More than 5,100 African rhinos have been lost to poaching in the past five years, 50% of those being killed in Kruger National Park. With 80% of the world’s rhino population in South Africa and the vast majority of those in the Greater Kruger area, Kruger National Park is a main target for poaching syndicates who approach from all sides and surrounding countries.
With such severe poaching and a high number of incidences on the western border we have committed ourselves to protecting the border from syndicates entering Greater Kruger National Park.
We have three elite squads operating in the Greater Kruger region along with a base camp and a sniffer dog unit protecting the Western border of Greater Kruger Park. Our squads patrol the perimeter and surrounding roads of the game parks and nature reserves using military grade surveillance equipment to assist with the effective detections and detainment of unauthorised personnel entering the reserves and to prevent poaching syndicates entering the park via the Greater Kruger Area.
Our squads support law enforcement agencies in their daily operations, such as setting up entry blockades, disqualifying any prohibited items being carried into or out of parks, helping social unrest victims to safety, as in the case of the April 2017 riots, and fighting illegal activities in the bush. Additionally, our elite squads are trained to perform forensic autopsies of carcasses found and the South African Police Service call on our forensic skills in order to retrieve the bullet(s), DNA and any incriminating evidence which can then be used in court for arrest, prosecution and sentencing.
Hemmersbach Rhino Force is collaborating with the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation with whom we work closely to reach the best outcomes for the wildlife, nature and people in the areas covered.
All Hemmersbach Rhino Force squads are equipped with special surveillance systems like infrared and night vision cameras providing superior and immersive 360 degree views, head mounted night vision monoculars and infrared headlights allowing our squads to drive covertly at night. The surveillance systems from each vehicle continually feed back footage to the base in real time thus allowing us to re-evaluate our procedures with incoming information additionally each squad member’s personal radio is tracked via GPS; this and our intelligence operations enables us to coordinate the squads and prepare them for ambushes to successfully detain people illegally entering the park. The equipment allows for proactive operations, rather than reactive, which makes us unique and separates us from most conservation armies. Using this approach makes us significantly more effective as reactive responses are often, sadly, too late for the wildlife.
The Lower Zambezi Valley was once home to two thousand black rhinos, however, all have since been poached or translocated to safer areas. One of our goals and motivations in initiating the Chirundu Anti-Poaching Project is to make this land safe again so that rhinos can be securely re-introduced and given the opportunity to thrive. The existing wildlife in the area is also under threat from intense poaching by people crossing the border of the Zambezi River; therefore by aiming to create a safe space for rhinos we are also protecting the species currently inhabiting this area. We have agreed upon a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Zimbabwe National Parks giving us jurisdiction to operate in the entire Hurungwe district and crucially the border of the Zambezi River.
As of early 2017, Hemmersbach Rhino Force and Zimbabwe National Parks jointly began anti-poaching activities in the Lower Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe. Our headquarters is based on the Zambezi River and coordination of the teams during ambush and detainment operations is managed from this base. We have a base camp from which we will have two boat squads, a plane squad and a vehicle squad operating and we have geo-mapped the area within which we operate to build intelligence and gain full understanding of the challenges ahead.
Our boat squads will be a vital element to our operations and critical to preventing the loss of wildlife as they simultaneously act as border patrol preventing poachers crossing the Zambezi River and allowing our squads to identify potential crossing and entry points or weak spots. The plane squad allows us to patrol vast areas and has the added benefit of a bird’s eye view allowing for advanced warnings and alerts to the ground response teams as well as a different logistical input.
Furthermore, we also support the national park staff and the local community by improving their living and working conditions and supporting law enforcement. Currently our focus is on restoring and equipping the Karl Pisec School in Marongora and supporting the intiatives of Chief Chundu, chief of the Hurungwe area.
We are equipping the area with surveillance technology which can detect illegal individuals crossing the nation’s border and will allow us to deploy our boat squad immediately, if not already on patrol.
Our plane squad with its superior view is electronically linked to our command centre making it a key factor in deploying and informing our ground squads with real-time updates to make us the most effective conservation unit in Southern Africa.