counts are under the Firearms Control Act.

Original photo as published by Grocott’s Mail: Members of the Lalibela reserve anti-poaching unit poose for a photo outside the High Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) ahead of the sentencing of the Ndlovu rhino-poaching gang on 3 April 2019. Photo: Sue Maclennan

The men were arrested 10km outside Makhanda, following a search operation. A dismantled hunting rifle, wrapped in black plastic bags, was found stashed in the tailgate of one of two vehicles they were travelling in. Knives, backpacks containing overalls and shoes, 10 cellphones and yellow-handled axes, along with receipts for the axes, were found in the men’s possession.

Over several days, chief witness Captain Mornay Viljoen gave detailed evidence based on the cellphone records in support of the State’s case that seeks to link the men to rhino-poaching incidents in Cradock, Kabega Park in Port Elizabeth and Alicedale. Viljoen is head of the Jeffreys Bay based Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit.

This week, defence for the men questioned Viljoen’s grounds for the arrest, and stated that two of the suspects were on their way to work in the Port Elizabeth area. The defence also averred that Muyambo had been at home in Zimbabwe during the period in question. The State questioned alleged discrepancies between the stamps in his passport and data from Home Affairs.

Through his lawyer Advocate Charles Stamper, Muyambo also maintained that he had bought a phone from a second-hand shop with a sim card inside it.

An axe bought at a shop in East London by the accused just two days after his arrival, his lawyer was instructed, was for his father back in Zimbabwe. It was much cheaper to buy an axe in South Africa.

Viwe Mqeke of Mqeke Attorneys represents the first two accused and Stamper Accused 4-6.

Senior State Prosecutor Buks Coetzee Thursday concluded his cross-examination of Chitiyo about his cellphone records and his whereabouts during the periods in question.

The trial will resume on 11 May and is set down to conclude by 29 May.

 

Anti-poaching units shine at Etosha (Namibia)

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade One Comment
Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | March 11, 2020

See link for photos.

Significant successes, including the arrest of 63 suspects for wildlife-related crimes, have been recorded by anti-poaching units in the Etosha National Park since February last year.

This was revealed during a visit to Etosha by police inspector-general Sebastian Ndeitunga, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and defence minister Penda Ya Ndakolo last Friday.

The delegation flew in with a police helicopter to familiarise themselves with the situation on the ground and engage members of the units.

This is according to a statement issued by the police.

The anti-poaching units comprise of officials from the environment ministry, Namibian Defence Force (NDF) and the police.

The current commander of phase 18 of the joint operation, Chief Inspector David Sheehamandje, informed the delegation that during phase 16, which lasted from 16 February 2019 to 13 August 2019, significant successes were recorded.

A total of 18 old and fresh rhino carcasses were discovered in the park, while three individuals were arrested and five rifles were confiscated during the period.

During phase 17, which lasted from 13 August 2019 to 21 February 2020, a total of 16 rhino carcasses were discovered, 55 suspects were arrested, 14 rifles were confiscated and five pairs of rhino horns were recovered.

Since the commencement of phase 18 on 21 February, the operation teams have arrested five suspects and confiscated one rifle.

Both ministers and Ndeitunga applauded the anti-poaching units for their excellent work and successes, as well as their dedication, despite limited resources and other challenges they face.

They also emphasised the importance of protecting wildlife at all times to prevent potential poachers, middlemen and syndicate members from causing further damage to protected wildlife species.

 

‘This poaching war is ugly’ – Masisi (Botswana)

By Antipoaching No Comments
Bakang Tiro, The Patriot | February 6, 2020

Read the original story here

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is reading big sabotage on the increasing incidents of rhino poaching as mooted tactics aimed at destroying the image of Botswana tourism.

Over 30 rhinos have been killed by poachers in the past 12 months with fresh incidents of rhino poaching recently, a move that is making Botswana unsafe for the rhinos. A fresh carcass of a poached rhino was discovered recently killed at Chiefs Island Botswana, close to Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Camp and Wilderness Safaris Mombo lodge.

Briefing the media on Tuesday on the outcomes of the World Economic Forum he attended in Davos, Switzerland last week, Masisi expressed concern about rhino poaching figures recorded recently.

An emotionally charged Masisi hinted that Botswana’s anti-poaching policies were not changed when the hunting ban was lifted adding that he is not aware of decision to dehorn the rhinos. “There should be many underlying realities behind the rapid massacre of our rhinos. We know where these rhinos are staying and who are keeping them but all along there was less poaching of them. Why now? This could be a plot maybe by critiques to damage our image,” said Masisi.

He said the policies that his government has been pursuing are being challenged by some lobby groups with support of some group of local people with interests in the tourism sector. Masisi, however, remained cagey with the details.

“We should be all aware why of late there is an increase in number of rhinos poached this time around. There is even a relationship of the number and place where they have been poached. We all even know where the rhinos are also kept locally. This poaching war is ugly,’’ he added. Further, Masisi refuted claims that the rise in level of rhino poaching has been attributed to government’s decision to disarm the internal Anti-Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife.

Botswana Defence Force (BDF), was given the role of anti-poaching but critics said disarming the Wildlife Anti-Poaching Unit was opening room for poaching as the unit is inadequate. Former President Ian Khama, who is also a former tourism ambassador has been consistently criticising the Masisi led administration accusing it of degrading Botswana tourism after the government reversed the decision on the hunting ban he had imposed while in office. Like his younger brother Tshekedi-a former minister of wildlife and tourism, Khama also blamed the rise in poaching of protected wildlife species including the rhinos on the government’s decision to disarm the anti-poaching officers after his retirement as a president.

