Airwing Support Unit Update – March 2023

Three rhino de-horning operations were completed during the January period within the Greater Kruger. These operations have proven to be effective in minimising poaching incidents. 

Dehorning rhinos is not the ultimate solution to the rampant poaching that fuels the high demand for rhino horns created by the practice of traditional medicine and status by Asian countries. However, it does help protect rhinos from poachers while conservation managers race against time to develop more lasting, long-term solutions. Without horns, there is little reason for poachers to target and kill rhinos, so dehorning is an effective, temporary safeguard against poaching. It causes no pain to the rhino, and the horns will grow back, just like our own hair or fingernails. 

The fate of our rhinos remains in critical state, but with sensible, informed decisions, which currently include dehorning and cooperative efforts, this majestic animal will hopefully continue to freely roam the South African bush. 

Our aircraft responded to several incursions over this period. Unfortunately, four rhino carcasses were located. This is never easy to acknowledge, but in general, rhino poaching incidents have reduced substantially over the past year. Undoubtedly, dehorning has played a key role in this reduction of rhino losses. 

Our ongoing regular patrol flights continue with the Associated Private Nature Reserves and central Kruger regions. These patrol flights are invaluable and provide section rangers and wardens with real-time distribution data of threatened species, which is crucial to field ranger deployment in high-risk areas. 

Our pilot flight-training programmes continue with a number of new students signing up for the first quarter of 2023. We pride ourselves with quality training over quantity and train pilots at the highest level. Our flight training programmes are aimed at conservationists and protected area managers who use aircraft in conservation-management and counter-poaching roles. To date we have trained pilots from all over the African sub-continent with excellent results. 

February was an especially wet month with above average rainfall which caused severe flooding in the Central Kruger Park and Private Reserves. Much of our flying during February comprised reconnaissance flights assessing roads and infrastructure damage caused by the flooding. Fewer hours were flown during this period due to the higher-than-average levels of rainfall in our focus area. 

In March, we were able to resume our flying hours and the green bush, full rivers and dams from the air is certainly a sight to see.