In celebration of World Ranger Day on 31 July 2019, Amakhala Game Reserve extends their heartfelt thanks to all Rangers, Field Guides and APU teams for their hard work, passion and dedication. These men and women don’t just have a job: they are ambassadors for our region and its conservation, and play a pivotal role in protecting our precious wildlife and natural heritage.
As part of World Ranger Day, we interviewed Siseko Mayinje, Amakhala Game Reserve’s Rhino Anti-poaching Unit Pilot
Siseko was born and raised on Amakhala. After he obtained a Diploma in Nature Conservation at Saasveld in George, he returned to his home in the Eastern Cape to complete his 1-year practical training at the Amakhala Conservation Centre (ACC). It was during this time his passion for conservation grew.
Siseko also worked as a vet assistant with Dr William Fowlds, a world-renowned wildlife vet. During this time, they often flew small aircraft together as part of wildlife procedures, sparking Siseko's passion for flying. Through a cadetship at Aptrac Aviation, Siseko later went on to obtain his pilot’s licence.
Today, Siseko is an experienced Rhino APU (Anti-Poaching Unit) pilot. Flying low and slow over the African plains and valleys in a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), skirting powerlines and rocky outcrops, Siseko extends the reach of the APU teams, and provides a powerful deterrent against poaching.
Photo Credit: Sara Wilson
Photo Credit: Angela Barter
An Aerial Support Unit, such as Siseko, has an advantage over vehicles, foot patrol or equine units because of the low speed and height at which they fly, enabling them to patrol more ground, and more thoroughly with a bird’s eye view. They can also monitor difficult terrain not easily accessible by vehicles and enable a much quicker response time to incursions. The mere sight of Siseko in his APU aircraft flying across the Reserve helps to deter potential poachers. Siseko undertakes daily aerial patrols and assists rangers and APU teams with aerial surveillance, game counts and locating missing wildlife.
Air support is another layer of protection around our precious and threatened rhinos. Amakhala Game Reserve’s APU team - including Siseko – are vital components in the fight against wildlife poaching in the Eastern Cape.
Their effectiveness is made possible by collaborating with organisations like the African Rhino Conservation Collaboration (ARCC) and Chipembere Rhino Foundation, both engaged in supporting rhino conservation and improving stringent anti-poaching efforts needed on the ground – where it counts. These include:
• APU equine units which provide greater mobility on patrols and speed in following up on incidents;
• Professionally trained APU foot patrols and tracker dog units which follow up on breaches of reserve borders and incidents of poaching;
• Technology, such as satellite tracking collars, night vision cameras and binoculars; drones and directional monitors, and
• APU surveillance aircraft for various air support and ecological management roles
World Ranger Day: Quick Facts
• Started by the International Rangers Federation in 2007
• Acknowledges the critical and dangerous work rangers do, protecting and guarding the world’s natural heritage
• Commemorates and pays tribute to the rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, protecting endangered species targeted by poachers for the illegal wildlife trade