As a non-profit organisation, donor funding plays an instrumental role in helping Peace Parks Foundation continue to reconnect and protect Africa’s wild spaces. The Postcode Lottery Group remains one of Peace Parks’ most loyal supporters who have significantly contributed operational funding, which has enabled multiple rewilding, protection, community development and conservation focussed projects.
Today, Peace Parks’ CEO, Werner Myburgh, and Chief Development Officer, Lilian Spijkerman, are with members from the Postcode Lottery Group visiting South Africa’s Kruger National Park to learn more about how their funding has contributed to South African National Parks (SANParks) counter-poaching initiatives.
The group start their visit at the SANParks’ K9 centre, which is based at the park’s headquarters in Skukuza. Here they learn about methods used by poachers and witness the extent of the damage that wire snares can cause to unassuming victims such as buffalo and lion. Head of the K9 Unit, Johan de Beer, shows the group a skull of a buffalo that fell victim to a snare – the damage clearly visible in the deep lines cutting through its jawbone.
Organised wildlife crime is one of the major challenges that conservation areas face. It decimates wildlife populations for short-term financial gain at a rate that nature cannot restore, leaving species at the risk of extinction. Not only do they exploit the environment and the wildlife living within it, but the local people too. These syndicates are mainly after rhino horn, ivory and lion parts such as paws and claws, which are seen as a status symbol in south-east Asia. Hyena and vulture products are also in high demand, being sold in the traditional medicine market.
Having an effective canine unit has proved extremely beneficial in detecting and tracking poachers, effectively reducing the number of poaching incidents within the park. With their highly developed sense of smell, they are not only capable of tracking poachers over long distances but can detect illegal ammunition and weapons that might be stashed away in vehicles or the bush.
After their session with Johan, the team then make their way to SANParks’ aerial base, where Mark McGill, Technology Operations Manager for the Kruger National Park, explains how Postcode Meerkat, an advanced wide-area surveillance system, has played a key role in reducing poaching incidences in previously high-risk areas.
Postcode Meerkat, named after the UK People’s Postcode Lottery, which funded the development of the system, is a ground-breaking technology resulting from a partnership between Peace Parks Foundation, SANParks and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It was specifically developed for counter-poaching purposes within the Kruger National Park. Using a combination of radar and electro-optical technology, Postcode Meerkat can detect both human and rhino movement over large distances, which helps to fast-track the counter-poaching teams’ response when a poaching incursion is detected.
Visits like these are crucial for transparency between Peace Parks and its generous donors, allowing them to see first-hand how their funding plays a critical role in the conservation and protection of incredible, wild landscapes such as the Kruger National Park.