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Conservation Services

SANParks Corporate Investigation Services (CIS)

History

During 1994 Ken Maggs was transferred to the Anti Poaching Unit after the untimely and tragic death of Sam Fourie in 1993.

At the time the Unit, comprising only Ken was based in Skukuza. The idea was that the Unit’s responsibilities would offer a support function in co-ordinating the anti-poaching actions for the Kruger National Park as a whole, collect poaching related intelligence and information and offer assistance in investigations as well as related court proceedings while the Section Rangers, backed by their Field Rangers would continue to act as the front line action against poaching activity as they had done ever since the establishment of the KNP. As a result of the ever increasing work load and expanding responsibilities Januario Cubai, a Field Ranger from Pretoriuskop joined the Unit in Skukuza during 1994 as a Field Officer...Read more

Environmental crime activity in the KNP & other Parks

The KNP is split up into 22 different Sections, each managed by a Section Ranger who is supported by a staff compliment of Field Rangers. The KNP is also divided into 4 different regions, South, Central, North and Far North. Each region is managed in turn by a Regional Ranger who has not only his own section to manage but at least two to three others forming the region.

Patrols

The Rangers primary function is to ensure the integrity of the section and therefore counter poaching efforts counts very high amongst a long list of responsibilities. It is the Section Rangers duty to ensure that his area is patrolled on a regular basis and that poaching incursions into the park are detected early. He is also responsible for the follow-up of such incursions and the subsequent apprehension of suspects in this regard. The sections are patrolled on a daily basis by well trained Field Rangers. This patrolling acts as a deterrent as well as an early warning and re-active counter measure.

Poaching & CIS

The CIS section was developed to offer a supportive service to the Section Ranger and the Park manager in so far as counter poaching is concerned. Many of our poaching problems originate in the neighboring areas of our parks and most of the perpetrators reside within walking distance of the boundaries.

Types of Poaching

Most of the poaching activity consists of illegal hunting with snares and dogs, fishing and spotlight hunting using light caliber firearms. The main objective for the poacher is to obtain meat. Most of the meat generated from this type of hunting is either consumed by the hunter and his family or sold at illegal meat markets in the various villages for profit.

There is however a more organized type of poaching activity in the form of the illegal hunting of rhino and elephant. This activity is generally carried out by groups armed with automatic or military type weapons. These groups tend to be rather ruthless and in most cases shoot the animal purely for its horns or ivory. Very little else is utilized.

The primary supportive function of the CIS is to identify these poaching threats, especially the more organized firearm related poaching directed against the rhino and elephant. The idea is to be able to “take the fight to the poacher” outside of the parks, preferably whilst they are still in the development stages and before they have attempted to gain access.

Once identified pro-active steps are then planned and carried out to tackle the problem before it reaches the borders of the parks. Although the CIS is in a position to co-ordinate the counter poaching activities in the KNP and other parks it concentrates mainly on many of the specialized functions not easily carried out by the field staff.

How we work

The section specializes in gathering poaching related intelligence and information from a multitude of sources both inside and outside the parks. This intelligence is collected, evaluated and then disseminated to the relevant parks Management staff. The section members spend a great deal of their time making contact with sources outside of the parks in an attempt to identify potential threats in the development stages. The section carries out all its serious environmental crime investigations in conjunction with the relevant SAPS sections and ensures efficient passage of the prosecutions through the judiciary process.

Communication goes hand in hand with intelligence gathering and therefore is a very important function of the CIS. The section communicates with both governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the South African Police Service, S A National Defense Force, Provincial Conservation bodies, National Intelligence, local farmers and anyone else who may have information or assistance to offer. Over the years the section has built up very effective communication channels with its counter parts in neighboring countries such as Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Contact is also maintained on a regular basis with other countries further north such as Zambia and Tanzania. A number of successful counter poaching operations have been carried out in Mozambique along with the Mozambique Police and Nature Conservation officials. These operations have led to many arrests and the confiscation of a number of weapons and animals products such as ivory and rhino horn. These cross border operations have been instrumental in assisting the Mozambique officials with their localized poaching activities by way of the experience and logistical support we have to offer. These operations have also had a deterring effect on poaching activity in areas of the KNP where incursions are common place.

All intelligence and information collected is used to plan on going operations to counter the threat. It is also traded with other relevant organizations in an effort to make a contribution to the threat on a National level.

