Two Park Rangers hiking up a trail on Lions Head. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA
Two Park Rangers hiking up a trail on Lions Head. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA

Crime incidents at Table Mountain National Park related to a 'deeper problem'

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Jan 19, 2021

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Cape Town - Conservationists claim that incidents occurring at the Table Mountain National Park are not necessarily because of rangers’ lack of training but due to the lack of funding being provided by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

This after an incident on January 4 along Scarborough Beach, within Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), when rangers were accused of assaulting an elderly person. This incident is being investigated.

Conservationists believe incidents like these are related to a much deeper problem at TMNP.

CyberTracker Conservation executive director Louis Liebenberg said: “Any incident occurring along the TMNP is symptomatic of a much deeper problem with TMNP. The blame for this incident does not, however, lie with the rangers in question but rather with the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks.”

Liebenberg said the ranger corps in TMNP is under-staffed, poorly paid and lacks proper training. Most rangers do not have the equipment they need.

“Spending millions on helicopters is not going to solve the problem if you do not have good rangers on the ground. We need a highly specialised ranger unit with at least 330 armed scouts (or more) trained as trackers with tracker dogs using specialised tracking technology, to protect visitors in the TMNP,” he said.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said: “The reality is that rangers are receiving training on a yearly basis but with the effect of Covid-19, certain things needed to be reviewed to make sure that the budget was shared among the 19 national parks. There is definitely a need for money and we do go out and request ordinary South Africans to assist. We also fund-raise for certain things in terms of our budget.”

The department said that there were sufficient rangers on duty and they were continuously looking at different ways of improving safety and security on the mountain. Therefore, it could at present see no major challenges at present. Rangers are trained to deal with conservation mandates. As part of their many job functions, they are also required to perform law enforcement in terms of tourist behaviour, however their main focus is conservation.

Friends of Table Mountain founding member Nicky Schmidt said: “It’s important to note that SANParks’ rangers are conservationists, first and foremost.

So there either needs to be sufficient opportunities to train rangers in safety, user interaction and conservation, or they need to employ rangers whose primary function is to address user engagement and safety and security..

“Unfortunately, safety has been an issue since the early 2000s and despite numerous attempts by stakeholder groups to address concerns with SANParks, known hot spots remain and numerous incidents, including several murders, have been reported over the past 17 years.”

Cape Argus

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