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Rhino team takes war against poachers to new heights
 THE WITNESS     
31 May 2011 
 

The war on rhino poaching has been taken to a new level.
For the past 13 years Lawrence Munro has been trying to get aerial surveillance to help protect KwaZulu-Natal’s rhinos, and now his enduring efforts have borne fruit.
From June 1, with Dirk Swart, a section ranger at Hluhluwe, he will pilot a sponsored Bantam light aircraft to be used to combat rhino poaching in southern African reserves.
Munro, a section ranger at iMfolozi Game Reserve, said, “Rhino poaching is nothing new, but over the years I was driven
by a belief that it would get worse, given my understanding of the increased value being attached to their horns and the widening criminal syndicates driving this activity.”
He attributed the acquisition of the Bantam to the support and sponsorship of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Save the Rhino International, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and iMfolozi honorary officers. Collectively they raised the R707 000 needed for the Bantam project.


The CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Dr Bandile Mkhize, said the costs associated with the proposal were beyond his organisation’s pockets.
“I am extremely appreciative to the sponsors that have come forward. We have recently undertaken a number of measures to help combat rhino
poaching, but this aircraft can fulfil so many tasks that it will provide immense assistance all round.”
Munro said the Bantam’s primary law-enforcement activities would cover surveying sus
pected poaching areas, allowing for quick follow-up operations, helping section rangers get a better understanding of their areas, covering remote and inaccessible areas and providing a deterrent in “hot-spots”. — Supplied.

 

SIMILAR ARTICLE IN THE MERCURY NEWSPAPER  30/5/2011

ByTONY CARNIE

Two KwaZulu-Natal game rangers are taking to the sky in the war against rhino poaching.

Lawrence Munro and Dirk Swart, section rangers in Hlhuhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve, decided they would have to go back to school when they heard that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had been offered a spotter plane to help track down rhino poachers.

Neither Munro nor Swart knew how to fly.

So earlier this year they enrolled for flying lessons and yesterday afternoon the ranger-pilots landed at the Hluhluwe aerodrome at the controls of a new Bantam B22 microlight.

The aircraft – sponsored by the conservation groups WWF South Africa, Save the Rhino International, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hluhluwe and Imfolozi honorary wildlife officers – is powered by a three-litre, six-cylinder motor and has a flying range of about four hours.

Bheki Khoza, the executive director of Ezemvelo, said he was confident that the spotter plane would enable his staff to intensify the war against well-funded horn poaching syndicates.

In the first five months of this year, poachers killed at least 160 rhinos across the country, 12 of them in KZN.

Munro said he had been trying to persuade Ezemvelo for more than 10 years of the need for aerial surveillance capacity in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the cradle of rhino conservation in the country.

“Rhino poaching is nothing new, but over the years I knew that it was going to get worse because of the growth in value of rhino horns and criminal syndicates.

“The Bantam spotter is much cheaper to operate than a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft and easy to land on bush airstrips.”