 

Tshekedi blames Masisi (Botswana)

By Antipoaching, Conservation One Comment
Phillimon Mmeso, The Patriot | February 6, 2020

Read the original story here

Former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) Tshekedi Khama has blamed skyrocketing incidents of poaching, where 39 rhinos have already been killed in the Okavango Delta, on ‘poor’ decisions by President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Specifically, Tshekedi put the blame on the disarmament of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit and dismantling of the Wildlife Intelligence Unit by government last year. In an exclusive interview, Tshekedi said the disarmament of the DWNP Anti-Poaching Unit has overburdened the Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF) Anti-Poaching Unit who are now the only disciplined force guarding the country’s fauna. “We had the best intelligence unit in the country and the only wildlife intelligence unit in Africa specializing on wildlife. The reason they were the best is because they solely focused on wildlife and managed to contain poaching in the country,” he said.

Original photo as published by The Patriot: Former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama.

He said DWNP Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) was well equipped and could detect any threat to the wildlife and with the collaboration with other law enforcement agencies they managed to contain poaching. “That is why in 2017 through our intelligence unit we managed to arrest DIS officers at Makalamabedi with ivory which they failed to account for,” he said.

Before the change of administration in April 2018, MEWT was planning to build Anti-poaching camps in Kasane, Maun and Kang. The design for the three camps which were each to cost P70 million has already been completed and just awaiting construction.

The outspoken Serowe West MP said members of the APU are now only equipped with hunting raffles that cannot match the firepower of poachers who are well equipped with military training background and weapons of war. He also argues that the shoot to kill policy worked for Botswana because poachers knew that once they cross into the country their earthly departure could be fastracked by the anti-poaching operations.

Defending the move to disarm the DWNP APU, Masisi said it was against the law to equip wildlife officers with weapons of war. “You cannot promote illegality and claim to be law abiding. I am an addict to the rule of law and cannot be associated with banditry and illegality. The stretch of imagination that I can be associated with illegality is utter nonsense,” he said.

There are allegations that some of law enforcement agents could be part of the poaching cartels and giving Intel to poachers. In response TK said it could be possible but was quick to state that he is no longer part of government and cannot say if it is true. “Remember that our Intelligence Unit once arrested DIS officers with ivory and they failed to account for it. We handed the case to the police and it just disappeared and when we enquired we were told kgang eo e ko bagolong,” said TK, throwing his hands in the air in despair before adding that the then Deputy Commissioner of Police – Bruno Paledi – ordered that the suspects be released from police custody.

Another sting operation by DWNP intelligence Unit uncovered a secret stash of elephant tusks at a DISS camp in Ngwashe, near Nata village in northern Botswana. If during that time DIS could be caught with ivory that they could not account for, TK says anything is possible. The current situation, according to the former cabinet minister, is scary and could negatively affect Botswana tourism. “If we cannot protect our animals what about the citizens,” he asked rhetorically.

Tshekedi, who is now a Member of Parliament under the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), said he is considering writing to President Mokgweetsi Masisi volunteering to help. “I am ready to work with President Masisi to find solutions to the high rate of poaching because it is threatening our tourism industry. This is not a partisan issue but rather an issue of patriotism,” he revealed, adding that he is in good terms with President Masisi.

TK finds a statement released by the MEWT calling on citizens to help arrest poachers as reckless and unfortunate. “They are now telling the poachers that they are helpless and are now running to the public for help,” he said.

Last week a Wildlife and Livestock Veterinarian Erik Verreynne put the blame on the previous administration that TK was part of, for believing that Botswana was a safe haven for wildlife saying it was naïve and arrogant. TK does not take kindly to the suggestion, saying Erik thinks highly of himself but he is just a veterinarian. “Who is he, what experience and expertise does he have? He is just a vet and one of the issues I had with him is that he wanted to be used when doing relocation of rhinos but I refused and appointed a Motswana Dr Reuben as the rhino relocation coordinator,” hit out TK saying Verreynne is chewing sour grapes.

Efforts to get comment from DWNP were fruitless as they did not respond to the questionnaire sent to them last week. The publication wanted to know if there has been any arrests made regarding the killing of the 39 elephants and if it is true that some DWNP officers might be part of the poaching cartel.

Responding to the escalating poaching especially of rhinos in the delta, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the country is looking at changing strategies on anti-poaching as well as renegotiating partnerships the country has with other stakeholders.

He argued that the escalation in the number of poaching incidents is not due to any change in policies towards anti-poaching as some may believe. Masisi indicated that due to the recent rise in rhino poaching, there is an imminent need to change strategies, but due to security reasons he could not reveal the new strategies to fight against poaching.

Taking a pot shot at his predecessor former president Ian Khama and those close to him, Masisi said that there is a worrying emergence of a small grouping that always have commentary of the poaching situation in Botswana intended to tarnish the country as a good haven for animals and in turn call for boycotting of Botswana tourism.

 

Botswana to change strategies on anti-poaching following massive rhino poaching

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Xinhua | January 28, 2020

Read the original story here

GABORONE: Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed on Tuesday that the country is looking at changing strategies on anti-poaching as well as renegotiating partnerships the country have with other stakeholders.

President Masisi was responding to questions from the media following revelations in the past week that at least 35 rhinos have been poached in the past nine months, with 13 of those poached only in the past two months. In almost all cases the rhinos have been found without horns, meaning they are being poached specifically for them.

The questions on poaching came as the president was updating the media on his recent trip to Davos, Switzerland for the just ended World Economic Forum.

He argued that the escalation in the number of poaching incidents is not due to any change in policies towards anti-poaching as some may believe.

President Masisi’s government was criticised for disarming an anti-poaching unit that was in place during the leadership of former President Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The two former close allies had a big fall-out that was widely reported and the former president has previously told the media that the incumbent has drawn back on the country’s efforts to stop poaching.

President Masisi said Botswana and its citizens have always upheld natural resources’ conservation mainly for the country’s tourism, and they will do everything to uphold this.

He said there is a worrying emergence of a small grouping that always have commentary of the poaching situation in Botswana and those want to tarnish the country as a good haven for animals and in turn call for boycotting of Botswana tourism.

