(Please note this video contains graphic content)
Over 2,000 rhinos in South Africa have been inhumanely and illegally slaughtered by poachers in the past five years – an estimated financial loss of US$77,000,000.00 to the South African conservation sector and the country as a whole.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has lost more than 250 rhino to poachers in the past 13 years and is under sustained and increasing 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 KZN 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.
It is the first integrated aerial anti-poaching programme in South Africa to combat wildlife crime from the air.
ZAP-Wing is a partnership between the provincial conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Project Rhino KZN. 24 game reserves (300,000ha) in northern KwaZulu-Natal currently benefit from daily aerial surveillance and reaction support; over 3,000 rhino are under the ZAP-Wing watch.
ZAP-Wing is already proving its worth: game reserves are seeing the disruptive impact that constant aerial surveillance is having on poachers’ movements, and joint operations with conservation and law enforcement agencies are catching poachers red-handed.
However, its current fleet of two light aircraft (fully funded) and two helicopters (on contract) are already at maximum capacity. As poaching incursions continue to increase, ZAP-Wing must intensify its efforts and expand the current operational area to incorporate more game reserves.
ZAP-Wing 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.