Zululand Anti Poaching Patrols

Jul 1, 2011

MISSIONS  12, 17, 22 and 23 of  2011

Name of Missions: Zululand Anti Poaching Patrols
Date of Mission 12: 1 and 2 July 2011
Date of Mission 17: 19 and 20 July 2011
Date of Mission 22: 3 and 4 September 2011
Date of Mission 23: 7 and 8 September 2011
Pilots: Etienne Bruwer and Jas van Wyk, Geoff Dyer and Steve McCurrach, Donald Hicks and Mark Warren, and Craig Wing
Aircrafts used: Sports Star, Streak Shadow, Light Flight and Rainbow Cheetah 912s
Beneficiary: Brett Pearson of Nyathi Anti Poaching, and Simon Naylor, Manager at the Phinda Reserve

Objective of the Flights

To provide aerial monitoring of the Phinda Reserve in Zululand, (1) as a deterrent to possible poachers in the area, and (2) to provide reserve managers with an aerial view of the terrain under their care, as an additional management tool

Mission 12 – ZAPP Patrol 01

Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Brett Pearson

Our first full Zululand Anti Poaching Patrol patrol gave me an opportunity to test the effectiveness of the patrols as well as communications between the air and ground crews, and I’m happy to report an all-round success. Our radio comms work, although we did find some limitations. I think in an emergency we will have to rely on proper ground-to-air radios, but this is not a problem as we already have the necessary equipment. Cell phone comms are also an option but there will be limitations with ground crews and the signal.

The flights themselves were very successful to say the least. Etienne and Jas were very professional and more than willing to do just as we asked. It was a pleasure working with them. Etienne and I covered the area really well and still had some time to spare. We had good sightings of black and white rhinos, hippos, elephants, buffalo and general game. Once again my stomach expressed its displeasure when my feet left the ground – but it’s getting better! It was good to see how relaxed the game was with the aircraft overhead and feedback from the lodges has been positive. For our next flights I will load the boundary maps onto my GPS which will iron out a few problems. All in all it was a great exercise, with good feedback.

Dirk and Jas also had a good time in the air, in Jas’s “Giant Mosquito”. The effect of the plane over the local community was an eye-opener as well as being amusing, with people scattering in all directions. It proves just how effective flying over problem areas can be. Dirk was happy to report that no problems were found and he too was very grateful to get an aerial perspective of the recent rhino poaching scene. Dirk and Jas also had some good game viewing from the air: seven white rhinos, hippos and lots of general game. They flew the entire Phinda fence-line, which Dirk reports was a very effective and worthwhile exercise. They also identified a fire in progress beyond the Phinda ‘borders’, which saved a lot of unnecessary running around by our ground crews.

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I would like to stress that the best patrols are those that are problem free, as this means that we and our personnel on the ground are doing our jobs properly. I believe that these air patrols are going to assist us greatly in our efforts to protect Zululand’s wildlife. Again we would like to extend our gratitude to The Bateleurs and Steve McCurrach for organising these and future patrols, and especially to Etienne and Jas for making their time available at such short notice. We look forward to future patrols over the coming weeks.

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Jas van Wyk

Here is a short story about thoroughly enjoying something while you are doing some good.

Etienne and I proved that we do have the best aries out there. The two of us left Light Flight in quite a rush on Friday 2011-07-01 to Phinda. This after we had heard that the barstardos had poached a rhino calf in the region. We left at 12h00 and arrived 2 hours and 05 minutes later at the Phinda airfield. We did not know, but awaiting us was a jol of note. What a place!

We were guided in by an escort of game rangers on both sides of the runway and using the best 4×4’s (Toyota Land cruisers ), they were clearing the runway from wart hogs and other game). After we had secured our aries, we were taken to a campsite about 20 minutes drive from the airstrip. I was keen to fly as it was still light at only 15h00, but we rolled with the plan of Phinda manager Simon Naylor. Reaching the camp, what a sight, what a place – as if it was made for me and just where I wanna be. All the necessaries you would need, not a stretcher, but a bed in your own safari style tent, all clean and neat. What more would you want! Oh ja – and the its so damn quiet that I could hear the sound of my own blood pumping through my veins. This is life as it should be.