He said due to the recent rise in rhino poaching, there is an imminent need to change strategies, but due to security reasons he could not reveal the new strategies to fight against poaching.

He said it is worrying that most of the rhinos killed are in the north-western part of the country in the Okavango Delta, which is the country’s hub for tourism.

The price of protecting rhinos

By Antipoaching, Conservation No Comments
Cathleen O’Grady, The Atlantic | January 13, 2020

Read the original story here

“Hsst!” hisses Charles Myeni. “Leave space!” Silently, the men in his anti-poaching unit spread out as they move through the bush in single file, leaving a few feet between them.

Myeni explains his command to me: If a rhinoceros poacher attacks us and we’re all neatly squished together in a line, he whispers, they “can take us all out, one-one-one-one. We’re all gonna die.”

Is he serious? His sardonic half smile is difficult to read. He may just be trying to scare me, the city-dwelling white girl tagging along on his morning patrol through South Africa’s Somkhanda Game Reserve. But I still stick as closely as I can to him and his automatic rifle.

The three guns between the six men on patrol should be enough to overpower any poachers, Myeni tells me, since a poaching team usually carries just one rifle. The last would-be rhino poachers apprehended on the reserve, in March of last year, were traveling in a pair: One carried a gun, and one carried an ax to hack off the rhino’s horn.

Myeni’s patrol moves swiftly, scouring the ground for tracks. The terrain is treacherous: The tawny, knee-high grass disguises ditches, rocks, and tree roots, while vicious thorn trees throw out branches at face height. The dry air on this bright winter morning is hot in the sun and freezing in the shade. Myeni spots rhino tracks and follows them for a while to check that they are not joined by human footprints, which would be a sign that someone had followed the rhino. But the tracks are old, and no rhino—or human—materializes.

South Africa’s most recent rhino-poaching crisis came out of the blue. In 2007, the country lost just 13 rhinos to poaching; the next year, that number jumped to 83, kicking off a nightmarish escalation. Losses peaked at 1,215 in 2014, and deaths are still high: 2018, with 769 rhinos killed, was the first year that losses had dipped under 1,000 since 2013. South Africa is home to 93 percent of Africa’s estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 39 percent of the remaining 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos, making South Africa’s rhino crisis a global rhino crisis.

Illustration as published by The Atlantic.

Demand for rhino horn has skyrocketed in Vietnam, where powdered horn is touted as both a hangover cure and a cancer treatment. Though it has no proven medicinal benefits—of no more value than human fingernails and hair, or horse hooves, which are made from the same material—it is associated with social status. As regional economies have boomed, its use has increased along with ordinary people’s purchasing power.

As the crisis continues, the job of protecting rhinos has changed dramatically. The South African military has stationed soldiers in the Kruger National Park. Surveillance technology like drones and light aircraft are used to spot signs of trouble. Rangers are trained by ex-military specialists. In 2012, the government body that oversees South Africa’s national parks appointed Johan Jooste, a retired military general, to oversee anti-poaching efforts.

As threats to species and natural resources escalate worldwide, conservation is looking more and more like war. National militaries play a role in conservation in the Congo, Cameroon, Guatemala, Nepal, and Indonesia. British troops have been sent to Malawi to provide ranger training. The U.S.-based nonprofit Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW) sends veterans to “lead the war” against wildlife crime in Africa.

The conservation war is a human war—with human casualties. Myeni’s wife and children live with the knowledge that he is in constant danger, he says. Respect Mathebula, the first ranger in Kruger National Park to be killed by poachers in more than 50 years, was shot in July 2018. The International Ranger Federation reports that 269 rangers were killed across Africa between 2012 and 2018, the majority of them by poachers.

Meanwhile, Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, alleges that 476 Mozambican poachers were killed by South African rangers between 2010 and 2015. South African authorities are cagey about releasing official figures, but research on organized crime estimates that between 150 and 200 poachers were killed in the Kruger National Park alone during the same period. In neighboring Botswana, anti-poaching action has reportedly resulted in dozens of deaths, and the country’s controversial “shoot to kill” policy—which gives rangers powers to shoot poachers dead on sight—has drawn allegations of abuse.

Species are swiftly being wiped out by the illegal wildlife trade, and the urgency of the situation provokes a panicked, violent response among those fighting to keep these species alive. But many conservationists are concerned about what the militarization of conservation means—for people, and for the success of conservation itself.

On a cool, cloudy morning, I set out to meet Thulani Mageba, a ranger at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park near South Africa’s east coast. (Mageba requested to go by a pseudonym for fear of retaliation by his employers.) The park is about the size of the city of Dallas, but humans are scarce; as I crawl my way through the park, where speeds are limited to 25 mph, I spot a hyena standing hunchbacked a few feet from the roadside, watching me warily.

The ranger outpost is quiet and feels slightly abandoned, but the two-way radio crackles with reports from rangers throughout the reserve. Mageba’s eyes flick nervously toward the radio each time a message comes through. KwaZulu-Natal, the province that is home to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, has the densest population of rhinos in South Africa, and the park has been hit hard by poaching.

Mageba didn’t sign up to be a soldier. When he started out as a ranger, a decade before the poaching crisis escalated in South Africa, he had no idea what the job entailed. “I liked to see people wearing the uniform in town during shopping days,” he tells me shyly. He fell in love with rhinos on the job.

His story isn’t unusual, says Dave Cooper, a wildlife vet based at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi: “Those same guys that were employed as game rangers, living in the bush, looking after animals, are suddenly employed as special forces.”

“Law enforcement has always been part of a ranger’s job description,” says Chris Galliers, chairman of the Game Rangers Association of Africa. But the balance of responsibilities has changed, he says: Where conservation work once occupied the bulk of rangers’ time, it is now likely overshadowed by enforcement work.

The rangers who face danger on a daily basis often do so in terrible working conditions. “I have seen rangers cry when talking about the difficulties of their job,” says the conservation researcher Francis Massé. He describes rangers in Mozambican parks living in dilapidated camps with no electricity or running water, being paid slightly above minimum wage, and sometimes living out in the bush for months at a time.

