Picture: Lindi Masinga/ANA.

Kruger National Park - Despite South Africa's Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, announcing the spike in elephant poaching, the South African National Parks (SanParks) on Monday, said fence monitoring by community members had assisted with curbing poaching. 

The environmental fence monitoring initiative was first introduced in 2014 but was fully implemented in 2016 and has since proven to be beneficial in assisting rangers with apprehending poachers.

The environmental fence monitors are employed by the Biodiversity Special Project from neighbouring communities. This is a poverty relief programme.

"They check human tracks entering and leaving the park. We have two environmental monitors per village," Northern Regional Ranger Tinyiko Golele said during a demonstration of the duties of an environmental monitor at the Punda Maria gate, in the Northern part of the Kruger National Park.

"We experiencing different poaching including meat poach, elephant, rhino, wood and fish poaching." 

She said that on a monthly basis, illegal immigrants are arrested for using the Eskom power lines to navigate their way from Mozambique into South Africa.

"They instantly report to operations and sectional rangers as soon as they hear a gun shot and back-up is sent in their direction," Golela said.

"They document everything they see, which we use in court when testifying against suspects."

Golela said that elephant poaching had decreased by 40 percent in the northern section of the park in 2017.

The monitors said that some of the challenges faced were having to walk long distances unarmed while poachers were armed and being victimised in their communities.

In total there are 36 environmental monitors.

African News Agency/ANA