Continuing its stringent zero tolerance policy against rhino poaching, South Africa has now chosen the aerial route to stop illegal hunters from carrying out their poaching act any further. The deployment of a high-tech anti-poaching aircraft “Seeker” should go a long way to bring to naught efforts by criminals to move ahead with their killing spree, and promote rhino conservation to a great extent. With the low-speed state of the art reconnaissance aircraft possessing sophisticated heat sensors capable of spotting movement of animals and human beings on the ground, rhino poachers, which also include foreign nationals, should find it quite hard to strike henceforth.
Fighting “a war”
Thanks to the gesture made by Paramount, South Africa’s leading private defense firm, the small-made specially-designed plane has come as a donation to the South Africa National Park Service. Paramount’s executive chairman, Ivor Ichikowitz, doesn’t hesitate to call the latest move a war. “This is a war. You cannot take a stick to gunfight”. At a time when rhino deaths are registering an alarming increase – from 330 in 2010 to 448 in 2011, and 558 in 2012 so far – Seeker should prove very useful to pilots to keep a strict surveillance across the country, particularly over Kruger National Park, where a majority of rhinos are killed every year. Also, Mozambique, with which the park has its borders, accounts for the maximum number of foreign nationals infiltrating into the park in search of rhinos.
Rhinos Part of South Africa’s Cultural Heritage
South Africa is home to more than 75 per cent of all the world’s rhinos, thereby forming a significant part of the country’s cultural heritage. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the country is engaged in a no-holds-barred battle with helicopter-borne criminals not hesitating to use sophisticated weapons to kill the animals to get their horns. Rhino’s horns are worth their weight in gold, or even more than that, in Asia where they are used as a traditional medicine. Notwithstanding the fact that South Africa has deployed its military to safeguard rhinos, even such efforts have not helped in curbing international crime syndicates from trafficking the horns. With poaching contributing significantly to the decline of rhino populations, South Africa doesn’t want to take things lying low anymore. The fresh offensive planned from the skies is likely to leave the criminals on the run. The dependence on rhino horns as traditional medicine in countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand has definitely led to a sharp increase in foreign nationals crossing the borders with a view to hunt the animals for gain. If present poaching trends are any indication, the rhino population is likely to decline fast and touch the danger zone soon.
Hope for Rhinos Increases
What actually helps to maintain a balance in their numbers is their birth-death ratio. Interestingly, more rhinos are born in South Africa than that die, including those killed in poaching. The several national-level programs launched by South Africa at regular intervals to create widespread awakening on the need to strengthen and support rhino conservation efforts has not yielded the desired results. And that must have probably prompted the present move to deploy the high-tech Seeker plane to seek revenge against criminals, who are reported to be steadily increasing in number with every given day.