The situation in South Africa’s relatively well-funded parks is generally better, says Massé, but even there, conditions are far from acceptable. Rangers in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi report low pay, appalling housing, unpaid overtime, inadequate vacation time, and high stress. They describe working for 20 hours at a stretch, falling asleep on patrols, and waking up in the middle of the night to respond to gunshots.

Rangers are also separated from their families for long periods, and staff shortages make them reluctant to take time off even when it is permitted. “We don’t want to leave the reserve,” one ranger told a researcher investigating ranger welfare. “What happens if a rhino dies in your absence?”

Mageba tells me that he hasn’t seen his wife in four months. His family, he says, sometimes feels like he cares more about his work than he cares about them. “But they don’t understand the situation,” he says. “Losing a rhino is very painful.”

For rangers and other conservationists, says Galliers, the reserves themselves can become places of horror. Apart from the personal danger they face, they witness nearly constant violence toward the animals they love. Almost half of a rhino’s face can be bludgeoned off by a blunt ax, says Cooper. Calves or even full-grown rhinos may be killed by panga or ax if an initial gunshot fails to kill them.

And time off at home doesn’t always provide respite. In certain communities, rangers are “seen as the bad guy, they’re seen as murderers, for doing their job,” says Massé. Poachers bring wealth into their communities, he explains, and the rangers’ neighbors are often baffled by or angry at their interference with a much-needed source of income.

“If you think of the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Game Rangers Association of Africa, “there’s a tour of duty and then there’s a period of being removed from that high intensity.” For rangers, though, there is no such reprieve: “You don’t get pulled out of that context. You just keep going.”

“We worry about 10, 15, 20 years from now,” says Campbell. “We want to keep rangers in the profession that are well supported, well looked after, and that have a sustainable career as rangers”—not, he says, people that burn out, succumbing to mental and physical exhaustion after two or three years.

The difficult conditions take a toll not only on the rangers but also on the quality of their work: Their concentration lapses at crucial moments. Resources and time for more mundane conservation duties are scarce. And the poor pay and constant danger make it tempting to play double agent for the poachers.

By the time I leave Mageba, the clouds have descended into a blanket of brownish gray. I see vultures circling and involuntarily picture the carcass they might have spotted. A helicopter hovers over a different section of the park. Could that be a rhino kill? My time with Mageba has left me twitchy. Suddenly, a police car rounds the bend ahead and tears toward me, a ranger vehicle following close behind. Mageba’s radio must have finally delivered the inevitable bad news.

In hluhluwe-imfolozi, the ever-present tension is mostly hidden from visitors. There are hints of the ongoing crisis—a quick search of the car upon entry; a sign forbidding the use of drones; a poster asking for donations to save the rhinos—but even here, rhino poaching mostly feels like something that is happening elsewhere.

The rhinos themselves are elusive. After seven days, I’ve seen countless elephants, zebras, baboons, and giraffes, and gawped at a cluster of orphaned rhinos kept in pens, but I’ve spotted not a single wild rhino. One afternoon, a series of booming, meaty grunts comes drifting into my room at the very edge of Hilltop Camp, along with a strong smell of cow dung. There’s clearly a gigantic herbivore a few feet away, but it is completely concealed by a dense screen of bushes and trees. Elephant? Or rhino? I spend ages peering into the bush, but I can’t see so much as a monkey.

The camp is surrounded by electric fences, making it safe for tourists to leave their cars and enjoy the picnic areas, swimming pool, and spectacular view from the restaurant terrace. At night, the Milky Way stretches across the sky; a small cluster of lights twinkles in the distance, a reminder that the towns dotting the borders of the park are not that far away.

Ordinary people have been kept out of iMfolozi, the southern section of the park, for roughly 200 years. The legendary Zulu king Shaka, who rose to power in 1819, drove out the inhabitants who lived between the two iMfolozi rivers and restricted hunting. In 1824, British settlers initiated ivory trade in the area, and their game hunting drove such a decline in the white-rhino population that five new reserves—including Hluhluwe and iMfolozi—were designated in 1895 by colonial authorities.

These days, the park is open only to the select few who find employment as conservation or tourism staff, and to the tourists who can afford to pay for the experience. My modest room at Hilltop Camp costs $595 for six nights, more than the monthly take-home pay of 93 percent of South Africans.

Conservation has a long history of removing people from their land in the interest of preserving wildlife. It’s a model that sees human occupation as incompatible with conservation, despite evidence that indigenous people can play a crucial role in protecting biodiversity. For many conservationists, tourism in otherwise human-free preserves is both a useful way to fund conservation and an industry to be protected in its own right. “Africa holds the last caches of this wildlife,” says Jooste, the retired general who oversees anti-poaching for South Africa’s national parks. Tourism helps protect wildlife for its own sake, he adds, and “it’s one of the economic engines of our country.”

In South Africa, the conflicts surrounding conservation divide along racial lines. Poachers are often assumed to be black, though this assumption is not always accurate, and news of their violent end is often celebrated by white South Africans. save a rhino, kill a poacher, reads a bumper sticker I used to see growing up in Johannesburg. the testicles of a rhino poacher can cure aids, says another, mocking both traditional medicine and South Africa’s HIV crisis while delivering its implicit threat.

There’s a widespread assumption among both black and white South Africans that conservation is a concern of white people. Meanwhile, black people witness a lucrative tourism industry operating on their ancestral lands, and the majority cannot afford to access it. Hostility and poverty combine to create the perfect storm for poacher recruitment. “[Poachers] know what the risk is, and they’re still willing to take it,” Massé says. “There’s a social and economic context that motivates them to do that.”

