An initiative aimed at helping to save South Africa’s black and white rhino populations from being completely wiped out by poachers. The situation in the country is bleak. Celebrate Life SA believes that with the initiative we have chosen, we can turn the tide in KwaZulu Natal, producing a model that can be replicated throughout the country.  On the 1st October 2011 a Sikorsky 300 CBi helicopter with a full time pilot, was deployed by King Shaka Aviation at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park. This Park has among the highest concentration of rhino in the world and is therefore arguably one of the most significant places for rhino conservation globally.

The helicopter was returned to Durban in May due to a lack of funding. We need to get it back in the skies. The war on poachers is best fought from the air.

The Task:

The initial task was to integrate the helicopter into the existing anti-poaching efforts, however the fundamental roles were and still remain:

  • To participate in regular / daily patrols. The mere presence of the chopper was enough of a deterrent to many would-be poachers.
  • To act as a rapid response platform, which would assist in the event of an incident / incursion. Terrain in the Park is largely inaccessible.
  • To cover a greater area than would otherwise have been possible (by car or by foot).

The Results:

The results for the initial period from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011 were as follows:

In the Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Park:

  • 2010 = 14 rhino killed
  • 2011 =   8 rhino killed = Reduction of 42.8%

The comparative data for the above period 2010 vs. 2011:

  • 2010 :  October – December  = 7 rhino killed.
  • 2011 :  October – December  = 1 rhino killed.
  • 85.7% = The reduction in poaching during this period.
  • If you consider 7 rhino were lost during this period in 2010 and then apply the National Average (35% increase) it might be expected that the Park should have lost 9-10 rhino. 

Note: The actual number for the Oct-Dec period for 2011 was one, this in fact suggests a potential 8-9 Rhino were saved.

Phased Growth Strategy:

The re-location of a helicopter at Umfolozi is critical however, during the trial period of 7 months, it was established that poachers had redirected their efforts and were targeting rhino populations in reserves where helicopters were not in use.  This theory was ratified almost immediately by the marked increase in incursions and rhino losses in surrounding areas.

It is therefore of paramount importance that the project be expanded aggressively thereby reducing poacher’s options.

Below is a suggested growth plan which makes initial use of the smaller (300CBI) helicopter.  Once able, we replace the 300 CBI with a larger Robinson R44 allowing Project Rhino pilots to move the 300 CBI to the next problem area.

While the 300CBI provides a tremendous aerial observations and reaction aircraft it is limited to one passenger.  The Robinson R44 has the capability to carry 3 passengers at greater speed and is therefore of greater tactical benefit

v  Phase 1 – pilot chopper

·         Re-introduce the 300 CBI Helicopter (2 seater) toiMfoloziPark

·         Flying 30 hrs per month

·         Cost = R     87 210.00 per month

            R1 046 520.00 per annum

v  Phase 2 – bring in a 2nd chopper

·         Introduce Robinson R44 (4 seater) to Umfolozi. This is a bigger aircraft which is able to move rangers around.

·         Flying 30hrs per month

·         Cost =  R   132 354.00 per month

             R1 588 248.00 per annum

We propose then moving the 300 CBI Helicopter to the Hluhluwe / Mkuze area. That would remain at a cost of R1 046 520.00 per annum 

v  Phase 3 – bring in a 3rd chopper

·         Introduce a second Robinson R44 to Hluhluwe / Mkuze area.

·         Flying 30hrs per month

·         Cost =  R    132 354.00 per month

             R1  588 248.00 per annum 

The first Robinson R44 remains in Umfolozi. Move 300 CBI to Ndumo / Tembe area. 

v  Phase 4 – bring in a 4th chopper

·         Introduce Robinson R44 to Ndumo & Tembe area (this is quite a substantial area to cover and so higher hours per month needed).

·         Flying 40hrs per month

·         Move 300 CBI to Vryheid / Lowsburg area

·         Cost =  R    170 088.00 per month

             R2  041 056.00 per annum

Please note: Above prices Include VAT

Celebrate Life SA will be contributing to keeping a chopper in the air for 3 months depending on the funds raised. With the wonderful initiative proposed by Aromex, we believe that we will make a difference and a large contribution to this much needed project.

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