A total of 1,028 rhinos were killed in South Africa during 2017 as a result of poaching. This was revealed by South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, on 25 January 2018 when she presented the Department of Environmental Affairs' progress on the implementation of the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros.
The number of rhino poached in South Africa during 2017 represents a slight drop of 26 as compared to the 1,054 that were poached in 2016.
"You will note that there has been progress in a number of areas, including arrests, investigations and successful convictions of rhino poachers and smugglers, as well as the stepping up of technological and other interventions within our joint operations," said Molewa.
Meerkat Wide Area Surveillance System in the Kruger National Park.
One such technological intervention in the fight against rhino poaching is the Meerkat wide area surveillance system being used in the Kruger National Park. The Meerkat system is made up of a suite of radar and electro-optic sensors that will detect, classify, monitor and track humans moving in the Kruger National Park over a wide area. In addition, according to the Kruger National Park, the system has been designed to be mobile so that it can be rapidly deployed to prevent poaching crisis zones from developing. It was introduced and deployed in 2016 as a result of a partnership between the South African National Parks (SANParks), Peace Parks Foundation and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
"The development of the Integrated Smart Parks Programme entails the deployment of a collection of integrated technology solutions that together create a connected environment to enable seamless collection and consolidation of real-time data from various devices and sensors throughout the Park for greater wide-area situational awareness. The primary decision support tool and an operating platform is still CSIR’s new technology platform. We are looking at obtaining funding for the next three years to ensure that the deployment of this system continues. This will provide continuity and sustainability of a key component of our technology efforts. All other departments continue to fund this programme as well through their respective internal budgets," added Molewa.
The Meerkat system seems to, along with other interventions, be having an impact in anti-poaching efforts at the Kruger National Park given that 24% fewer rhinos were poached in 2017 (504) as compared to 2016 (662). It's hoped that the system will be deployed in other parks in South Africa as apart from the Kruger National Park, other areas such as the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West Province experience an increase in rhino poaching incidents.
Cover image credit: A rhinoceros at the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa. | Tefo Mohapi/iAfrikan