The poaching crisis is “an urgent situation,” he says, “but the militarization of conservation is having a lot of concerning impacts, both socially and ecologically.” Those impacts are both chronic and acute: In Eswatini, rangers allegedly killed suspected subsistence poachers hunting for meat. Anti-poaching forces in Tanzania have allegedly raped and tortured local villagers and suspected poachers. Anti-poaching units in Africa and Asia supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have allegedly committed abuses ranging from assault to murder.

Not only are these incidents unconscionable in their own right, but they also intensify local opposition to conservation. Treating local people as enemies poses a risk to the sustainability of conservation, Massé says: “It creates tensions and hostilities, and alienates them.”

Concerns about militarization are not limited to researchers like Massé—conservationists working the field are worried, too. Employees of South Africa’s national parks have written about the long-term human and conservation costs of military tactics. The Game Rangers Association of Africa has expressed concern about foreign soldiers, military veterans, and private security experts jetting in to train rangers without any understanding of the ecological or social context.

“The big question is the sustainability of these operations,” says Galliers. “How long can this last? How long can you keep purchasing and flying a helicopter that costs $1,000 an hour?” Military intervention can only be a short-term strategy; in the long term, what’s needed is support from the communities in and around reserves. Otherwise, Massé says, “conservation’s never going to be successful.”

Somkhanda game reserve is only about a 60-mile drive north of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, but it’s a different world. The small towns surrounding Hluhluwe seem like bustling cities compared to the scattered traditional homesteads around Somkhanda. None of these households have electricity, and most have no running water. Many people have little reason to speak much English, and after a couple of days I begin to curse my pathetic elementary-school isiZulu.

This tiny reserve is trying to do things differently. It’s neither a huge state-owned park like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi nor a private game ranch. It’s a relatively young reserve, stitched together from the cattle and game farms that were restored to their original owners, the Gumbi clan, through South Africa’s post-apartheid land-restitution process. The Gumbi community-owned reserve, run in partnership with the nonprofit Wildlands Conservation Trust, employs around 100 people, offers training and internships, and runs education programs for local children, trying to cultivate a love for the bush.

When I arrive at Somkhanda, the young ranger guarding the gate shoots me a few stern questions. He hasn’t been told to expect me, and seems on high alert. While I wait for him to phone park headquarters to confirm whether he should allow me in, I eye a large sign outside the reserve gate. Somkhanda Game Reserve, it reads. Protected by ipss anti-poaching unit. IPSS, a private security company, offers a range of services around the province, including anti-poaching units and residential armed response. Although they help supply Somkhanda’s anti-poaching unit, the rangers themselves are hired from the reserve’s neighboring communities.

Within a few minutes of entering the park, I’ve seen giraffes, zebras, warthogs, and even a small herd of African buffalo. As I pass them, one wet-nosed bull watches me balefully, a calf sheltering behind him. On this smaller, cosier reserve, I hope my rhino-spotting luck will improve. But the rhinos tantalize me, continually lurking just out of sight. The rhino tracks Myeni spots on patrol with his anti-poaching unit lead to nothing. During an early-morning drive with the wildlife-monitoring team, we hop out of the truck, breath misting as we squint into the bright sunrise, and follow more rhino tracks—nothing.

Sihle Mathe, a tracker who can read the movements of animals in bent grass and what appears to me as entirely normal-looking dirt, suggests that I join him while he tries to track one of the reserve’s notoriously aggressive black rhinos. He chuckles at my trepidation. If she charges me, I ask, what should I do? Climb a tree, he says nonchalantly, but only if she’s more than 50 meters away. And if she’s closer? “Don’t try that. You’ll die.”

My eagerness to see the rhino begins to override my sense of self-preservation, but when I mention the plan to the reserve manager, Meiring Prinsloo, he shuts it down immediately. No rhino tracking for me—from the vantage point of a tree or otherwise.

Still, the reserve staff is scheduled to dehorn a rhino while I’m here, which surely means a sighting. But the day of the dehorning dawns wild and windy, and, to my dismay, the plan is called off—there’s no chance of darting a rhino successfully if wind is pulling the tranquilizer dart off course.

The young black rhino scheduled for dehorning will go through many throughout her life, all intended to protect her from her own dangerously precious cargo. Since rhino horn is made of keratin, like fingernails and hair, horns grow back quickly. To protect a rhino from the poaching that could target even the tiniest stump, dehorning should ideally happen every year or two.

Dehorning is far from an ideal solution: It’s expensive, anaesthetizing rhinos can harm them, and it’s not properly understood what long-term effects dehorning could have on a rhino population. Bigger parks, like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and the Kruger National Park, have held off on the pricey and difficult venture of dehorning their huge rhino populations, although Kruger has recently started dehorning some of its female rhinos.

There’s limited evidence on how much protection dehorning can offer, so it is just one of Somkhanda’s range of anti-poaching measures. The supportive community is another line of defense: Local people, invested in the reserve and its benefits, are less inclined to harbor poachers, and a strong network of informants tips off the reserve if a syndicate is operating in the area. Informers told reserve staff about the poachers they apprehended last year.

Somkhanda hasn’t lost a rhino since May 2018. It’s not clear whether the reserve’s anti-poaching success stems from the regular dehornings, the supportive community, or some other factor—like the fact that it’s easier to keep tabs on a 30,000-acre reserve than one the size of a major city. But they aren’t relying on these advantages to keep their rhinos safe: Like any other reserve, Somkhanda has an armed anti-poaching unit, surveillance, and aerial patrols.

Prinsloo’s 6-year-old daughter often tags along with him on reserve business. A few days later, on the day of the hastily rearranged dehorning, her tiny silver ballet flats jostle alongside the butt of Prinsloo’s rifle in the passenger footwell of his truck. We join the small crowd that has descended on the reserve for the event: two wildlife vets, a helicopter pilot, a WWF representative, a gaggle of trainee vets from Canada, and a team of assorted staff, volunteers, and spectators.

