Balule Nature Reserve celebrates anti-poaching milestone

Posted by Chloe Cowley on 5 April 2022

Balule Nature Reserve, thanks to its incredibly dedicated team, is celebrating 500 days without a rhino being killed as a result of poaching.

Picture: Supplied / Balule Nature Reserve

The reserve is a protected area located in the Limpopo Province and a member of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR), which forms a part of the Greater Kruger National Park.

A few years ago, the reserve implemented a revised approach to anti-poaching by introducing a drastic change that was much needed to reduce and ultimately put an end to rhino poaching in Balule.

Part of this new approach included a reserve-wide integrity testing policy that was implemented to root out internal involvement. Together with Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, Balule also embarked on a full-scale dehorning operation starting early in 2019.

Picture: Supplied / Balule Nature Reserve

All third-party security service providers were removed (except for one NGO that patrols a small section of the fence) and a dedicated reaction unit was created and heavily invested in. Some of the best K9 assets were sourced and the team underwent extensive training.

The force on the ground is divided into ‘detection units’ that patrol and look out for illegal border crossings. When an illegal entry is detected, reaction units are there to respond with K9 assistance and air support.

Picture: Supplied / Balule Nature Reserve

Working around the clock every day, the team of wardens and rangers at Balule are some of the best. The general manager and head warden at the Balule Nature Reserve, Ian Nowak says ‘their dedication and commitment is amazing.’

Despite the huge cost of protecting this wild population of rhinos, Nowak says that the team will continue to do what they can to protect them.

On 10 October 2020, a suspect was arrested in connection to a rhino that was lost due to poaching in the reserve. The suspect was found in possession of a horn and is currently on trial.

That is why 500 days is a massive achievement in the battle to end rhino poaching. Nowak says, ‘We have not rested on our laurels, our guys are out every day and night and we keep on looking to improve where we can, and where technology can give us the edge.’

The team is also assisted by the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation (GKEPF) which provides much-needed air support, patrols, training, and funding for follow-ups.


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