South African National Parks (SANParks) is offering a cash reward of R100 000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of poachers and a further R1-million for a successful conviction of a poaching syndicate mastermind.
"We are also happy to announce our partnership with South Africa's Crime Line, a ground-breaking initiative that allows members of the public to make anonymous SMS tip-offs on suspected crimes at any time of the day," SANParks chief executive officer David Mabunda announced on Wednesday.
SANParks has also appointed a retired, decorated army major-general, Johan Jooste, to oversee the anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park, as part of its multi-pronged strategy to combat rhino poaching.
"This strategy is to leverage on existing capacities and strategic alliances, while bringing much-needed thinking and innovation on existing gaps and loopholes," Mabunda said.
Mabunda commended a Kruger National Park ranger who, three weeks ago, alerted SANParks officials and the police to an offer of collusion from suspected poachers, helping to stage the sting operation that led to their successful arrest.
"His honesty, commitment and diligence to the cause of protecting the rhino has not gone unnoticed; the organization will reward his good deed accordingly," Mabunda said.
South Africa has lost an unprecedented number of rhinos over the last five years, most which were killed in the Kruger National Park.
Major-General Jooste, 60, has vast experience in military intelligence and border protection, knowledge of modern technology use and integration, and some knowledge of conservation.
Jooste said he was "not a Messiah, but a proven leader and a team player. I will do my best to bring acceptable results. This fight against poaching is not about an individual, and success depends on the collective collaboration and commitment from the men and women tasked with the responsibility of conserving our heritage."
Jooste's appointment follows the deployment of a Seeker Seabird reconnaissance aircraft donated by the Ichikowits Family Foundation, as well as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Seeker 2, loaned to SANParks by arms manufacturer Denel.
The two aircraft will provide the much needed intelligence, especially at night, when most poaching incidents take place.
"This will give added advantage to the ground troops and will hopefully act as a deterrent," Mabunda said.