The South African National Parks (SANParks) recently announced the appointment of a retired, decorated army major general to oversee the overall anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park (KNP). He has vowed to take the war to these "armed bandits" and win it.
The introduction of Major General (retired) Johan Jooste (60) was made in the KNP by SANParks' CEO Dr David Mabunda, who said that this concludes the foundation phase of the multi-pronged strategy against rhino poaching. "This strategy is to leverage on existing capacities and strategic alliances, while bringing the much-needed thinking and innovation on existing gaps and loopholes."
Dr Mabunda also made three other significant announcements, which include a cash reward to the tune of R100 000 to members of the public who give information leading to the successful arrest of a suspected poacher, as well as R1 million for the successful conviction of a poaching syndicate mastermind. "We are also happy to announce our partnership with South Africa's Crime Line, a ground-breaking initiative that allows members of the public to make anonymous SMS tip-offs on suspected crimes at any time of the day, courtesy of LeadSA, a Primedia and Independent Newspapers initiative."
He further commended the KNP ranger who, three weeks ago, alerted SANParks officials and the police regarding an offer by suspected poachers to collude with them. Instead he helped to stage a set-up that led to the successful arrest of the perpetrators. "His honesty, commitment and diligence to the cause of protecting the rhino has not gone unnoticed; the organisation will reward his good deed accordingly."
According to Dr Mabunda, South Africa has lost an unprecedented number of rhino, of which in the last five years most were killed in the Kruger National Park. "This has resulted in warranted and unwarranted sanctions both internally and internationally on South Africa's strategy of managing the poaching of rhino. It is, therefore, our hope that the approach that we are taking at this moment, by engaging Major General Johan Jooste will, in time, bring the much-needed invigoration in the fight against the decimation of our natural heritage." The major general has vast experience in military intelligence, border and area protection, and also contemporary knowledge of modern technology use and integration into capability, and some knowledge of conservation.
The battle lines have been drawn
In his response Major General Jooste said: "I am not a messiah, but a proven leader and a team player, I will do my best to bring acceptable results. This fight against poaching is not about an individual, and success depends on the collective collaboration and commitment from the men and women tasked with the responsibility of conserving our heritage.
"The battle lines have been drawn and it is up to my team and me forcefully to push back the frontiers of poaching. It is a fact that South Africa, a sovereign country, is under attack from armed foreign nationals. This should be seen as a declaration of war against South Africa by armed foreign criminals. We are going to take the war to these armed bandits and we aim to win it."
In conclusion Dr Mabunda welcomed the arrival of the major general with much emphasis that SANParks is serious about eradicating the scourge of rhino poaching. "We know that we will not be able to put a ranger behind every rhino. Thus, we need to develop innovative modern ways of protecting the rhino in the wake of this well-organised onslaught."
The appointment of the major general comes right after the deployment of a Seeker Seabird aircraft donated by the Ichikowits Family Foundation, as well as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Seeker 2, loaned to SANParks by arms manufacturer Denel. The two military aircrafts will provide the much-needed intelligence especially at night when most incursions and poaching incidents are taking place. "This will give added advantage to the ground troops and will hopefully act as a deterrent."
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