This camp was not for hire or rent, but exclusively for intimate family only and this afternoon a group of people arrived, all being family of the ownership. What was marvellous is that these folks saw Etienne and myself as being intimate family. The animals made their presence during this afternoon, various buck and three rhino at the water hole +/- 100m from our tents, what a sight! We were treated with a bon fire in a lapa and favourite food for Jas, Ox tail potjie and, and, and….. It happened that one of the guests fly’s a Windless at Pitit Airfield at Andy Caspersons school, so you can imagine the chatter that followed. We even had a beautiful young camp manager, Yes you heard me correctly, this was not a man, but a young lady and she really ‘treated’ us from the word go. What a Place – God’s Gift to man.

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The next morning we were transported to the airfield, my crew was Dirk (yes he is Afrikaans ) and he was brilliant with knowing his work and the reserve. He was also a good co-pilot . Etienne’s co-pilot was Brett and they flew the northern sector, while Dirk and I flew the eastern sector. We saw seven rhinos, two camel horses (Giraffes vir julle Engels manne), warthogs, hippopotamuses, and a lot of buck. We tracked the trails of the rhino calf and patrolled the entire border of Phinda as well as three other game farms. We did fly over the rural homesteads, in order to try locate the rhino calf’s head. As a consequence, what did happen is that a lot of the rural folk ran into the trees when we flew over them, making fires, or setting the grass alight. Later on I learned that they had probably thought we were the police and they ran to burn their dagga plantations. Maybe they were not far off the mark, as I was once a Policeman.

I used 60Lt for a total of 8hrs and 19minits of flying. That is what they at Phinda gave me . After we landed at Phinda on Friday, I did not take on any fuel, and I flew the sortie on Saturday for 2hrs37 , went back, upload only 10Lt and flew for another 1Hr42, so my fuel burn was exceptionally low.

According to the weather forecast which Simon downloaded from Windguru, it looked nasty for the next day and the decision was made to head home. I was prepared to stay behind and I made absolutely sure that they were satisfied with all the flying and that they did not want to fly any more. So with all parties comfortable we headed home.

We came back that Saturday afternoon and landed at light Flight at 16:00 (a 2hr4min trip). What a joll! and Yes, that afternoon in bed I did thank God for a opportunity like that, a friend like Etienne, Steve and of course the beautiful people of PHINDA and a place like that on earth.

I now know that its possible for me to be doing some good and to be enjoying my flying and feeling proud, all at once – by flying as a BATELEUR pilot. Even my wife and the rest of the famdamily (NO not family) all agree on this worthwhile flying whilst doing good. AND this is with compensation for our fuel and also the accommodation, what more could a fella ask for!

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Etienne Bruwer

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The mission started on Thursday night, 30 June when I received an e-mail from Bateleurs coordinator, Steve McCurrach requesting a weekend mission to Phinda for the ZWSI. I volunteered as the Friday and the weekend suited me. Jas van Wyk of Light Flight was also available.

Jas and I met at Light Flight on Friday 1 July 2011 we left at about 12h45 local time. I flew in my Sport Star and Jas in his Streak Shadow. We flew in loose formation for the first 20 minutes past King Shaka and then I went on ahead as it suited my cruise settings. The weather was clear skies with a slight south westerly. We arrived at Phinda at 15h00 local with the Phinda Reserve Manager, Simon Naylor there to meet us. Flying time was 2,2hrs. The Phinda airstrip is about 2,5 km long, tar and in good condition. However, before landing the runway is cleared of game by the local attendant. After landing we tied up and were taken to the Sibaya camp where we were welcomed by the whole camp staff. Jas and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the camp atmosphere and after an excellent meal, we hit the sack.

