Planes and pilots are essential to conservation efforts in the vast landscapes of southern Africa. As large areas within many of the vast national parks and managed areas are inaccessible by vehicle, planes play a vital role in surveillance as well as being a fantastic way to get around. Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, for example, is a million hectares in size and it would take days to cross it. With a plane, the same distance can be covered in a matter of hours.

Aerial surveillance is a major part of the vital work of Peace Parks and partners. From the air, teams are able to monitor herds of wildlife, get involved in game counts, spot illegal activities such as charcoaling or plan infrastructure developments such as new roads. Extra helicopters are often needed to support ground operations. When counter-poaching units head out on a long patrol, helicopters are often used to drop extra supplies deep in the bush.

There is a lot of discussion over which planes and helicopters are fit for purpose and many are trained to fly as part of their job. Hannes is the Aviation Manager and Chief pilot/instructor for Peace Parks Foundation and probably the envy of many. He sees some incredible sights during his day job. Here he is over the clear waters of Mozambique’s Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve. Over in Limpopo National Park, Calvin Goosen is the helicopter pilot, responsible for deploying rangers to remote areas as well as deploying the Quick Reaction Force when required.

Student pilots such as Justin Landrey practise landing and take-off in Zinave National Park, while in Zambia Nathan flies over Sioma Ngwezi National Park, and Wouter Steyn touches down after patrolling the Shingwedzi River in Limpopo National Park. As part of new skills Gordon Homer, Peace Parks’ project manager for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservatoin Area, needed for his move to Zambia, he also took to the skies this year.

Peace Parks is extremely proud of the dedication and hard work of all of their pilots.