Public Service, Regulatory

Conservation Group Funding Anti-Poaching Helo

By James T. McKenna | August 15, 2016


A South African conservation fund is dedicating $500,000 for helicopter support to fight poaching of rhinoceros, elephants, lions and other endangered animals in that nation. 

The GES Africa Conservation Fund said the money will pay for “a critically needed quick-reaction” helicopter to support anti-poaching operations in the Greater Kruger National Park region of northeast South Africa, on the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The move comes as public attention of poaching, or illegal hunting of endangered species, is growing. 

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South Africa's highest court is scheduled to rule shortly on the validity of that nation's seven-year-old ban on trade in rhinoceros horns, which are coveted in some Asian nations for their perceived medicinal benefits. (Trade in rhino horns has been banned by international treaty since 1977.)

On Aug. 12, major international technology firms announced they would collaborate with wildlife advocacy groups to avoid facilitating illegal trade in endangered species carcasses and parts. The firms, which include eBay, Microsoft, Pinterest and Yahoo, will work with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Find for Animal Welfare and others to cut off what they said "has unintentionally become a thriving platform for buyers and sellers to trade illegal wildlife products" through the internet.

Last January, a British pilot died after poachers reportedly fired on his Robinson helicopter. The pilot, Roger Gower, was said to have been working with wildlife authorities to track down elephant poachers in the Maswa Game Reserve in northern Tanzania. He survived the crash landing, officials said, but died before he could be rescued. 

The latest effort, in South Africa, is intended to help protect what the GES Africa Conservation Fund described as the largest private rhino population in the world. It said it alone has more than 1,500 rhinos that are under direct protection in the Greater Kruger area, which includes Kruger National Park and surrounding private nature reserves that collectively cover more than 7,700 sq mi (20,000 sq km).  

The fund said more than 45% of the remaining white rhinos are under the care of private nature reserves and breeders in South Africa.  

"Privately funded anti-poaching outfits have inadequate quick-response ability to respond to poaching incidents," the conservation fund said in launching the effort. It argued that individual wildlife reserves couldn’t finance “a high-value asset such as a helicopter.” In addition to the cost of acquiring, flying and maintaining a helicopter, private reserves “would also need to develop the in-house capability to use these tools effectively in anti-poaching operations.” 

The conservation fund is sponsored by the NEAH Global Energy Solutions (GES) Group, which says it operates “the leading wildlife management operation in South Africa.” NEAH GES says it provides comprehensive logistic, protection, training and advisory solutions for global energy, manufacturing and high-value infrastructure assets, with extensive experience within the African and Middle Eastern regions.

Photo courtesy of Coralie / CC BY-SA 3.0

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