Saturday morning at 06h00, we were met at the camp by Brett and Dirk, the game security wardens for the ZWSI. After a pre-flight briefing we took off at 08h15 on the first mission. Jas and Dirk in the Streak Shadow headed for the north eastern sector of the reserve. Brett and I in the Sportstar, headed for the central and western sectors. The patrol was flown at about 1000ftAGL but in some areas we were down to 500 ft. A comforting aspect was that even at the lower altitude, the game was not “spooked” by the aircraft. At 4500 rpm and doing 60-70 Kts the planes were amazingly quiet, according to comment from the rangers on the ground.

The patrol focussed on various aspects e.g. fence line patrol, vehicles in and around the perimeter fence, game types and positions, dam levels and whether any game was stuck in the muddy surrounds of the dams, carcasses, tracks along and outside the fence, river levels. Brett was equipped with his own security radio linked to the ground staff, a data recording GPS unit on which he regularly made inputs and a note pad. He further made regular cell phone calls notifying camp managers of our presence. A very professionally conducted operation and one which kept him very busy. So I did not worry him too much with yaddayadda, chingching as my kids would say.

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We did 2,2 hours on the first sortie, came back for fuel and a cup of coffee and then left for the second flight which was to the western mountainous areas of Thanda reserve. This included some grid pattern flying and lasted 0,9 hrs. Jas and Dirk in ZU-ANF did much the same flying in their sector although they spent some time focussed on the area around the recent Rhino calf poaching. This extended to the settlement area adjoining the fence. All in all it was an eye opener and a fantastic experience.

After the second sortie we had covered everything they required and with Windguru indicating a southwesterly for the next day, we decided to head for home while the north easterly was still pumping. Everyone was comfortable with this and so at about 13h00 we took off and headed for Light Flight. The flight back took me 1h38 and Jas arrived 15 min later. Altogether an unforgettable experience, which we are thankful to have been part of.

ZU-FGC. Total time on the ferry 3.6hrs. Total time on patrol 3.1hrs. Total time in the air 6,7hrs. Total fuel used 104 litres. Phinda supplied all the fuel and there was no charge, in fact they filled both planes to capacity. ZU-ANF Total time on ferry 4.3hrs total time on patrol 4.3hrs Total time in the air 8.6 hrs total fuel used 60 litres.

Mission 17 – ZAPP Patrol 02

Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Simon Naylor

This is my first opportunity to get and read reports and look at all the pics you have generously sent me. I just wanted to thank you once again for the time and effort you have given up to help us patrol our game reserves. I probably don’t need to reiterate what I am sure you have already been told by Brett and Dirk – how valuable these flights are becoming to our efforts. We will continue to make sure that this remains a win/win situation for all and I am so pleased with the results so far.

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Having all these pics is an added bonus and you can imagine the surprised look on the game guards face when shown these. It was all innocent but it adds immense value to the patrols.

Once again thanks for the efforts and especially to Steve for organizing such a smooth operation from The Bateleurs side.

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Geoff Dyer

Steve emailed me all the relevant information so I felt I was well prepared and although we took different routes, we landed within 5 minutes of each other at Phinda. My flying time from Light Flight was 1.9 hours in perfect conditions.

A short break, refuel and we were off on our first patrol. I flew with Brett and we flew to the west over Kibu Yeni and then west of the N2 over a number of private reserves. We saw a young Kudu bull lying dead next to a fence and Brett radioed to people on the ground to check it out. We were flying about 700 foot AGL at 80 miles per hour. When we saw vehicles or people we went down low to identify them and after 1.4 hours landed back at Phinda. Game seen from the air included Hippo, Warthog, lots of Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Nyala and Rhino.

