Intensive protection zone is set to become a safe haven for rhino

Map of South Africa.

While it is recognised that the ultimate solution to the rhino poaching scourge in the Kruger National Park (KNP) should come from outside the park borders, management is taking steps to substantially increase security around its core population.

As part of an extensive, long-term plan to fight poaching, an intensive protection zone (IPZ) is being created in the south of Kruger, where the bulk of the largest population in the world resides. The IPZ will be the result of the historic R255 million donation made by the Howard G Buffett Foundation to SANParks in March. It will be implemented in 4 000km² of the park, about 400 000 hectares or a fifth of the entire Kruger. This area is larger than most other national parks and the size of some small countries.

The zone will be made up of a combination of fences, technology and rangers. Technology will be used to ensure surveillance, early warning and detection, says retired Gen Johan Jooste, the park’s commanding officer for special projects.

The rangers will then react to this information. Management is keeping details of specific technologies close to its chest, but land and air mobility will be upgraded. Part of the IPZ will entail improved fencing on the western and eastern borders and will include static hindrances or obstacles. Jooste stresses that this will entail strengthening current fences, and not adding more fencing inside the park to the detriment of their conservation mandate.

The new fencing will allow for better monitoring, both physical and electronic.
The IPZ will not fence in any animals, says Jooste, as management is strengthening protection only around an area where the core rhino population prefers to stay. “Almost everything stays as it is, and tourists are unlikely even to know about it.

“We expect that the first steps should be in place by the last quarter of the year and that the whole IPZ will be completed in two years’ time.”
In the meantime, they will place a large focus on winning community support along the western boundary of the park, where many people could soon be separated from the park by a considerably larger fence.

Jooste says it is important to them that neighbouring communities understand why the fence is going up.
Asked whether they hoped that the IPZ, once completed, would make it nearly impossible for poachers to get to the rhino, he said they would probably “never get them out again”.

Poaching in Kruger is currently increasing by 20 per cent, quarter on quarter and as long as there is demand, the situation will continue.

 

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  AUTHOR
Petro Kotzé

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