We have to do things differently and we cannot be predictable. This philosophy, combined with a highly motivated field ranger team, has enabled David Manganye, section ranger at Shangoni, to file a number of positive reports related to poacher incidents in his section.
In the first incident his team arrested Peter Chauke on suspicion of luring fish, setting snares and poaching.
David says Peter is no stranger to the law and had been arrested by most of the section rangers who had worked at Shangoni before for offences ranging from poaching, illegal fishing, and collecting wood to illegal cutting of grass.
This time the run-in with the law had been for the five times he had allegedly entered the Kruger through the Hlanguphalala stream from where he set about to fish and poach other wildlife.
Acting on information about Peter's activities, David and his team began checking the fence for activity from June 3, 2007. On June 4, "we went out and patrolled the area of Hlanguphalala stream and found that these snares were set up around the water points and we started searching the area," said David.
They found four snares in the area where they lay in ambush. When Paul arrived with his six dogs to patrol the snares, they arrested him there. David suspects they had just missed him the week before, whilst he was collecting the meat of two impalas he had allegedly killed.
"We send him to Saselemani and opened a docket for poaching. He was transferred to Louis Trichardt on Tuesday June 5, 2007." The moon was up and according to David it is during times like these that “we work very hard.
On one such night in May this year, people from the nearby Mashombye and Magona villages entered the park to lure fish. It was shortly after midnight when the field rangers came across a group of six where they were already fishing.
The people scattered in all directions and two were apprehended, including Peter's wife, who had also been arrested before.
There was one man in the group, who had a bicycle and who acted as navigator for the group. The team confiscated three nets, the bicycle, clothes for changing afterwards, a panga and the more than 2000 fish that had been caught in the nets.
On May 17, the team was patrolling the fence when it noticed that buffalo had moved from the park to the nearby Muyexe village.
Seeing the buffalo outside the park, the rangers contacted the Limpopo, Tourism and Parks Board (LTP) conservation officials for assistance and alerted them to the problem.
The Kruger teams tracked the spoor until it reached the Shingwedzi River where they found vehicle spoor crossing the animal tracks. They turned south again towards the LTP living quarters in the area.
They came across a vehicle and driver, who revealed that he was waiting for a group tracking the buffalo.
Inside the bakkie, the Shangoni team noticed several items reminiscent of poaching behaviour – spotlights, axes, a panga, chain block, gun powder, ammunition, weapons, a knife, binoculars and more. According to the driver, a group of three, which included himself, had been there since 03h50 in the morning tracking the buffalo.
The other two were from Venda. "The driver said the others had rifles, so we waited there to arrest them when they returned" said David. Unfortunately, they spotted the rangers and ran away. David alerted the Giyani Police where a case was opened against the driver, Silas Raxaka.
Another suspect, Carlson Raxaka, has apparently been arrested for the same offence before. Both suspects refused to divulge the name of the third suspect. David is noticably proud of his team, which he says has been 'hand picked' to a large degree. David took up his position at Shangoni in March this year. One of the first things he did was to establish healthy relationships with the neighbouring communities.
He attends imbizos and meetings at the different villages as far as possible. "People poach for various reasons – to stay alive or to make money," he says. Some families have been poaching in the park for years, says David. They know the park so well they only take food, cooking utensils and weapons on their excursions into Kruger.
They know where to find water. One woman, who had lost an arm to a crocodile one night while fishing inside Kruger, had been apprehended, but, despite her harrowing experience said, "It is in my blood," knowing she would do it again.
David says he has an agreement with most of the traditional leaders at the bordering villages - Mtitititi, Alten, Muyexe, Mahlathi, Ndindani, Planji, Hlomela, Lombaard, Mangona, Mashobye, Bevula, Nthaveni and Maluleke – that an alleged poacher will be brought before the leader, in addition to being charged in a court of law.
Apart from poaching and conservation management associated with a section, the Shangoni team also tends to illegal grass cutting, luring of predators outside the park, hunting with dogs and illegal harvesting of mopane worms in season.