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We refuelled, had a bite to eat and planned our next sortie. This time I was flying with Dirk. Just before we took off a call was received asking for help concerning two Black Rhino that were fighting through a fence. We changed our plans and decided to fly directly to look for potentially injured Rhino. It was now late afternoon, the area was quite hilly with thick bush. This potentially dangerous situation was alleviated by making sure Steve and I were both on the same QNH and then me staying 150 foot higher than Steve as we orbited low in and around the hills into the late afternoon sun. Eventually Steve spotted two Black Rhino and I managed to have a good look at one of them which had no visible signs of injury. We spent another half an hour low level, about 200 foot AGL, searching the hilly bush before we finally headed back to Phinda. This flight was 1.7 hours.

I’m not at liberty to say where we spent the night, suffice to say the accommodation was good! We had dinner with Kevin, a Director from & Beyond, Simon, the wildlife manager at Phinda, Roger de la Harpe, a well known author and photographer of excellent wildlife publications, Steve and myself.

The next morning we were airborne by 8:00am and flew up to the Eastern shores of Jozini Dam for our first patrol. We flew low over the Western shores following a grid pattern through to the main road and saw lots of game including a herd of 30 Elephant. We then moved up to the mountainous area towards Pongola and flew the private reserves North and South of the Mkhuze River. This area is very inaccessible from the ground due to the steep terrain with very few roads. The wind was also varying from 20 miles an hour to nothing which made for interesting flying. From there we worked our way South over a number of private reserves all the way through to Hluhluwe and the Western shores of False Bay of Lake St Lucia. From the air it is blatant how much of the pristine, magnificent sand forest has been turned into pineapple fields and Eucalyptus forests. We flew grid patterns over more private reserves on the way back to Phinda. This flight was a long 2.4 hours and fatigue was becoming a problem towards the end. Brett’s comment was that it would have taken him 6 months to cover the area we had done if he had to do it on the ground.

Flight time back to Light Flight was 1.8 hours giving me a total mission time of 9.2 hours.

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Comments and suggestions
1. The fuel from the pumps at Phinda was quite dirty and a filter and siphon pipe should be taken on any future missions.
2. A lot of ground has to be covered so you must be prepared to fly a lot. It seems the large area to be covered can be done in 24 hours if the weather is good. Combined with the 4 hours of ferry flying means you could easily fly 9 hours in the 2 days.
3. The hospitality we were shown was outstanding. & Beyond, the Phinda umbrella company, is at the top of the world class wildlife destinations and it was a great pleasure to be part of the, in Steve’s words, “Win-win situation”.
4. Steve McCurrach has set up a highly efficient, well organised structure for us to fly these missions in. If we follow the guidelines laid down by Steve we should enjoy a long association with the land owners of Northern Zululand.

Mission 22 – ZAPP Patrol 03

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Donald Hicks

This was a trip that had its beginnings full of twists and turns… The organising, as expected, went without hitch with Steven McCurrach so ably pulling strings, where needed, in order to get the “sortie” underway. Great job Steve, the Bateleurs are a wonderful organisation carrying out good work, all at no charge and simply for the benefit and the love of nature. Good stuff!

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In spite of me being at the forefront of the project, I have not been available to carry out a sortie till now. At last, with a weekend free and with a “gate pass in hand”, I was champing to get into my first “sortie”. Poaching is a scourge which needs to be approached, from whatever direction possible, in order to allow the animals to die of natural causes, rather than this scourge. Other African countries, surprisingly enough, have “raised the bar” and see the killing of animals, like Rhino, as a serious crime. Unfortunately, South Africa does not protect our national heritage in quite the same way. Work still surely needs to be done on this front.

Well, with all in place and ready to go……That was, of course, until I was told that, for unfortunate personal reasons, Donovan Barton-Hobbs, (my pre-organised Bateleurs sortie partner), could not make it on this patrol. Most fortunately, Mark Warren put his hand up and, being a more than able and capable replacement, Mark was most welcome indeed. An aside, I firmly believe that when sorties are assembled, the “partnering” needs to be such that mutual friendship, (a nice to have), and trust, (a must have), are a prerequisite. What an able replacement Mark was, as he and I blended very well and were able to follow the requirements of the required tasks.

