Since the start of the rhino poaching crisis in 2011, more than 9,000 rhino have been inhumanely and illegally slaughtered in South Africa – a devastating loss the country’s tourism & conservation sectors and the country as a whole.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has lost more than 940 rhino in the last decade and remains under sustained attack from poaching syndicates linked to well-funded international criminal organisations. Northern KZN hosts the province’s biggest rhino populations, spread out across a vast region on state, private and community-owned game reserves. However, its proximity to Mozambique where the greatest rhino poaching threats originate from, make it extremely vulnerable.
The province is fighting back – both on the ground and from the air. In 2011, leading conservation agencies in KZN united under the Project Rhino banner and the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing (ZAP-Wing) is a result of their efforts. With the support of the South African public, business community and international donors who showed faith in an untested and wholly new anti-poaching concept, ZAP-Wing was formally launched in November 2012.
A partnership between the provincial conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Project Rhino, ZAP-Wing was the first integrated aerial anti-poaching programme in South Africa to combat wildlife crime from the air. Today, over 3,000 rhino and 300,000 HA of protected areas are under the ZAP-Wing watch and it has contributed to numerous arrests and disruptions of poaching gangs.
ZAP-Wing works closely with game reserves, local law enforcement and Anti-Poaching Units (APUs), including the Project Rhino K9-Unit. In addition to responding to poaching threats, ZAP-Wing conducts daily patrols, helps to locate missing wildlife, transports APU teams, and tracks or investigates suspicious persons and vehicles. Project Rhino holds the lease for the airfield which also serves as a Joint Operations Centre, used as a base for the SAPS and other government agencies as well as conservation and anti-poaching specialists like the HAWKS (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation).
ZAP-Wing has proven to be an essential tool in fighting wildlife crime, but relies entirely on donations for its survival. We ask for your support to help KZN do what it has done once before: save the rhino from extinction.