The scourge in rhino poaching in South Africa has left the country needing to beef up security in its National Parks and private game reserves. Given that rhino-poaching gangs are invariably armed to the teeth, anti-poaching units need to be better prepared themselves.
They require a higher level of training, better equipment and greater communications systems. Inevitably the cost of increasing security is putting a great strain on government conservation funds and private rhino owners, many resources are being provided for by external donors and nation-wide fundraising initiatives.
One such example of this in the Pilanesberg National Park where Anti Poaching Units have been bolstered thanks to a donation of the latest communications technology from Altech Alcom Radio Distributors together with its channel partner Lazer Communications.
With a collective value exceeding R300 000, the donation comprises 18 Motorola MotoTrbo digital two-way radios, two dispatcher units and a repeater, and installation and support of the systems.
Johnson Maoka, Park Manager at Pilanesberg National Park, emphasised that in order for game reserves and national parks across South Africa to effectively fight the scourge of poaching, they had to have a number of tools in place: “These include reliable all-terrain vehicles, specialised staff trained in anti-poaching tactics, anti-poaching equipment and an efficient communications system. Each is as important as the other in deterring and combating poaching – only when all are in play can rangers be their most effective. That is why donations are so important for the future of our rhino and other endangered species.”
As is the case with the majority of South Africa’s game reserves, Pilanesberg has not emerged unscathed from the relentless onslaught of rhino poachers. Since March 2010 the park has mourned the loss of 20 of its rhinos. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of management and its rangers however, the last attempted poaching at Pilanesberg was foiled in September 2011.
“As suppliers to the Pilanesberg National Park, we are very aware of the communications challenges facing rangers on the ground,” says Leon Coetzee, managing director: Lazer Communications. “We therefore wanted to make a contribution that would give them an advantage and improve their communications network, especially given the topography of the park.”
“Key to our decision as to what technology to supply were the advantages offered by the MotoTrbo system, most notably in terms of its location information, encryption, ambient noise cancellation and text messaging capabilities.”
In the case of location information for example, the GPS antenna in each radio allows the park’s central control room to not only communicate with rangers in the field, but also determine their location.
“This data will enable the tactical co-ordination of teams, as well as improve response time in emergency situations,” says Coetzee.
Text messaging is another feature that will soon be available, enabling rangers to communicate silently during high-pressure or covert situations.
With the implementation and upgrade from analogue to digital currently underway, AARD and Lazer Communications are confident that the initiative will act as a pilot project that can be rolled out at other game reserves across South Africa.
“Partnerships like this are vital if we are to actively and effectively deter and prevent poaching,” says Maoka. “Our ultimate success hinges on anti-poaching teams across South Africa being well-equipped, tactically trained and fully mobile. This is something most of our national parks cannot achieve on their own.”