Friday saw us leaving Emoyeni, Camperdown and about 15h30. A late start, but, with an anticipated tail wind, this should have been no problem at all. Unfortunately this was not the case as we eventually landed at 17:30 having endured winds coming from all directions with serious thermic activity. A bouncy ride for sure. The lesson for all pilots is that you MUST allow plenty of time to get there!

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We landed Pinda having flown for more than 30 minutes in and out of smoke, allowing, at times for very poor visibility. The smoke came from a bush fire that Pinda was fighting that very afternoon. The fire was of an intensity not ever seen there before. In fact, from the information given to Simon Naylor, (Phinda Manager), it was the 3rd hottest fire ever experienced in a South African bush fire history, since the era of fire heat and intensity measurement. The damage, as was seen next day, was absolutely devastating.

Upon arrival, we were collected and deposited at the camp where tents awaited. Very basic, rustic, but comfortable. The highlight certainly was the care taken of us by Nicky and her able bodied team. I have to say, some of the most fantastic food I have ever enjoyed in a bush camp. Nic, you and your team did yourselves proud.

Next morning we were up early and out at the aircraft to undertake the tasks of the day. The request…. Please fly the fire devastated area and look for animals which may have been hurt? This was not the plot for our Zapp’s, but a good cause nonetheless. Mark found the Rhino, 1 burnt to death and 3 others hurt beyond belief. The other species seemed to have faired fairly well, but the poor ponderous Rhino, with their poor eyesight had to “take it on the nose”. My final numbers on the Rhino are 1 dead from fire, two had to be put down due to injuries sustained and 1 further animal put down, following the vet’s final say. Man this hurt – after all we had come all this way, to help these poor animals and to fight the scourge of poaching. A small solace I suppose is that the animals died to the forces of nature, with no person making profit from the deed. Small consolation though!

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The balance of the morning was flying the boundaries and criss-crossing the various reserves. On that first day, but for the fire and the results thereof, we spotted nothing to be unduly concerned about.
That evening, following a marvellous meal, it was off to bed. Flying low and slow is certainly tiring so I was happy to get to bed come 22:00.

Next day, Sunday, we started again at the fire devastated area. This was followed by perimeter fence checking and more criss-crossing the different reserves. The wind had picked up on Sunday and this made heavy work of the patrolling, particularly of the mountainous western sector, an area in which the mountains rise to 1500 feet, with the valleys still down low at 350 odd feet. The result of this, unfortunately, was limited patrol of this area.

Interestingly, in the eastern sector near False Bay, (St Lucia), we came across tracks of a kill made in the reserve with the drag marks going out of the reserve and under the fence, across the dirt road and into the local residential area. When I asked of my Game ranger, Dirk, “what of that”, his answer, “even if we had tracker dogs we would battle to find the people responsible”. Sad really. Biggest problem…..wire snares. 1 man can set over a100 snares in a day and if not found, these snares can be killing animals for up to 5 or more years later.

We called it a day at just short of lunch time on Sunday and, after refuelling, we headed home. A sad trip really, but one that realised the objectives, whereby suffering was at least reduced, the fences were well covered and we were well seen by all. Being seen, after all, is a deterrent in itself.

The trip back was met with headwinds that added an hour and a half to the two hour trip…… so leave yourself lots of time to commute folks.

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Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Brett Pearson

We haven’t had such a great weekend, unfortunately as a result of the massive fire that burnt on Friday Phinda has lost some rhino and many general game (Nyala’s, Kudu’s, Impala’s, etc).

It was of great assistance having the guys here, we were able to locate injured rhino’s very quickly from the air and to then guide the ground crews in, to follow-up on the extent and treatment of the injuries.

In the other areas we covered all seems in order. For Mark’s information, the small burn area which we flew over yesterday (near the jo-jo tanks) on our way back from Pongola Game Reserve, was started at the Eskom box and it looks like a ‘short’ between the 2 Eskom cables.

