Anti-poaching systems and initiatives already in place at the Pilanesberg National Park were furthered recently thanks to a donation of the latest communications technology from Altech Alcom Radio Distributors together with its channel partner Lazer Communications.
With a collective value exceeding R300 000, the donation comprises 18 Motorola MotoTrbo digital two-way radios, two dispatcher units and a repeater, and installation and support of the systems.
Speaking at the handover event, Johnson Maoka, Park Manager: Pilanesberg National Park, emphasised that in order for game reserves and national parks across South Africa to effectively fight the scourge of poaching, they had to have a number of tools in place:
“These include reliable all-terrain vehicles, specialised staff trained in anti-poaching tactics, anti-poaching equipment and an efficient communications system. Each is as important as the other in deterring and combating poaching – only when all are in play can rangers be their most effective. That is why today’s donation is so important for the future of our rhino and other endangered species.”
last poaching attempt foiled
Pilanesberg has not emerged unscathed from the relentless onslaught of rhino poachers. Since March 2010 the park has mourned the loss of 20 of its rhinos. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of management and its rangers however, the last attempted poaching at Pilanesberg was foiled in September 2011.
“As suppliers to the Pilanesberg National Park, we are very aware of the communications challenges facing rangers on the ground,” says Leon Coetzee, managing director at Cape Town two-way radio company Lazer Communications.
“We therefore wanted to make a contribution that would give them an advantage and improve their communications network, especially given the topography of the park.”
Lazer Communications subsequently contacted Altron to find a viable solution. It was then merely a case of both partners identifying appropriate devices and installing the technology.
The right equipment for the job
“Our primary objective was to equip Pilanesberg’s anti-poaching teams with the right equipment for their extreme working conditions, especially when facing hostile situations,” explains Zubair Munshi, managing director of Altron.
“Key to our decision as to what technology to supply were the advantages offered by the MotoTrbo system, most notably in terms of its location information, encryption, ambient noise cancellation and text messaging capabilities.”
In the case of location information for example, the GPS antenna in each radio allows the park’s central control room to not only communicate with rangers in the field, but also determine their location.
“This data will enable the tactical co-ordination of teams, as well as improve response time in emergency situations,” says Coetzee.
“The MotoTrbo system’s encryption will also prevent any unauthorised person from accessing Pilanesberg’s communications network.”
SMSs to be available soon
Text messaging is another feature that will soon be available, enabling rangers to communicate silently during high-pressure or covert situations, and ensuring the element of surprise. The radios are additionally very robust and have an extended battery life.
With the implementation and upgrade from analogue to digital currently underway, Altron
and Lazer Communications are confident that the initiative will act as a pilot project that can be rolled out at other game reserves across South Africa.
“While the long-term plan at Pilanesberg is to migrate all of the park’s communications to a digital platform, the real strength of this system is that it can potentially improve general communication between the surrounding reserves in the area. In this way, it could enable regionally co-ordinated anti-poaching efforts, improving the visibility and mobility of teams within the various reserves. This, in turn, would ensure the more effective utilisation of resources,” says Munshi.
While AARD and Lazer Communications are just two of a number of corporate donors to come to Pilanesberg National Park’s assistance, it is clear that the fight to save South Africa’s rhinos will be a protracted one – making this type of donation an imperative.
Partnerships vital to protection
“Partnerships like this are vital if we are to actively and effectively deter and prevent poaching,” says Maoka. “Our ultimate success hinges on anti-poaching teams across South Africa being well-equipped, tactically trained and fully mobile. This is something most of our national parks cannot achieve on their own. We are confident that today’s handover will make a significant impact on our conservation efforts – and thank both Altech Alcom Radio Distributors and Lazer Communications for their commitment to preserving our wildlife heritage for our children.”