At the commencement of the project in 2008, the scouts and village scouts employed by the Community Resource Boards’s were ill-equipped and paid well below the minimum wage. Boats and vehicles were largely unavailable.
As a result of the poor infrastructure and equipment, only a very limited number of effective anti-poaching activities were carried out in the area. In addition, many difficult areas of the wetlands were never patrolled. Since the inception of the project, law enforcement operations have focused on recruiting, equipping and training personnel to optimise their deployment and efficacy.
Through the recruitment of law enforcement staff and village scouts, the heavy poaching of the past has been brought under control, and there has been a consistent decline in the number of animals recorded as poached, particularly black lechwe. Training is ongoing, such as making scouts aware of the force continuum and the need to de-escalate the use of force wherever possible.
Also, every effort is being made to support the scouts in the field through aerial patrols, the establishment of an equestrian unit, GIS and SMART software and ongoing improvements to equipment, transport and infrastructure.
A fishing ban has been implemented during the seasonal spawning season to allow fish stocks time to recover. Close collaboration with the community leadership, along with monitoring by law enforcement officials and village scouts, has resulted in strict adherence to the annual ban and the communities are already reporting improved yields as a result.
As a result of engaging with communities and educating them on ways in which they can change their behaviour to benefit both the environment and their livelihoods, there has been a major reduction in the levels of unsustainable fishing, poaching and illegal tree cutting for charcoal. Staff are motivated through an incentive scheme based on results and have received additional equipment to make them more effective in the field. Staff who show leadership potential are promoted from within the ranks, which motivates them further.
Due to the challenging terrain that the rangers have to cover, an anti-poaching horse unit was established in October 2014. The establishment of this unit has significantly increased patrol coverage and distance, covering areas that were previously inaccessible. Most members of the local community had never seen a horse before, so while they were initially wary, they soon realised what a valuable addition they were to the area. Horses cover four times as much distance as rangers on foot patrols, and their height advantage makes spotting poachers and wildlife easier.
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