Otherwise we had some good sightings of general game (especially Giraffe) and some healthy rhinos, Mark and I had a great sighting of a herd of elephants on Pongola Game Reserve and lots of BIG croc’s!! We also saw 2 elephant bulls on Thanda having a friendly stand-off.

Don and Dirk had a good flights of the rest of Phinda and also the ‘farm watch’ section and Dirk is happy to report that all is in order. Don and Dirk also flew some of Thanda and the western section of ZRR. The winds where a little rough over the mountain areas so we didn’t spend too much time in the mountains, but we can try again tomorrow or Wednesday.

Please pass on my thanks to Mark and Don, hopefully their next trip won’t be as depressing as this one was and once again, thank you for your coordinating of the troops.

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Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Simon Naylor

I can confirm that 4 rhinos have died as a result of the fire. 1 black rhino and 3 white rhino. We are watching carefully a number of others that either were burnt or show signs of being burnt. Two white rhino which Brett and Mark picked up. A cow and calf we managed to dart and give some treatment. The vet gave copious antibiotics and we poured and scrubbed their wounds with disinfectant. We are monitoring their progress closely and hope they are going to pull through.

I understand that it was a grim task to perform on a mission which was supposed to save rhinos. Having to locate dead burnt rhinos is something no one would like to do. Having eyes in the sky enabled us to rapidly assess the damage of the fire as we knew there would be casualties. It certainly gave me the info that the fire was serious and if one or two rhino were burnt there was a good possibility that more where. I made the call to get both a private vet and Dave Cooper (EKZNW Vet) in with a helicopter so that we could assist and treat not just the ones Brett / Mark found, but others aswell. So their assistance with the initial recce of the zone was much appreciated. We ended up treating 3 rhinos on the day.

I am happy for you to share this with other pilots and your organization. Although it is not ‘good’ news about the deaths I believe the rapid assessment the following morning by both Mark and Donald helped us immensely to mobilize vets/choppers and ground teams to assist other rhinos.

It is still too early to tell how the other burnt rhinos will fare. As with human burns, infection is the biggest killer post burn and being such thick skinned animals, this will be their biggest hurdle to overcome. Hence our need to monitor them closely on the ground in the coming weeks.

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Mission 23 – ZAPP Patrol 04

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Steve McCurrach

As mentioned in the call-ups preceding these two Zapp sessions, we had missed one cycle of patrol flights. Nevertheless, strategising that this is probably a good thing in some ways, as the irregularity of our patrols is a desirable element in the grand scheme of things, namely by making the ‘wanna be poachers’ unable to pick up on any routine that we may be using. Another perceived advantage being that just as they think the heat is off, we suddenly conduct two ‘back to back’ patrols. Well this is just what happened and any ‘observer’ in this zone will have seen so much flying in the past week, that they’ll think the aerial surveillance is now a permanent feature of these game reserves.

A special insert here; with HUGE thanks to Carl Grossmann and his team from African Conservation Trust (ACT), who have come through with R30,000 as a fuel contribution towards our ZAPP flights. Whilst we as pilots simply draw our fuel from the Phinda fuel bowser, it is ACT who have stepped up and provided Phinda and the Zululand Wildlife Security Initiative with this R30k of fuel funding. Such is their concern and support for rhino conservation in our country. Thank you Carl, and please pass on our applause for this contribution to your group.

Mark Warren and Donald Hicks undertook the weekend patrol on 3rd and 4th September, followed immediately by Craig Wing and Steve McCurrach on Wednesday and Thursday, 7th and 8th September.

We all averaged (give or take a half hour) 9hrs of flying, including the positioning flights. Simple deduction of the positioning and return flight times makes 5hrs each on site, which, multiplied by 4 aircraft is equal to 20hrs of patrol time in the zone. This is/was saturation coverage and as with the previous patrols, a lot was accomplished with commensurate praise from our conservation partners- Brett and Simon. I believe it is notable that we are able, with very little fuss, to deliver a meaningful and appreciated direct contribution to conservation.

