Last week, Wild Wonderful World was about a suspected poacher being spotted on a camera trap at the perimeter of a local game reserve. We were asked to sponsor helicopter support with Night Vision Goggles (NVG), as the weather conditions that night were conducive for aerial support. Two K9 teams were deployed on the ground to track the suspect, as well as Farmwatch supporting the operation around the reserve’s perimeter fence.
The helicopter got air bound at 12:20am and returned back to base after 2am. Tracks of 2 suspects were identified, however the K9 unit on the ground & a supporting K9 unit from a neighbouring reserve lost the tracks on the ground, and despite Farmwatch patrolling the perimeter fences, the suspects seemed to have gotten away & a potential poaching incident was successfully prevented.
The observing conditions were perfect for NGV and thermal imaging, making it possible for the helicopter to fly the area extensively. If the suspected poachers were still in the area, the air & ground teams combined would have definitely spotted them. The next morning, no signs were found that poachers went through the fence into the neighbouring reserve, which makes us confident that the disruption and anti-poaching activity forced the suspects to flee the scene. Despite high hopes that the suspects would be captured, we still consider the operation a success as one or potentially multiple poaching incidents were prevented. In addition, the large and timely response from anti-poaching teams from multiple angles will go a long way in deterring future incidents.