Parliament – Rangers in one of Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park, now have to undergo compulsory lie detector tests as part of efforts to stamp out rhino poaching, South African National Park (SANParks) told MPs on Friday.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police, Johan Jooste, SANParks commanding officer of special projects in the Park, said they were improving integrity testing for their staff.
“Every ranger now does a compulsory lie detector test and its now part of service conditions. We can do it at any time,” said Jooste.
“All our weapons are registered on IBIS [Integrated Ballistics Identification System] so it’s traceable. You cannot have a weapon that is utilisied and you won’t be able to trace it to SanParks.”
Jooste said co-operation withthe SAPS [SA Police Service] and its various units were bearing fruit.
“We have learnt to utilise each other’s strong points and the fact that we stick to the strategy that says secure the park from the outside, I think is a healthy one, “ he said.
Jooste said the fact that more suspected poachers were being arrested outside the Park was a positive sign.
“One day that [number of people arrested outside the Park] must be higher than what we do inside,” he said.
“It’s like in a city … everybody rushes to the house that has been burgled but that’s the last place where the perpertrator will be.”
The Park had also partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to investigate what technologies would be helpful int he fight against poachers.
But, Jooste warned that if communities living in and around the Park aren’t empowered and given some sort of ownership, efforts to fight poaching won’t bear much fruit.
“If you don’t let the communities benefit from the Park, we don’t see that we will ever really win,” he said.
SAPS project manager for the anti-rhino poaching project, major general Phuntshe Chipu also briefed the committee on their strategy to fight the rhino poaching scourge, saying their efforts were bearing fruit as is evident from the reduction in the number of rhino poached from 2014 to 2015.
Statistics released by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa last week showed a reduction in the number of rhino poached from 1215 in 2014 to 1175 in 2015.
Chipu said on Friday they had made 317 arrests in 2015 and recovered 39 rhino horn, 188 hunting rifles, 1,663 rounds of ammunition, 33 pistols, three shotguns, 64 axes, 39 silencers, 52 knives and 17 vehicles.
“All these are the resources involved in the poaching of rhino,” he said.
During 2015, 928 cases connected to rhino poaching were reported. The State secured 29 convictions, while 61 cases were still on the court roll with 433 cases still under investigation.
SAPS was working with Denel, South Africa’s state-owned arms manufacturer, on drone technology which could be used in the Kruger National Park.
“We engaged with Denel and Denel has got a massive technology that they can share with us. The first one is the drones. We went to Denel and they demonstrated the drones they can make available – the various sizes, “ said SAPS deputy national commissioner: policing.
Sithole said drones which had been tested by SANParks in the Kruger National Park did not appear to be effective.
“Denel indicated to us they have better techology so we are running a project with them,” he said.
SAPS management would also visit Kenya where the use of drones against the wildlife poaching scourge has had some positive results.