Poachers Caught, Wildebeest Freed

A ranger cautiously approaches a wildebeest to remove a snare from its neck

Rangers at Dinokeng Game Reserve in the Gauteng Province of northern South Africa caught two poachers in early April 2019 after spotting the intruders on hidden cameras installed by Wildlife Protection Solutions (WPS). The men were in the process of setting snares to catch animals—either for bush meat or for parts and pelts to sell on the black market. Rangers confiscated wire, wire cutters, and other tools. It is illegal to hunt on protected lands in South Africa.

Confiscated tools and wire used by poachers for setting snares for wildlife.
Photo / courtesy Dinokeng

Dinokeng is a collective of private lands held by more than 170 landowners with a mutual vision to develop an ecotourism model “for future conservation where people and wild animals live in harmony.” Free-roaming rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffe, lion, elephant, and wildebeest are among the diverse wildlife that live at this “place of two rivers,” a description given by the baTswana and baPedi people who traditionally lived here at the confluence of the Elands and Pienaars rivers.

An elephant stands in silhouette against the setting sun in river flood plains at Dinokeng Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo / courtesy Dinokeng

Poaching Prevention

Hidden cameras record the activities of two intruders and their dogs along a fence at Dinokeng Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo / WPS.

The two poachers at Dinokeng were caught by wpsWatch, a state-of-the-art monitoring system combining cameras, sensors, and other technology with customized software and people power. The cameras and sensors detect animal and human activity. The software uses machine learning algorithms to distinguish animal from human and vehicle forms and then analyzes the video footage against other data such as time of day and activity patterns. If the system detects intrusions, it sends alerts to local monitoring stations as well as those in the USA, where dedicated volunteers and staff monitor incoming footage on desktop and mobile dashboards. Reserve managers dispatch anti-poaching teams to the scene within minutes of receiving alerts. This three-fold approach—technology, artificial intelligence, and people—provides information about events unfolding on the ground in real-time to help prevent wildlife crime before it happens. wpsWatch systems are installed in multiple protected habitat locations, primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia.

“Thanks to WPS cameras, the rangers managed to get two of the poachers and hand them over to the police,” said Etienne Toerien, a manager at Dinokeng.

Rangers to the Rescue

Video shows Dinokeng rangers helping to free a wildebeest caught in a snare set by poachers.
Watch the video of the ranger’s rescue. Video / courtesy of Dinokeng

While sweeping the area for snares the morning after the poachers were caught, Dinokeng rangers came upon and rescued a wildebeest whose neck was caught tight in snare wire. It took a team of more than six rangers to approach and handle the frightened animal. While some held it steady by the horns, others held its legs and gently pinned it to the ground. The rangers worked quickly to cut the wire from its neck. Once the wire was removed, they released their grip on the wildebeest, springing back on the count of three to avoid being charged. The wildebeest sat dazed, surveying the scene before rising to its legs and running free across the savannah. Watch the video of the ranger’s rescue.

Rangers work quickly to cut snare wire from around the neck of a wildebeest at Dinokeng Game Reserve, South Africa. (Low res freeze frame photo from a video field camera / courtesy Dinokeng)

Technology in Action

The anti-poaching technology used in the recent capture of trespassers at Dinokeng includes approximately 14 cameras installed across the reserve and has already led to the detection of nine poaching attempts this year. Improved security at Dinokeng supports both the wildlife that live there and the tourists who come to experience unique African wildlife adventures.

Article by Julie West, Communications Specialist, Wildlife Protection Solutions