SanPark employees together with unions signed a pledge on Thursday at the Kruger National Park committing themselves not to be involved in poaching. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

MPUMALANGA - A pledge against poaching was signed by South African National Parks (SANParks) members on Thursday at the Kruger National Park (KNP) after 29 employees were arrested since 2012 for being involved in poaching.

The pledge is meant to urge SANParks staff members to place honesty high on the list of their core values.

Chief operating officer of SANParks, Lize McCourt said in the beginning they were in denial that some of their colleagues were involved in poaching until they started making arrests.

"We surely can no longer deny that our our staff members are involved in poaching one way or the other and therefore it is true that to some extent, poaching is perpetrated from within," she said.

McCourt said its a pity that some of its members are linked to the poaching.

"Our job as employees of SANParks is to protect these animals and we must be seen to continue to do so, because that is what is expected of us."

The managing executive of the KNP, Glenn Phillips, said poaching has hurt the game reserve financially, as the security budget has skyrocketed from R50 million to R250 million between 2011 and 2017.

He said the park’s environmental crimes investigation department was working hard to remove corrupt staff who were secretly feeding information to the syndicates.

He said they have increased staff numbers in a bid to curb the poaching, but the numbers, they said, were small compared to the required number.

And this was because the park is the size of Israel.

The park has also recently developed a good relationship with the police, who have deployed specialised forensic investigators and other specialised units to help combat the scourge.

"We continued to beef up our efforts with state of the art equipment such as vehicles, motorbikes and every technological equipment that you can think of as well as two new additional helicopters , but the pressure still continues," he said.

African News Agency/ANA