Kruger 2 Canyon News, 27 September 2013
The funds are coming in, the reserves are forming a united front, and people are coming together to fight for the survival of our rhinos. This is the good news that Vincent Barkas, owner of Protrack Anti Poaching Unit, wants to tell us all, and he has several examples to support it.
On September 1st, SANParks signed an agreement to pay the salary of 23 environmental monitors, leaving Protrack to pay only for their equipment and training. Most of them will be based at Balule Nature Reserve, where they will reinforce the Black Mambas, the anti-poaching team which was launched there earlier this year. The new monitors will assist with patrolling the area and gathering information, something that the mainly female team of Black Mambas has shown itself to be exceptionally good at. The wardens at Balule are delighted to welcome Protrack to become part of their anti-poaching force.
Ten of the new monitors will be based with the tactical response vehicle, which is sponsored by Protrack and which Rocking for Rhinos and OSCAP help to fund. Vincent wants to point out that the tactical response vehicle is there to help anybody – if you see suspicious activities you can call for help on 082 3859812, but bear in mind that the vehicle operates over a large area and may not get to the spot in ten minutes every time.
In addition to the substantial contribution by SANParks, financial support is coming in from far afield. OSCAP (Outrage SA Citizen Against Poaching), a Johannesburg based charity, has donated a fully trained tracking dog, Thandi, a German short haired pointer. Once Protrack has trained a handler for her she’ll be out there doing her very best to assist in the fight against poaching. Another recent donation is a brand new metal detector from Jackie Crane, a private donor in the UK who raised the money for the equipment among friends. Jackie found Protrack on Facebook and contacted them by email to ask how she could help, and she is not the only one to do so.
An anonymous donation has increased the number of camera traps by 18, which means that there is now very good coverage of the reserves, and all the cameras are monitored. No wonder then that, all in all, the Hoedspruit area is doing well. So far this year there has been 31 known poaching attempts of which only five were successful; 14 arrests have been made; and four hunting rifles have been recovered.
GreenKidz, the educational branch of Protrack, has also gathered new pace with its new coordinator Sarah Bergs. Sarah is a local girl who says she had a “bush upbringing” as a child in Timbavati. This developed in her a passion for involving the local communities and encouraging environmental education, and she started her own non-profit organization, Nourish, for this purpose. Sarah is now bringing her passion, commitment and experience to Greenkidz. She is starting an environmental curriculum at schools in Acornhoek and surrounding villages, and on her agenda are also weekend camps for the kids in collaboration with reserves in the area.