Ken obtained his pilot’s license in 1996 when two Belanca aircraft were donated to the SANParks for anti poaching operations. Although these two aircraft were returned to the donor early in 1999, the section now makes use of the SANParks Cessna 182 based in Skukuza to support the environmental crime operations. The aircraft is used mainly in a general observation and deterrence role as well as to support investigation work.

Day to day work

The day to day work carried out by CIS members is often extremely dangerous in nature, especially when under cover operations are undertaken. Often long hours are spent by members within poaching groups in an attempt to obtain the relevant intelligence to react on. Due to the nature of the work there is very seldom any recognition for the individual. The whole concept of intelligence collection and special investigations which forms the spear head of the work carried out by the CIS is generally foreign to Nature Conservation practice and has only been practiced by Nature Conservation authorities over the last ten years or so. This has led to false perceptions in the minds of many colleagues and a great deal of questioning as to what the section is in fact doing on a day to day basis.

Sucessful operations

The section has been responsible for many successful operations both inside and outside of the Parks. One of the many successful operations that comes to mind was the arrest of Mr Edward Dunn, who unfortunately was tragically killed in a vehicle accident before the case could be finalized. On the 4th of August 1997 a zebra and a giraffe carcass were found close to one of the tourist roads in the Crocodile Bridge section of the Park. At the time all indications pointed to the animals having been shot from a passing tourist vehicle. Initial investigations were carried out and a bullet point collected from the giraffe carcass. Eventually after a year of investigations we arrested Mr Dunn on the 11th of September 1998 in Pretoria where a photograph was confiscated during a authorized house search. This photograph linked Mr Dunn to the zebra incident and prosecutions were initiated.

Another successful operation carried out just outside the KNP was the successful penetration by a CIS member of a well known rhino and elephant poaching group who had been operating into the northern regions of the KNP. The CIS member worked undercover with the group for almost a month before an arrest could finally be made. Five members of the group were arrested and a tusk weighing 65 kg recovered. An AK47 automatic weapon was also confiscated.

On the 26th June 1999, Mr Shalat Khoza was arrested by Section Ranger Don English and his Field Rangers based at Tshokwane. Mr Khoza was charged for shooting an elephant on the section. He later also admitted to shooting a rhino earlier on in the year. CIS members assisted with the investigation and docket preparation and Mr Khoza was later successfully prosecuted and received a sentence of 30 years without the option of a fine for the elephant and rhino incidents as well as being illegally in possession of an AK47 automatic weapon.

Following up information received from a reliable source one of the CIS members single handedly managed to arrest a suspect along the Mozambique border fence line when the suspect tried to sell him a rhino horn. During the follow-up undercover operation the CIS member had managed to convince the suspect that he was a bona fide dealer in contraband. This enabled him to get close enough to the suspect to attempt an arrest. The actual arrest became more difficult when the CIS member became separated from his back up team and therefore was on his own with the suspect. It took everything in his power to prevent the suspect from fleeing back into Mozambique.

These are but a few of the successful activities carried out by the CIS. There are far to many to elaborate on in this article. The section is however extremely proud of the contribution it has made to date.

The CIS is supported in their day to day operations by many outside organizations. This vital support comes in the form of information, equipment and training. The SANParks Honorary Ranger Corps has become a very important and integral part of the CIS. The Honorary Ranger Counter Poaching Committee has not only kept the section operational with modern state of the art equipment but also form part of a nation wide information collection and investigation system. Most of the members of the committee are also SAPS Reservists under the SAPS. The CIS work very closely with the various sections of the SAPS. The SAPS has also been responsible for assisting in the specialist training undertaken on a regular basis by the CIS members.

For the future the section hopes to place itself at the fore front of combating wildlife crime by setting the necessary foundations and examples for others to follow. We would like to see the section develop into a specialized auditing and service department offering an effective and efficient service in relation to all aspects of environmental crime.

The CIS relies on any relevant information in its fight against environmental crime. We therefore urge the support in our efforts by making contact at the following numbers:

  • Sandra Snelling
    Liaison Officer: CIS (SANParks)
    Tel: +27 13 735 5109
    +27 13 735 4308
    Cell: +27 82 908 3053
    Fax: +27 13 735 5319