In June 2011, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles donated six Volkswagen Amarok bakkies to the Wilderness Foundation's Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative. To date, the vehicles have travelled almost 300 000km and have been used in a large number of successful anti-poaching activities.
"Due to the security risk, we can't offer detailed information on where the vehicles have been and what they have been used for," says Wilderness Foundation's conservation director, Matthew Norval. "However, we can confirm that the vehicles have been used extensively in KwaZulu-Natal, the Kruger National Park, the Pilanesberg, Indalo Private Game Reserves and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve. They have been part of a coordinated anti-poaching strategy which has led to a number of successful arrests and convictions."Preventative rather than reactive
The Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative works together with the SAPS Hawks Rhino Unit as well as a number of other conservation agencies which have developed a proactive approach to the poaching crisis. "Rather than being reactive, the Amaroks are deployed as part of a preventative plan based on intelligence gathered in the field," says Norval.
The Amaroks have also been utilised in a number of rhino notching exercises. The notching is imperative for gathering rhino DNA, and for being able to identify individual animals for census purposes. The majority of the successful rhino-poaching convictions were based on DNA evidence.
"The vehicles have allowed team members to access difficult roads, and have been used for additional fence patrols and security measures," says Norval. "Not only have a number of rhino poaching incidents been prevented, but at least 20 other animal poaching arrests have been made, and many rifles and other firearms have been recovered. One of the vehicles was even used in the arrest of some artefact thieves who were attempting to steal historical relics from a reserve."Sponsorship is worthwhile
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has pledged to renew the vehicle lease for another year. The R2m sponsorship is part of the partnership between Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and the Wilderness Foundation, the pioneers and administrators of the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.
"Ensuring that the sponsorship one becomes involved with is in fact delivering the intended results is often very difficult to determine," said Jaco Steenekamp, general manager of sales and marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. "In the case of Forever Wild we have concrete examples of the difference our vehicles are making and this really makes the sponsorship worthwhile. Our partnership with the Wilderness Foundation is one we treasure and are proud of; jointly we have been able to make a difference to the people and the animals involved in the programmes that we partner in."