Matrix CSI Note: Friends of Swatika
As a responsible corporate citizen, Matrix has a duty to contribute to positive social outcomes within the wider community in which we operate. Through our Corporate Social Investment (CSI) efforts, we are able to support organisations which are involved in addressing the myriad environmental and socio-economic challenges with which South Africa must contend. We support organisations whose outcomes are aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, whilst over time we have expanded our footprint from the borders of the Western Cape, where we are based, to other provinces across the country.
Over the 21-24 July weekend, several of our staff complement had the opportunity to spend the weekend at a campsite situated to the south of the Skukuza Rest Camp within the Kruger National Park. This was hosted by Friends of Swatika, an initiative aimed at creating awareness of the plight of rhinos in the area. The organisation works tirelessly to save these majestic animals and is one of the beneficiaries of our CSI programme.
Over the course of the weekend, members of Matrix staff learnt in greater detail of the work undertaken by the Environmental Crime Investigations (ECI) unit in SANParks. The ECI unit is responsible for wildlife protection and anti-poaching efforts across the country. The ECI, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies including the SAPS, is focused on information gathering and working on specialised investigations in support of anti-poaching operations and other environmental crimes.
On arriving, we visited the K9 Unit, a specialised dog unit which supplements other anti-poaching efforts. Established in 2015 in Hoedspruit, the K9 Unit has been a game changer, yielding remarkable success in fighting wildlife crimes in the park. From an initial three dogs, there are now 55 tracking hounds, with more being added on a steady basis. A new satellite site, in a different part of the park, is currently being established to provide wider coverage and allow for the swifter deployment of the dogs in reported incidents. Between the period three year period of February 2019 and February 2022, the K-9 Unit was deployed 171 times and contributed to saving over 70 rhinos, whilst achieving 178 arrests and the retrieval of 81 weapons.
We also participated in a “snare walk” through the lush bush of the Kruger Park removing snares – loops of wire which poachers hang on trees to entrap animals as they walk. The snares are believed to be set by a syndicate involved in illegal bushmeat trade. With the help of trained rangers, Matrix staff were able to remove several of these snares during the morning.
According to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), a total of 451 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2021, 327 within government reserves and 124 on private property. While this was a 24 percent decrease in rhino poaching compared to the 2019 pre-Covid period, there has been an increase in poaching on private properties. The DFFE further notes that the steady decline in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park is related to an increase in the intensity of anti-poaching activities in the park. A close working relationship between the police’s Endangered Species Unit and the SANParks Environmental Crimes Inspectorate has resulted in increased arrests and convictions (1).
Latest data from the department reveal that 259 rhinos were poached in the first six months of 2022, with 210 of the incidents occurring in state properties and 49 in privately owned parks. Kwa-Zulu Natal has emerged as the new hot spot for poaching, with a reported 133 rhinos lost to poaching, compared to 33 rhinos over the same 6-month period in 2021. The DFFE has noted that SANParks, provincial nature reserves and private rhino owners are dehorning rhinos in an effort to deter rhino poaching (2).
Perhaps a significant highlight from the July trip is that, over the 10 days prior to it, there were no recorded rhino poaching incidents in the Kruger National Park. This is a significant achievement and a sure indicator that the combined and concerted efforts of all the various initiatives to tackle poaching activities in SANParks are yielding positive outcomes. The experience afforded the Matrix staff an opportunity to actively participate in initiatives the business is involved in. Additionally, it enabled us to learn more about rhino conversation taking place within the Kruger while also allowing us to participate in various fun activities such as guided game drives and interesting fireside conversations to keep warm during the cold winter nights.
- DFFE (2022). Rhino Poaching in South Africa in 2021
- DFFE (2022). 259 rhino poached in South Africa in first six months of 2022