A word from Bruce McDonald, the College’s Pilot

The SAWC’s Aerial support has remained active during the Covid-19 lock-down period doing in excess of 60 hours of operational flying for this period. All necessary permits for essential air services through the SAWC, SANParks, GKEPF and the Department of Transport were issued for these operations. And here I must thank everyone that assisted me in getting these permits through and issued in good time. It is really appreciated.

As part of the SAWC’s normal air-wing operations it continued with its routine weekly patrols in the Southern Timbavati, KNP Contractual sections, Kingfisherspruit regions of the KNP, Central Tshokwane KNP, Klaserie Nature Reserve and Balule Nature Reserve.

These patrol/audit flights have proven to add much value to management decision making with daily rhino and elephant distribution statistics. With pro-active use, this data allows wardens, managers and section rangers to strategically place personnel where they can be most effective and productive in terms of rhino protection.

We are currently in the process of reviewing two additional sections of the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve to be included on our patrol flights. These two areas will overlap into the Kingfisherspruit sections of the KNP, which during certain times of the year become vulnerable and high-risk. With these two additional areas, the central western KNP sections bordering on the central eastern Timbavati regions will be covered on a regular basis.

Much of our operational flights during the April period were reaction flights, providing aerial support during contacts, incursions or reported gunshots. Although we generally saw a decrease in rhino poaching during the April period, three rhino carcasses were located in the central Kruger National Park region with our aerial assistance. I think having a vigil presence of an aircraft in our core focus areas has had a big impact on curbing poaching in these areas.

Our SAWC VHF telemetry rhino tracking operations continue as does the Balule Nature Reserve rhino de-horning programme. Here we have assisted the Balule in locating individual horned animals on the reserve that have subsequently been de-horned as part of this initiative to help protect their rhino.

During this quarter, the SAWC Air-wing assisted the Manyeleti Game Reserve in locating a wounded rhino that needed veterinary treatment. Fortunately the animal was treated successfully and survived.

As part of the SAWC’s online training initiatives, the air-wing is currently in the process of reviewing and designing an on-line theoretical flight-training programme.  The first flight-training module consists of seven theoretical subjects. With a professional support base, on-line manuals and the ability to interact with instructors in real time, through Skype, Zoom etc. this could potentially be a win-win situation for the SAWC as well as students.

Our student support base comes from throughout the African sub-continent and online training could streamline the training process and greatly reduce costs for organisations sponsoring these students. As such, we are excited to be part of these new developments.

To all of our donors and loyal supporters, we cannot thank you enough for the ongoing support received during these uncertain times. We are committed beyond measure to continue protecting our threatened wildlife against all odds, no matter what it takes. Special thanks to recent donations received from the the Edgar Droste Trust, the RB Hagart Trust, John Stewart and Our Horn is Not Medicine donors including the Family Sheldon Trust and Thais Racy.  To our ongoing donors including the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance and Friends of African Wildlife, your continued support is very much appreciated.

To the SAWC management, colleagues and friends, let’s keep positive and try to stay strong during these uncertain times. This pandemic will pass and things will one-day return to normal. Keep well and keep safe!