Introducing Wildlife Operations Group

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The Wildlife Operations Group, initiated and managed by the Wilderness Foundation Africa, is a multi-agency partnership whose overarching objective is to reduce wildlife crime and succeed in the prosecution of offenders of poaching. This is achieved through a multi-disciplinary approach, which includes; reach and development, training, support investigation and operational activities in order to meet the objective.

The founding partners are represented on a steering committee that guides and oversees the management of the group. This committee meets once a quarter.

There are two operating activities that the group are currently working on to help reduce poaching in South Africa: 1) a rhino anti-poaching tipoff line and 2) a bat hawk.

Rhino anti-poaching tipoff line

The Wilderness Foundation Africa, through their Wildlife Operations Group, established a rhino anti-poaching tipoff line a few years ago in order to assist in preventing poaching incidents, as well as in obtaining information to assist with the successful arrests of suspects. This tipoff line has been used extensively and has not been limited to rhino poaching, but has resulted in the group receiving calls linked to various forms of wildlife crime.

The group distribute posters, stickers and coasters to advertise the tipoff line to various distribution points in the Eastern Cape, and also encourage the public to use the line when a reward has been offered in an attempt to find poachers. Take a look at an example of one of the items, here

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The staff at Wilderness Foundation Africa recently spent a morning handing out flyers in the peak hour traffic to promote the tipoff line:

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The Bat Hawk

The Bat Hawk saw the launch of official wildlife and rhino protection and security patrols in June 2015 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is a specially designed lightweight aircraft used for conservation and surveillance – it patrols the skies above South African game reserves to look out for rhino poachers and injured rhino. To date, a total of 20 flights have been completed and a total of five game reserves and protected areas have been serviced.

During these flights, the reserve boundaries are flown in order for the pilots to familiarise themselves with the actual boundaries of the reserves, and power lines crossing the reserves. The pilots also use these flights to see if any irregularities can be detected, i.e. unauthorised people or vehicles along the fence. The Bat Hawk is also used to be a visual presence and deterrent for potential poachers.

The interior of the reserves are also flown for rhino monitoring purposes, and all sightings of rhino are recorded.

Any irregularities are reported to the reserves’ anti-poaching teams in order for them to react immediately.

The Bat Hawk is also available for joint operations with various teams in order to monitor wildlife and environmental crime incidents.

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The manoeuvrability of the Bat Hawk allows for low flying which aids in the monitoring of rhino.

The success of the Wildlife Operations Group so far…

The Eastern Cape Province lost a total of 14 rhino to poaching incidents in 2015. Whilst they strive for zero losses, given the national total of 1,175 poached rhinos, they believe they are making a positive contribution in the province. None of these incidents happened on the reserves currently being serviced by the Bat Hawk. The Wildlife Operations Group is allowing for better cooperation between the different departments and organisations responsible for rhino protection, which could be contributing to the lower poaching incidents. As indicated, The Wildlife Operations Group is working on getting the poaching incidents in the Eastern Cape Province down to 0 for 2016. 

We have made it our mission to help Dr William Fowlds and the Wilderness Foundation to save the rhino against this brutal wildlife crime. Find out what we are doing through our Medivet Saving the Rhino campaign to help save these beautiful creatures. 

Posted March 1, 2016 by Cara Zaleski in Press

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