Every dark cloud has a silver lining

In a two-week period in May nine rhino were poached in the Waterberg highlighting how very close to home the poaching crisis is.

The Waterberg has been subject to numerous incidents in the past months, our collaborations with various departments within the South African Police Services as well as SANParks equips the unit to proactively protect our reserve and area from crime, in this case rhino poaching. We are maintaining high alert levels; training remains a crucial function. We have recently been sponsored by Stoprhinopoaching.com with the whole unit completing a man tracking course. More courses will be done in the following months as part of the sponsorship.” says Kassie Knoetze, Welgevonden Reaction Manager.

Great lengths are gone though to hide weapons and ammunition. Here a high calibre rifle is hidden in the bonnet of a vehicle.

These incidents are a major concern for the Waterberg, once the suspects strikes and no arrest has been made it fuels the poachers and creates a motion for them to continue, we need to stop the motion to ensure we can prevent more syndicates from entering the area. We need to keep our morals high and continue to deliver exceptional service to Welgevonden and the Waterberg area.” Kassie adds.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining as July saw the arrest of five suspects in connection with the poaching incidents on a farm in the Marken area. The majority of the rhino losses on the farm took place in the last eight months with the group arrested being responsible for all incidents. One of the suspects was out on bail for a rhino poaching case (arrested by Welgevonden Reaction, ESU and E&CI in 2020) regarding an incident in Marakele National Park at the time of arrest.

While the arrest has brought some calm to the area, Welgevonden remains at high alert. The key to the arrest, as in most cases, was the collaboration between different role-players and departments in the region.

Cash associated with suspected criminal activity was also confiscated during the recent arrest.

We applaud the Endangered Species Unit (ESU) of Limpopo for their dedication to not leave any case behind, irrelevant of how much time has passed,” says Kassie. “We have been very fortunate to assist due to our excellent relationship with the South African Police Service (SAPS) but also our ability to act as support to the team, the ‘Bosveld Misdaad Ondersoeke’ and Environmental and Corporate Investigations (E&CI – SANParks), who were also involved in the arrest.

Within the same week, ESU called upon us for assistance with a suspect. Welgevonden Reaction responded and seized the vehicle together with SAPS ESU. The vehicle had a large calibre hunting rifle with ammunition hidden in a compartment within the vehicle. The contents of the vehicle were confiscated, and the suspects arrested.

Special mention should be made of the acting provincial commander, Major General J. Scheepers (SAPS), for initiating and implementing the ESU task team. The team is being led by Captain P. Meyer who heads up the entire Limpopo Endangered Species Unit.

The team is well organised and eager to make a difference and protect the heritage of our country. I salute these men and thank them for their contribution towards the protection of our endangered species,” Kassie added.

Once again, our excellent working relationships with SAPS, and the ESU in particular, is what makes these arrests possible. Welgevonden is very proud and humbled to be working closely with SAPS and SANParks as we strive to reduce crime in general.

It is in unity that we will succeed.

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