The weather is mercifully calm, but there are more hitches to come—the rhino in question can’t be found. While the trackers keep looking, the crowd lounges in the sun at the reserve’s main camp. The Canadian trainee vets pass around a bottle of sunscreen and solicit restaurant recommendations for their upcoming trip to Cape Town. Two wilderness guides start a spirited discussion on the best South African snacks, while one braids the other’s hair in an elaborate updo.

Finally, after hours of waiting, the call comes: The trackers have temporarily given up on the rhino they were supposed to find—but they have her younger sister in sight, and the vet is primed with his dart gun in the helicopter, ready to pump her full of opioids and tranquilizers. The decision is quickly made to dehorn this young rhino instead of her elusive big sister.

The sleepy mood disappears abruptly. The crowd of staff and spectators sprints for the trucks, and I leap onto the back of a vehicle that is already moving. After a short, wild ride, we spot the helicopter hovering ahead. On foot, we hurtle through the bush to find the rhino already unconscious, the large dart sticking out of her rump.

She seems strangely fragile. She is 8 feet and 3 inches from nose to tail, and the vets put her at around 1,500 pounds—but she is still a juvenile, and she’s incapacitated, surrounded by a swarm of 20 people. Her skin is hot and leathery, but butter-soft near her mouth. She heaves six great sighs per minute. When her blindfold shifts, I see that her eyes are slightly open, and flickering. It feels like she is watching us, helplessly, while we attack her in a way she cannot possibly understand.

Dehorned rhinos never recover their characteristic silhouette: Regrown horns are lumpy and misshapen, too thick at the top. This juvenile’s horns are still perfect. In seconds, they are gone. As the vet uses the chainsaw, and then an angle grinder to shave down the remaining stump, a stream of white, fingernail-like shavings flies at me.

While the vet is working, someone shoves the horns into my hands, asking me to pass them along to another staff member. They are smooth and surprisingly small, the weight of dense wood. In this crowd, they have no value; they will be unceremoniously thrown into a backpack. Soon, Prinsloo tells me, they will leave Somkhanda and be taken to be stored indefinitely in an off-site vault. Somewhere along the way, they will become valuable enough to kill for, and die for.

The would-be rhino poachers apprehended at Somkhanda in March were not from the area—one was from Mozambique, and the other was South African but not local, according to Prinsloo. But locals do hunt illegally on the reserve. On my patrol with Myeni and his anti-poaching unit, one of the rangers notices a snare, probably intended to catch bushmeat.

One afternoon, the unit calls in a gruesome discovery: a field of critically endangered white-backed vulture corpses, poisoned by feeding on a baited impala carcass. Fifteen vultures are already dead when we arrive, and although the vets frantically try to save the four survivors, two more die within hours. The goal was probably to harvest their heads for use in local traditional medicine, says the senior ranger Nkosinathi Mbhele. Support from locals is strong, but it’s not absolute.

One afternoon, Mbhele takes me to visit some of the families in the surrounding villages. We spend hours in the truck driving from place to place, and Mbhele fills the time by patiently explaining the intricacies of Zulu land ownership, leadership, and family responsibility. He delves into each subject with depth and clarity, illustrating his points by acting out little sketches in which he plays all the roles.

Our first visit is to Voyi Gumbi. Born in 1956, Gumbi has lived here all his life, and witnessed the return of the land to the community and the creation of the reserve. His homestead—a cluster of traditional huts—is bustling with chickens, goats, and grandchildren.

As Mbhele translates, Gumbi tells me that he is ambivalent about the reserve’s benefits. The rhinos, he says, were there long before he was born, and preserving them is an important part of preserving his cultural heritage. His son Vincent, employed by the reserve as a field ranger, is living his dream. But the reserve’s efforts focus mostly on jobs and education for young people, Gumbi says, and communication from the reserve to the people is not good. He has never been inside; he would love to take a game-watching tour.

Additionally, the reserve has hurt the local cattle. Cows are so beloved and so central a part of Zulu culture that the word Nguni refers to the primary cattle breed raised by Zulus, the group of languages to which isiZulu belongs, and the group of peoples that includes Zulus. Research from Somkhanda reports that some people know their dozens of individual cattle by name. These precious cows—each worth more than a year’s income for the vast majority of South Africans—have been killed by diseases transmitted by buffalo grazing along the reserve’s fence line, and the owners have not been compensated, Gumbi says.

Phowa Dlamini, our second stop, is less ambivalent than Gumbi. She sits comfortably on the ground at her homestead, surrounded by babies of all kinds—her grandchildren, kittens, a cluster of baby goats. She doesn’t see the benefits of the reserve, she says. But Dlamini’s daughter Sanele interjects, pointing out that four people from the homestead have worked at the reserve, including Dlamini’s field ranger son Pumlani.

When Mbhele and I arrive back at the reserve gate, I gasp in recognition. Pumlani, the ranger who had greeted me so sternly when I arrived, bounds up to the car beaming, his deep-set eyes and straight eyebrows almost identical to his sister Sanele’s. Mbhele chuckles at my reaction and calls over one of the other rangers milling about near the gate—Vincent Gumbi, who is the spitting image of his father, Voyi.

Pumlani, Vincent, and their families are among the fortunate few. Though the reserve offers jobs, training, and infrastructure, there are thousands of people surrounding the reserve and only a handful find jobs there. And there is discontent with how the community trust that owns the land distributes the benefits among people.

More than a decade into the rhino-poaching crisis, South Africa is still figuring out how to achieve justice for rhinos and people at the same time. Reserves that serve their local communities may be part of the puzzle, but they’re not a panacea—and they don’t necessarily result in total demilitarization.

A couple of days before I leave Somkhanda, I drop in on the reserve’s annual community soccer tournament. It’s held on Youth Day, a national holiday commemorating the anti-apartheid student protests of 1976, in which hundreds of people were killed by police. The sunny field is pumping with loud music and excited spectators. Two teenagers photobomb my selfies; a section ranger, glowing from his soccer game, tells me how happy he is with his job.

