Poachers Caught in the Act

It takes a coordinated team to prevent poaching, and on the night of January 21, 2019 at the Sandveld Nature Reserve in Free State, South Africa, such teamwork was successful, both for averting harm to wildlife and catching the intruders.

Southern masked weavers are a colorful presence at Sandveld Nature Rserve. Photo courtesy SA-V.

Located on 37,000 hectares of sandy scrub and sweet-thorn savannah, Sandveld is a birding paradise, with more than 295 species of birds, many rare—from weavers to waxbills, cuckoos to larks—and also an abundance of mammals, including giraffe, black and white rhinoceros, blue wildebeest, and sable antelope. It is one of 11 wildlife reserves in South Africa where Wildlife Protection Solutions has installed surveillance technology and donated field equipment to rangers.

The South African giraffe, also known as the Cape giraffe, is among the diverse wildlife species found at Sandveld Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy Nightjar Travel

After receiving a tip that intruders might be heading to the reserve, South African police, Sandveld rangers, and local safety representatives organized a sting operation. While monitoring roads through the night, security forces spied two intruders on WPS camera footage—one man, with a rifle. Following their tracks, rangers spotted and pursued one of the suspects on foot. The chase resulted in surrender, and the suspect was caught, detained and arrested. Tracks also revealed the man’s rifle and bag hidden under a tree.  The identity of the second intruder is under investigation.

S. J. Els, a reserve manager with Free State Parks, South Africa, is among those who participated in the anti-poaching operation that night.

“Without Wildlife Protection Solutions’ sponsorship of equipment for the field rangers and trail cameras, this success would not have been possible,” said Els. “A huge gratitude of thanks goes to WPS and their sponsors for their ongoing support.”

A WPS camera trap photographs a white rhinoceros on a reserve in South Africa.

The authorities don’t know which animal the men intended to kill that night. Poachers in this region often hunt rhinoceros for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal and energy properties. Yet rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance found in fingernails. Superstition and greed are twin factors driving the decimation of this and other endangered species. WPS values the anti-poaching diligence of Free State officials and Sandveld rangers and is encouraged by the capability of surveillance technology to assist on-the-ground security in protecting the area’s diverse wildlife.

Julie West, Communications Coordinator, Wildlife Protection Solutions

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