An investment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has enabled Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal to use smart technology that will boost security on the reserve.
The IUCN Save our Species initiative aims to improve the long-term survival prospects of threatened species.
It also focuses on supporting the species habitats and working with the communities who share this habitat and have awarded a grant to Wildlands, a programme of the WildTrust, to assist the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in transforming its monitoring and patrolling system to incorporate smart technology known as Vulcan EarthRanger system that will greatly enhance security on the reserve.
In addition, the IUCN has provided emergency funds to Wildlands to support the local Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) in performing their duties.
The Vulcan EarthRanger system is a tool that integrates and displays all historical and real-time data available from a protected area — wildlife, the rangers protecting them, spatial information, and other threats to empowers rangers to take proactive actions to prevent and mitigate threats.
While it is a free tool, funds are required to purchase the handheld GPS-enabled mobile devices used by the Anti Poaching Unit. Funds are also required to train the APU in using this technology to its maximum benefit. This training was provided by the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC).
Through a partnership with the Southern African Wildlife College, Wildlands funds were secured from the IUCN’s Save Our Species grants programme. The SAWC conducted on-site training and workshops with the game rangers to increase their skills in using this technology.
Somkhanda reserve manager Meiring Prinsloo said the system greatly enhances rangers’ situational awareness across the entire reserve
CEO of the WildTrust Dr Roelie Kloppers said the system increases the skills and job satisfaction of rangers, as their routine fence and security patrols play a more significant role in collecting data on the status of biodiversity health in the reserve.
Wildlands said the relief funding will provide much needed support as the reserve employs many local community members whose livelihoods support over 300 dependents.
It will also help the Somkhanda Anti-poaching Unit to better counter wildlife crime and ensure improved management of this protected area.