I have been meaning to post something about poaching in the KNP for a while, but unfortunately various rather frustrating incidents (like servers going off line and electricity cuts) have prevented me. For this I humbly apologise Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Poaching is a world problem
Poaching is certainly not restricted to Africa, or the KNP for that matter. It is indeed a world problem and there are people fighting against this crime all over the world. International organizations like the IUCN and CITES play their part in the fight against this crime. Every national park or protected area in any part of the world will tell you that poaching is one of the biggest challenges faced. The last thing that any conservation organization should do is to deny poaching, rather look at the incident and attempt to take action against whoever was responsible. It must be remembered that this can also act as a deterrent. As human pressure (both for land and food) on protected areas increases, so too does incidents of poaching.
Gradual but steady increase
It is therefore not surprising that poaching will steadily but gradually increase, probably (although this is not based on any scientific evidence seen/read) in proportion to the increase in human population. According to Mr Ken Maggs, the head of SANParks Corporate Investigation Services (CIS), statistics of poaching incidents in and around the KNP is also showing this steady increase. It also seems to wax and wane, depending on whether the last operation was successful or not. Meat poaching is also probably linked to seasons (meat stays fresher in cooler weather) but the KNP has also had reasonable successes in operations to combat this form of poaching (check out Poaching breakthrough
as one example).
SANParks taking steps
Since the days of Lt Col Stevenson-Hamilton, Wolhuter and the likes, KNP management has always fought an ongoing battle against poaching. Probably one of the biggest blows against poaching from a legislative point of view was the passing of the National Parks Act during the 1920s. This made it illegal and, virtually overnight, increased rangerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s role from that of environmental managers to law enforcement officers. KNP rangers could then legitimately and legally take steps against poachers. Ever since then, the KNP has taken the legal line on poachers and anyone caught poaching is arrested and handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for further processing.
Laws against poaching
There are various laws that the KNP uses against poaching and they are used either on their own or in combination with other laws when charges are pressed against any perpetrator. Most of the laws result in Court appearances (unless otherwise indicated when an immediate fine can be issued) and it is up to that court to decide whether the person (s) involved is guilty and what sentence that person (s) will receive. Although the naming of the act will soon change, the laws themselves will probably remain the same:
National Parks Act 57 of 1976
Art 21 (1)
(a) Trespass or reside (R400)
(b) Enter with weapon, explosive, trap or poison
(c) [Illegal] Hunting
(e) Remove, damage or destroy egg or remove honey from beehive
(h) Leave Park with animal or part thereof
(i) Cut, damage or destroy plant (R500)
(j) Remove seed from tree or plant (R300)
Reg 27 (b)
(xviii) Possession of fresh meat or animal product with the purpose of taking out [of the Park] (R200)
(c) Possess live or carcass of animal or unmanufactured part of such carcass, plant or any part of plant which may be indigenous to the park
(f) Damage trees or plants (R750)
As can be seen from the above, a person or group of people found guilty can be arrested on various combinations of the charges. For example, they might be charged with trespassing, entering the park with a weapon, illegal hunting and being in possession of game meat. This will obviously be discussed at length between the public prosecutor and the arresting officer and the charges most likely to receive a guilty verdict will be heard in court.
The sharp edge
In the fight against poaching, SANParks has a number of arrows in itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quiver. Firstly, it is the previously mentioned rangers. There are 22 ranger stations spread thoughout the KNP. From each station emerges regular patrols, and these can be foot, vehicle or bicycle patrols. The nature of the patrols depends on the particular circumstances of the area being patrolled. It must be said that these arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t anti-poaching patrols per se, but rather general patrols that look for, among other things, environmental damage, soil erosion, animal/plant sicknesses, signs of poaching etc and, as they are armed, the field rangers can react accordingly if they are attacked.
Together with this, there is CIS. Without revealing too much about CIS (which could compromise any future operation) it is a SANParks organization that looks into all criminal activities and investigates them. KNPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s CIS has a branch specifically looking into poaching activities, which collects information (or intelligence, to use the military term), co-ordinates with rangers, SAPS and other authorities and also conducts operations. Part of the information collection is direct communication with communities living in the surrounding communities and often the chief or induna is asked for his help in basic law enforcement.
There are many other assets Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for example, aircraft, helicopters etc Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that can be used to back this effort up.
Educating the communities
It must be said that effective environmental education will Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in the long run Ã¢â‚¬â€œ play an important role in the combat of poaching. Virtually any and every form of environmental education (whether it is a direct effort from us or merely the formation of an enviro club at a local school) can play an anti poaching role. The tireless efforts of the anti poaching wing of the Honorary Rangers is of particular interest here, not only does it help directly by providing our rangers and CIS investigators with direct support and equipment (check out donations
), but also this important awareness building. Even the simple act of an explanation of poaching on a website could possibly help to educate someone on the benefits of conservation and why we shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t poach in a national park. That said, SANParks has an organization called the People and Conservation Department whose basic mission is to go out to communities surrounding all the parks and build awareness of conservation and conservation-related issues. Naturally, explaining the sins of poaching to members of the communities is one of P&CÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s main aims. You can get more information on P&CÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s activities, check out http://www.sanparks.org/people/
but this contribution to the struggle against poaching cannot be overlooked.
Of course, public participation is not only welcomed but encouraged. Right on this website at http://www.sanparks.org/about/crime/
there is an invitation for people to report any crimes seen. And rangers and CIS officers are only too keen for any information that might lead to the arrest of poachers. Remember that KNP rangers are only as good as the information they receive and this is where members of the public can play a very important role.
I trust this rather lengthy explanation has explained a bit more about the poaching challenge faced by the KNP. To conclude, it is certainly not an easy challenge but SANParks believes that the poaching situation is manageable. There is, however, no reason why anyone cannot help in this regard, whether this is directly reporting any crime that you may witness or supporting your local Honorary Ranger branch, everything adds up.