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ANTIPOACHING AIRCRAFT: CURRENT PROJECT
Wilderness Conservancy has provided nine aircraft to African wildlife parks, three of them since 2014 to aid in saving the few remaining elephants and re-introducing rhino which have been killed off by poachers. Two of the recent aircraft are new BatHawks in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park and Niassa Wilderness and the third is a Bellanca 8GCBC "Scout" donated to Namibia's Ongava Game Reserve. The aircrafts' missions are dedicated to antipoaching patrol as well as related flora and fauna survey.
Ongava Game Reserve
Gorongosa National Park
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ANTIPOACHING AIRCRAFT › HISTORY › Summary :
Zimbabwe: two Bellanca 8GCBC Scouts – one was lost in a landing accident and replaced by another. Crispin Jokopo, our pilot, had landed in a farmer’s field to pick up a catch of AK-47 automatic rifles hidden there by poachers. Unknowingly, his left main gear tire had been punctured by a thorn. The air leaked out slowly by when he landed, the flat tire caused a bad accident. Crispin was not hurt but the Scout was totaled.
KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa: two Bellanca 8GCBC Scouts – one was totaled in an accident while flying low level circles around a white rhino that had been shot with an arrow by a German doctor who was high on ganga. The plane stalled and crashed and the pilot was killed. The aircraft was replaced by another Scout.
Kruger National Park: two new American Champion 8GCBC “Super Scouts”. Funded by donations from the Republic of China on Taiwan.
South Africa National Parks and the South African Police Service: Cessna U206F. When the SA police saw that it worked very well in various criminal matter, the police service then allowed the ESPU to use its police owned aircraft. Dr. Cleaves brought the Cessna home and used it in humanitarian missions to Baja California, Mexico. The big thing that brought the SAPS to allow its animal law enforcement people to use its own aircraft was the time when our Cessna, flown by a police pilot, spotted two very large refrigerated trucks being driven from Cape Town to a Namibian port to be stopped before leaving SA and found a huge load of abalone. The trucks were confiscated along with their cargos. The abalone were sold by the SA government for more than a million dollars on the international market.
Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique: 1 BatHawk LSA (Light Sport Aircraft).
Niassa Wildlife area, Mozambique: 1 BatHawk LSA
Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa: 1 Aeronca Champion – later traded for a helicopter and used in both the Eastern Cape and in Cape Province.
ANTIPOACHING AIRCRAFT › HISTORY › Details:
The value of WILDCON's antipoaching aircraft is exemplified by a recent letter to Dr. Cleaves from Nick Steele, Director of the KwaZulu Department of Nature Conservation, wherein he stated: "The aircraft you have and continue to provide are of inestimable value to our field operations, providing not only ground-to-air capability, but also improving safety of field staff and wildlife alike."Wildcon's Zimbabwe "Scout" antipoaching aircraft, here flown by Dr. Bob Cleaves, patrols the north shore of the Matusadona National Park at Lake Kariba, providing protection for a small family of elephants.
WILDCON had four, two-seat light observation aircraft and one six-seat utility aircraft in antipoaching and humanitarian operations in southern Africa. Two are Bellanca 8GCBC "Scout" aircraft, two are American Champion 8GCBC "Super Scout" aircraft and the fifth was a Cessna U206F utility aircraft. With only five aircraft WILDCON had the largest "fleet" of dedicated antipoaching aircraft in government service in the world.
The Cessna was being used to carry teams to various hot spots in South Africa as well as southern African nations who have enforcement agreements with South Africa. In addition, the SAP has a national responsibility to help serve social needs of rural people. Thus, in conjunction with the National Health Service and public and private university medical schools and hospitals, nearly every ESPU mission also served to carry medical and health supplies to rural clinics, as well as volunteer doctors.
Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) refers to techniques such as artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET) and in vitro (test-tube) fertilization (IVF). Genome Resource Banking (GRB), a term coined by the IUCN, refers to the collection, processing, storage (cryopreservation) and use of gametes (sperm and egg-cells), embryos and other biological materials from rare and endangered wildlife - in effect, a third (frozen) population is created, the other two being the populations found in the wild and in captivity.
ART can be used to produce embryos from egg-cells and sperm recovered from live or dead animals. The embryos can then be transferred to recipients (same or closely related species) or banked (frozen) for later use. WBRC is the only such facility on the African continent. It is located at Pelindaba, South Africa. The importance is simply this: Wildlife in Africa is no longer free to roam. Populations are being fragmented and placed on "islands" of land surrounded by game fences and people. The result is a dangerous loss of genetic exchange between populations. Inbreeding depression and genetic drift are evident: lions in Umfolozi Game Reserve are already being born with shorter legs; and black manned lions in Tanzania are all but extinct; elephants are being born without tusks in Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The ability to move genes between isolated populations through the use of ART and GRB and to thus breed and maintain populations in safe areas that might otherwise become extinct, is a significant development. The world's zoos and aquariums have a vast supply of genetic material which can be part of a two way exchange with those in the wild. Diversity as well as survival can be the result.
How does WILDCON fit in this picture? WBRC had been renting a Cessna 182 which it uses to collect materials from field operations, from hunters who have been trained to gather sperm and eggs from animals shot by their clients (within four hours following death), from farmers similarly trained, and from game departments. The cost of aircraft rental in Africa is extremely high. Thus, WILDCON has provided the WBRC with a Cessna U206 to WBRC free of use and thus relieve WBRC from the $50,000.00+ per year rental charges it presently incurs. WBRC already has a well qualified pilot, Frank Molteno, and will operate the Cessna U206 and share time with the ESPU. This project was an excellent adjunct to WILDCON's antipoaching program. The WBRC collects sperm, eggs and embryos from wild animal populations during capture or from dead animals and, through its Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) (artificial insemination) and in vitro fertilization, has successfully propagated offspring in same or closely related species. ART and the WBRC Genome Resource Bank (GRB) represent a powerful conservation tool that is destined to play a major role in the conservation of a number of endangered wildlife species. WBRC is the only such facility on the African continent and is a leader in field operations that the Cessna serves. "Wildcon produces results!" RESULTS: During the first year of operation of the Zimbabwe Scout records were kept that reveal that the aircraft was directly responsible for the saving of 24 endangered black rhinos, locating for relocation 27 black rhinos, and apprehending 25 poachers. Including that first year, our five aircraft had, to date, been directly responsible for saving hundreds of rhinos (black and white), and thousands of elephants from the guns of poachers. Add to the foregoing the apprehension of more than 200 poachers.
RESULTS: During the first year of operation of the Zimbabwe Scout records were kept that reveal that the aircraft was directly responsible for the saving of 24 endangered black rhinos, locating for relocation 27 black rhinos, and apprehending 25 poachers. Including that first year, our five aircraft had, to date, been directly responsible for saving hundreds of rhinos (black and white), and thousands of elephants from the guns of poachers. Add to the foregoing the apprehension of more than 200 poachers.
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