By the time the tournament winds down and I catch a ride with Mbhele back to camp, darkness and chill have settled in. We huddle in the cab of the safari truck and bounce over the rough gravel road. Nothing is visible in the gloom beyond the headlights.

As Mbhele talks about his time working at a gold mine near Johannesburg, I realize that the music playing on the radio is oddly appropriate: It’s a famous anti-apartheid struggle song about migrant laborers in the mines, brought from across southern Africa by train to work “16 hours or more a day / for almost no pay / deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth.”

The train-like rhythm of the song grows more urgent as the singer’s spoken lyrics begin to reach a fever pitch. “They think about the loved ones they may never see again,” he says. “They think about their lands and their herds / that were taken away from them / with the gun and the bomb and the tear gas.”

Just as the singer screams in imitation of a train horn—WHAA WHAA—and the drums build to a crescendo, a gigantic animal crashes across the path ahead of us and pauses for a moment. My brain takes a second to resolve the shape of its hindquarters in the headlights. Elephant? No, rhino. The first wild, conscious rhino I have ever seen. The living battleground on which countless lives are being lost and destroyed. In an instant, the rhino is gone.

Cathleen O’Grady is a South African science writer based in Scotland. Her writing has appeared in Hakai, Undark, FiveThirtyEight, and Ars Technica.

 

Rhino conservation star made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (South Africa)

By Conservation No Comments
The Independent Online | December 3, 2019

Read the original story here

DURBAN: Prominent KZN Conservationist Sheelagh Antrobus has just been accepted as a fellow of the prestigious Royal Geographical Society, the professional body that advances geography and supports related fields of interest across the globe.

Antrobus, the founder of conservation organisation Project Rhino, is an integral member of the Kingsley Holgate Foundation expedition team, which specialises in using geographic adventures to conduct humanitarian work and raise awareness about Africa’s endangered wildlife.

This South Africa-based Foundation now boasts four fellows of the Royal Geographical Society including Ross Holgate, who heads up the foundation, Mike Nixon, the celebrated mountain biker who cycles the expeditions, and the legendary adventurer and humanitarian himself, Kingsley Holgate.

Original photo as published by IOL: Sheelagh Antrobus outside the Royal Geographical Society headquarters in London. (Picture: Kingsley Holgate Foundation)

Over the past three years, Antrobus has been part of the team that completed three expeditions. In 2017, they reached Africa’s most easterly point in Somalia on the Horn of Africa; in 2018, a transcontinental journey from Cape Town to Kathmandu in Nepal and onto India; more recently in 2019, their east-to-west Zambezi to Congo expedition included helping the Doctors for Life volunteer medical team to conduct life-changing eye operations.

Intrinsically embedded into all their expeditions is communicating the urgent need to conserve Africa’s wildlife and in particular, the rhino.

Antrobus’s love for wildlife led her to set up the award-winning, aerial anti-poaching unit, the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing (ZAP-Wing) that supports more than 20 game reserves collectively holding the second-largest remaining population of rhinos left in the world. In 2016 she received the prestigious Rhino Conservation Award from the Game Rangers Association of Africa. She is one of the founders of Rhino and Elephant Art, a youth conservation programme that uses educational school lessons and community football matches to engender a passion for wildlife among young people, as well as the World Youth Wildlife Summit series, which works towards building a new generation of conservation leaders across Africa and the world.

“Through these expeditions we have traversed Africa and beyond, visiting more than 25 countries in the past three years,” says Antrobus. “We have been very blessed to have such incredible opportunities to go to places where few “outsiders” venture in our modern world. While doing our humanitarian and conservation work, we see some incredible sights, meet extraordinary people from many cultures, and are able to report back on some of the remotest and often forgotten locations in Africa.”

To be accepted as a fellow of the 190-year-old Royal Geographical Society, a person must have sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through their training, profession, research and publications, or demonstrate expertise in related fields such as the environment, conservation and ecology.

Previous fellows include Sir Charles Darwin, Dr David Livingstone, polar explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Robert Scott, mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, Michael Palin and Joanna Lumley.

Speaking from Afrika House on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, an excited Antrobus said, “This is a huge honour for me. It is quite incredible that there are now four of us in the Kingsley Holgate expedition team who are fellows. Holding a fellowship opens up many doors to network and share information, but it comes with some important responsibilities, such as continually enhancing geographical knowledge and understanding of related critical issues among the wider public. I say a heartfelt thank you to all the people in my life – family, friends, colleagues and associates – who have helped me get to where I am today, and I hope that this encourages other women to get out there and explore the amazing wild places of this beautiful continent, be courageous enough to follow their passion, whatever it may be, and stand up for a cause they feel strongly about.”

And plans for the foreseeable future?

“Christmas with family, relaxing after a rather busy year, and planning for our next Land Rover geographic adventure in 2020, which will continue to focus on raising awareness of the crisis facing Africa’s endangered wildlife, particularly the rhino, alongside our humanitarian endeavours.”

Poachers take rhino battle from bush to courtroom (South Africa)

By Antipoaching No Comments
Lowvelder | November 15, 2019

Read the original story here

A sharp drop in the number of rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park (KNP) was recorded this year, with credit given to the relentless operations of anti-poaching units.

Poachers were struggling to get into the park through the now well-patrolled fence lines, and even if they did get through, they were often apprehended before a single shot was fired, or soon after a poaching incident, due to the quick reaction of the K9 and air-wing units, and the groundwork of the rangers.

Despite this, morale among members of the Environmental Crime Investigation Services at KNP is said to be at an all-time low as a result of rumours of an “onslaught” on the court and police officials, and even the ranger corps.

Original photo as published by Lowvelder.

Several rangers were arrested over the past few years on poaching-related charges. This includes Rodney Landela, who was arrested in 2017 and was set to appear in the Skukuza Regional Court on Monday. He did not appear, as his case was moved to the Mhala Regional Court for November 21, and his advocate had allegedly withdrawn.

