Boats Help Patrol Olifants Gorge in Fight Against Illegal Fishing

© Roger de la Harpe
Donated by the SANParks Honorary Rangers, the boat is an inflatable hulled vessel complete with motors and trailer.

Disaster in the Olifants River

In 2008, the ecosystems in the Olifants River gorge had been crippled by fatalities, first by illegal fishing, and then suffering the loss of large amounts of Nile crocodiles.

The loss of top predators in an ecosystem places a significant strain on the functioning of that food chain, and may result in a loss of biodiversity. In the same way, illegal fishing creates an imbalance in the river habitat, which places pressure on certain organisms.

Rhino poaching, a tragedy that is increasingly threatening the largest remaining rhino population on earth is a problem that cripples the Kruger National Park's ecosystems as well as the world-famous Big Five family.

The border between South Africa and Mozambique is a popular entry point for poachers, and poachers are struggling to control the movement between the two countries.

Cross-border Concern

The managing executive of the Kruger National Park, Dr Bandile Mkhize, presented Mozambique's Limpopo National Park with a rubber dinghy on a loan basis on Tuesday November 25, 2008 to help with law enforcement in the park.

"We are lending this beautiful new boat so that you can help us patrol the upper reaches of the Massingir Dam to rid the area of illegal fishing and thus help to secure the aquatic life of this river system for generations to come," said Dr Mkhize.

Donated by the SANParks Honorary Rangers, the boat is an inflatable hulled vessel complete with motors and trailer and is worth around R80 000. It is ideal for patrolling deep water such as is found in the Massingir Dam.

During his address, Dr Mkhize stressed that the loan of this boat was as a result of the good co-operation between the two respective parks, which has been built up over the last few years.

"As we know and accept the Limpopo National Park and its staff and rangers are in effect our colleagues as we are all working together as part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, of which both our respective national parks are an integral part," he added. This loan follows the donation of two boats to South African National Parks (SANParks) by the Honorary Rangers following a plea by Kruger National Park rangers for a boat to patrol the Olifants River to rid the area of illegal fishing, particularly near the Mozambique border.

The other boat, a R70 000 aluminium-hulled boat complete with motor and trailer, which was presented to SANParks during September, is currently being used to patrol the Olifants River Gorge on the lookout for illegal fishermen. This boat will also be used to monitor the crocodile situation, which has seen more than 160 crocodiles perishing of pansteatitis since May 2008.

In his acceptance of the boat, Limpopo National Park administrator Baldeu Chande thanked both SANParks and the SANParks Honorary Rangers for the loan. "We vow to use this boat in the fight against illegal fishing in the Massingir Dam," he commented, "and will also use it to investigate any crocodile carcasses we happen to find." The boat will be based at the Limpopo National Park head office near the Massingir Dam wall.

A Bump in the Road

The boats were donated so that rangers could patrol the border between South Africa and Mozambique. This attempt had the aim of preventing fishing activities, monitoring crocodile deaths, and blocking poachers' entry to the Kruger National Park.

Although the intentions were good, sever budget constraints disabled the full potential of the donated boats. The Limpopo National Park was unable to fully utilize the boats and the route once again became a disaster hotspot.

The SANParks Honorary Rangers then decided to raise funds to sponsor the operating costs of the boats so that anti-poaching efforts could commence. With these patrolling boats in action, illegal fishermen, rhino poachers, as well as wildlife deaths due to natural circumstances can be monitored and controlled.

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