According to Cathy Dreyer, Head Ranger, Kruger National Park, the main challenge she faces in the management of the Park and the ongoing threat of wildlife poaching, is the sheer size of the Park.
KNP is vast – it is 2 million hectares in size, which is the same size as Slovenia. With that amount of ground to cover and monitor, the most effective & efficient mode of transport is the small number of KNP managed helicopters, flown by their team of skilled pilots. It is these unsung heroes, at the frontline of rhino conservation, that SORAI has funded for the remainder of this year.
This remarkable team of specialist rangers, work tirelessly every day to protect these iconic animals and other keystone species that inhabit the Park. With regards to Rhino conservation projects and anti-wildlife crimes operations the Air Services team are invaluable.
Their work includes all aspects of animal impact and conservation projects, from herding elephants back into the Park from the air, if they have broken through fences into neighbouring communities to transporting other ranger services and the K9 unit to specific locations deep in the bush, when following up on incursions from poachers, as well as smaller scale but lifesaving projects, such as removing snares from injured animals.
A vital initiative that the Air Services pilots play an integral role in, is the ongoing Rhino dehorning program in KNP. This essential program protects the rhino by removing their horns under sedation, as without their valuable horn they are no longer a target for poachers. The KNP pilots fly the highly trained veterinary teams to remote areas in the park, so they can dart wildlife from the air, in order to then carry out the dehorning procedure, as quickly as possible without causing the animal too much stress.
This seems a drastic solution, however rhino horn is made from keratin and removing the horn is in no way painful for the animals and the end result ensures that the rhino is no longer of intertest to the poachers.
By providing much needed funding for this incredible team of highly dedicated and skilled KNP Air Services pilots, at the front line of Rhino conservation, SORAI aims to contribute to the legacy of this much-loved gentle giant, hoping to ensure its survival in the wild for generations to come.