Amanda Watson
News Editor
2 minute read
30 Nov 2013
12:00 am

Bush war in the Kruger gets help from a heli

Amanda Watson

Kruger National Park is the battleground of an ongoing bush war, and the prize is its wildlife, says Ivor Ichikowitz of defence and aerospace company Paramount Group.

FLYING HIGH. A military spec helicopter, the Gazelle, flies over the Letaba shooting range in the Kruger National Park. The Gazelle was donated to SANParks by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation to help in the fight against rhino poachers. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

The chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation was speaking at the handover of a military specification Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter to the South African National Parks (SANParks) for use in the Kruger National Park against poachers.

Rhino poaching is so endemic in the park that fears of a negative population growth have already been raised. And while the coalition of anti-poaching forces operates under the Constitution, the illegal hunters don’t.

Saturday Citizen asked Ichi-kowitz if the rules of engagement needed to change. “The truth is

if we are ever going to win this war, it is a war the police and the military are going to have to take on,” he said.

“The poachers we are dealing with are highly trained. We are not dealing with common criminals here,” said Ichikowitz.

“These people are heavily armed; they are used to using military tactics; and they are highly dangerous. They have a shoot-to-kill policy.

“I am not suggesting for one second we should have a similar policy, but we should be aware of the fact this is no longer a game. It really is not.

“It’s a bush war with huge stakes. If we do not deal with it, if politicians do not pay it some real attention, we are going to turn around in two or three years’ time and have a huge conflict on our borders, all caused by the poaching in Kruger.”

SANParks CEO David Mabunda said the park was experiencing more than 200 incursions per month.

“It is by deploying resources that we will win,” he said. “From diplomatic to household to corporate level, we need all the help

we can get.

“We are in a state of war and we need real equipment,” he said referring to the Gazelle helicopter. For too long poachers have pointed a middle finger at us. What would have happened if we didn’t have these forces in play? It would be rhino Armageddon.”

The Ichikowitz Foundation is also helping to train rangers in advanced bush tracking techniques and will next year provide tracker dogs to beef up the Park Ranger Corps’ canine division.

“This is a call for action to rally behind SANParks. You need to participate in this fight as if it was your own,” said Ichikowitz.