Hawks spokesman Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi also confirmed that an Mpumalanga police officer with alleged links to a syndicate rumoured to be behind massive trafficking was arrested recently.

Several other suspects and current and former police officers were arrested on similar charges in the past year. This includes Phenias Lubisi, a former SAPS station commander of Skukuza, who was arrested last year.

Another blow was dealt to the poaching fight when senior ranger Don English, who has been at the forefront in the battle, was suddenly suspended. Allegations of assault were supposedly made by ex-rangers turned suspected poachers, but this could not be confirmed by the time of going to print.

Since September last year supporters of alleged rhino-horn kingpin Joseph Nyalungu, better known as Big Joe, and Petros Sidney Mabuza, better known as Mr Big, have been demanding English’s head on a platter.

Despite instructions from the Judge President of Mpumalanga, Francis Legodi, that the Skukuza Regional Court must continue as usual pending a full investigation, there are apparently few or no cases left on the roll.

While court was in session on October 15, witnesses testifying for the state expressed grave concern when cases were remanded to days that the prosecutor protested she would not be available.

The magistrate placed on record from the bench that her instructions from the Regional Court President, Naomi Engelbrecht, were to remand the cases to those specific dates with or without a prosecutor present. This worries the anti-poaching fraternity, who fear that hearing cases without a prosecutor present could result in those cases ceasing to continue.

“The four dates issued as an instruction by Engelbrecht to hear the 20-odd cases left on the roll were for the end of October and the beginning of November. The diaries of the prosecutor, interpreters and stenographers are set up six months in advance and this short notice makes it impossible for them to be available,” said an informed source.

The magistrate also said Engelbrecht informed her that she would inform the director of public prosecutions, Advocate Matric Lupondo, of the dates so that he can be aware of the fact.

General manager of communication at KNP, Ike Phaahla, confirmed that the mood was dark over the so-called attack on the courts and its officials.

“The colleagues I have spoken to had said their morale was very low. A number of rangers have been intimidated, received threats against their lives or the lives of their family members, with some communities openly siding with the poachers.”

The past few weeks of disorder have in the meantime taken its toll on the rhino population in the KNP. According to anti-poaching sources, as many as 20 rhinos were poached during the past two weeks.

Elise Serfontein of StopRhinoPoaching.com, the organisation that first exposed this latest attempt to close Skukuza Regional Court, is gravely concerned about these latest developments.

“We would like to appeal to Judge Legodi to speak directly to the people on the ground – the state officials working in the court as well as the rangers themselves. We are aware of the tactics being used by the poachers’ defence lawyers to delay cases, block the court roll and bully ranger witnesses on the bench. They are coming up with any excuse they can.”

Despite repeated attempts to contact Engelbrecht on her office line, she could not be reached for comment on any of the allegations. Administrative staff at her office were not willing to provide her email address or alternative contact numbers when asked. Email queries to the Department of Justice, the Judiciary and the National Prosecuting Authority requesting comment from Engelbrecht remained unanswered.

Serfontein added that only under Legodi’s leadership would Skukuza Regional Court survive this onslaught.

“With the court out of the way, poachers would feel a lot more confident. All indications are that the syndicates have found new ways to neutralise anyone who is effective.”

Skukuza Regional Court has set the precedent for rhino poaching cases in courts around South Africa. A petition started last month to save the court has gathered 76,000 signatures and outlines the consequences – especially the risk to rangers – should the court be moved from Skukuza to Mhala.

Consequences of closing the Skukuza court

· Rangers testifying in court will need to travel vast distances to Mhala, taking them further away from their bases. Poachers take full advantage of court days, gaining specific information on which rangers are due in court and planning their poaching trips around this.

· Rangers travelling to Mhala means lost work hours and increased travel costs. With the court in Skukuza, rangers are close to court and close to their areas of operation if needed in an emergency.

· Difficult for the SAPS stock-theft unit to attend, since the district court has already to a large extent moved to Bushbuckridge. Now the members have to attend court at Bushbuckridge as well as Mhala, both far from their office.

· Transporting prisoners from Nelspruit prison to Mhala means extra travelling for Skukuza SAPS.

· The road to Mhala is under construction, making it difficult to get to court on time.

Judge President of Mpumalanga, Francis Legodi: “I am very worried if what is stated is correct. Pursuant to my directive at the beginning of October 2019, the Regional Court President did not submit the written report by October 18 as requested. The Department of Justice also did not submit any report by October 31, as requested by my office. Only SANParks and NPA submitted their reports.

“I have once more asked for the written reports against or for the closure of Skukuza Regional Court from the Regional Court President and the Department of Justice.

“The Regional Court President, in her recent email addressed to me, indicated that her standpoint of March 2017 stands. She did this without indicating her motivation for her standpoint in 2017 and her recent decision to close the Skukuza court.

“I have requested the Regional Court President last week to provide a written motivation for closing the Skukuza court without reverting to the stakeholders who took the decision two years ago to continue using the Skukuza Regional Court. Her response is due by Friday this week.

“Once all reports are at hand they will be shared and a meeting will be convened as soon as possible to seek for an amicable solution after having heard all parties. I am still optimistic that an amicable solution will be found.”

Ike Phaahla, GM of communication at Kruger National Park: “We can confirm that Don English, a game ranger, has been suspended and there is a possibility that more suspensions may follow. This is part of an ongoing investigation around allegations that remain just that: allegations. However, as part of good governance, and respect for all our employees, suspensions are a necessary part of the process for investigations to happen effectively, and with transparency. The SANParks CEO became aware of certain complaints, and immediately initiated an investigation by an independent consultant, and appointed Advocate Boyce Mkhize. The investigation has been conducted and numerous interventions by management, human resources and even the SANParks CEO have happened, and are still in progress.”

Bulelwa Makeke, head of communications at National Prosecuting Authority: “This is a matter for the judiciary to respond to (Judge President and the RCP), not the NPA.”