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Very sadly a fire ravaged some of ‘our’ zone on Friday 2nd September. In the course of its fury, this fire claimed the lives of an unprecedented four rhinos. I say unprecedented as this was the hottest, worst, largest and most damaging fire on record for this zone. Fanned by a 25knt SW it was finally labelled as a fire storm, evidence of which is seen in the aftermath where ordinarily the grass burns away, but the acacia thornveld remains mostly in tact. However in this case the fire was so hot that it burnt to the ground everything in it’s path, in places leaving only ash and not a standing tree to be seen.

This was a shocking experience for Mark and Donald, two Bateleurs pilots who had given up their weekend at personal cost to contribute towards the conservation of rhinos in KZN, something about which they are obviously passionate. With this in mind, they headed into the zone, only to be met with what can best be described as carnage and the deaths of several rhinos – the absolute antithesis of what we want to see. Please read Donald’s response to this situation in his own post flight report.

One can only feel for the zebra in the third photo above – with their patch of Africa burnt they were walking to the nearest water and don’t be deluded by the word nearest, because whilst this was the closest water, it was very far away. Having hydrated themselves it is then a case of hoofing it back to the very marginal remaining grazing. I draw attention to this because whilst we are all inclined to empathise so quickly with the ‘in vogue’ species, the commonest of species all suffer in the aftermaths of tragedy.

Some stats (Steve using a Rainbow Cheetah 912s)
Positioning flight Dbn to Phinda 288kms  2hrs13min
Wednesday patrol No.1  149kms   1hrs30min
Wednesday patrol No.2  138kms   1hrs06min
Thursday patrol No.1  55kms   0hrs31min
Thursday patrol No.2  140kms   1hrs08min
Positioning flight Phinda to Dbn 306kms   2hrs02min
Totals   1076kms   in  8hrs30min  av speed  126kph   Fuel 130lts @  15.3Lt/Hr

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Note:   The flight to Phinda took 2hrs 13mins and, somewhat surprisingly, the flight home, a longer distance at 306kms, took a shorter time of 2hrs 06min. This was due to diverting from some low clagg on the inland hills and electing to route coastwise initially and then inland of the King Shaka CTR from Empangeni. So why the lesser speed – a 20kph NE tailwind.

Accommodation for these two sorties was going to be tents all round BUT while Mark and Donald did camp out in igloo tents, a pride of lions decided to make the camp their home, and so they were relocated to the lodge …

As if the Friday fire had not been destructive enough, whilst at work we encountered yet another fire – featured in the scary pic below. The runway at Phinda somehow never fails to epitomise the scenario for us; here we have the planes tied down for the night as the animals emerge for some evening grazing; and the following morning the ATC was on duty alongside the runway.

Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Brett Pearson

Yet again thank you very much to you and your team for your dedication to our patrols.

Thanks to you and Craig for the last 2 days flights I worked out from my GPS that Craig and I flew over 700km over the last 2 days, excellent coverage!!

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Our air support to Mkuze Game Reserve yesterday was greatly appreciated and although the suspects escaped it has spooked the community properly. I saw 3 members of the Mkuze APU in the police station earlier today and they are very grateful for our help, the reason they where there, was to book a poacher they had apprehended.

Yourself and Dirk saw more than 20 rhino’s which is good going and great to see, Dirk was pleased to be able to check the kraals you flew over, it helps with future operations. Myself and Craig had a good flight over my “problem children” and made sure they knew we are watching them. We also had good sightings of game in general, there was 1 rhino who had me very worried, but it turned out he was just having a slow start to his day and wasn’t too impressed with us waking him.

Otherwise we are glad to report “all in order”. Again many thanks to you and Craig for making yourselves available for the midweek patrol, we greatly appreciate you leaving your own occupations standing, in order to assist us with our conservation work.

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