Advanced helicopter to tackle rhino poaching

Gilberto do Nascimento and Arnaud Montalvo of Airbus, Kuseni Dlamini from SANParks Board, Danie Pienaar from KNP, Rajesh Mahabeer from SANParks, Maj Gen Thulani Phahla and Prof Graham Kerly. Photo: Hanti Schrader/Lowvelder

SKUKUZA – The air mobility in the fight against rhino poachers has kicked off with the acquisition of another Airbus helicopter equipped with night vision and night-flying capabilities.

According to retired army General Johan Jooste, the AS-350B3e Airbus helicopter was just what was needed to lift the blanket of night time that poachers had so far enjoyed in the scourge.

Jooste also agreed with Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, when she said: “Not on our watch! We will not allow this onslaught to continue.”

In March 2014 the South African National Parks (SANParks) received a grant from the Nature Conservation Trust (NCT), a charity organisation owned by the Howard G Buffet Foundation, to assist in the fight against poaching. NCT’s donation of R254.8 million contributed to important hi-tech developments.

SANParks board chairperson Kuseni Dlamini said: “Subsequent to the initial grant funding, the Howard G Buffet Foundation granted SANParks an additional R37.7 million to purchase this second Airbus helicopter with night-flying capability to further increase the capacity of SANParks’ rhino anti-poaching fight operations in the Kruger National Park (KNP).”

The chief executive officer of Airbus, Arnaud Montalvo, described the benefit of commissioning the new aircraft: “It has been customised to have night-flying capabilities, which gives the air and ground crew an added advantage to respond to night time incursions.”

Pienaar also used the opportunity to announce that three poachers – two poachers on level 1 and one on level 3 – had been apprehended on Wednesday night, and that 10 guns and several rounds of ammunition, as well as other tools used in poaching, had been confiscated.

He added, “We also definitely saved the lives of four rhino last night. This is such an honour for me to announce this today and to be part of this event.”

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