The SANParks Honorary Rangers along with Unitrans Volkswagen and Audi Division, have entered into an on-going Sponsorship Agreement, whereby for each vehicle retailed (both new and used) by the 13 participating Unitrans dealerships, R 500 will be pledged to the Anti-Rhino poaching Trust. These funds will be used to support counter poaching efforts in the South African National Parks (SANParks).
The initiative was launched at Strijdom Park VW at an evening cocktail function on the 21st of September 2011. The agreement was signed by SANParks' head of business development, Giju Varghese, Steve Keys CEO of Unitrans Automotive and Janssen Davies, chairman, National Executive Committee of the SANParks Honorary Rangers. At this event the first donation of R500 000 was handed over.
Unitrans Volkswagen will also make two Amarok 4X4 vehicles available for counter poaching activities. The Volkswagen and Audi Divisions of Unitrans Automotive believe their donation can bring the rangers' equipment to the same level as that of the highly sophisticated poachers. It is believed that by addressing these imbalances the chances of success against poaching would be greatly improved.
Initial estimations are that the average monthly sponsorship should amount to between R400 000 and R450 000 per month. In year one the aim is to provide more than R5 million to Anti-Rhino Poaching and as an initiative this will be the single largest such donation ever received in the history of SANParks.
Ken Maggs, SANParks senior general manager, environmental crime investigation and air services, was the guest speaker at the function and gave some insight into the frightening statistics around poaching in South Africa. Rhino poaching have sky rocketed from 13 in 2007 to an expected 400 plus fatalities in 2011. This year 68 poachers have been caught in Kruger National Park alone.
Dr. Ian Player, founder of Operation Rhino, has endorsed this initiative and sent a personal message of thanks to the co-ordinators of the project. He emphasised how important wildlife conservation is to the country and that tourist come from all over the world to appreciate our wildlife. Dr. Player saluted the rangers and Honorary Rangers of SANParks, who have done much to ensure the survival of rhino populations.