ZAPP Patrol 1 and 2 of 2012

Mar 30, 2012

MISSION  04 of  2012

Name of Mission: ZAPP  Patrol 1 and 2 of 2012         
Date of Mission:
Patrol 1: 16 to 19 March 2012
Patrol 2: 3 March to 01 April 2012
Pilots:
Patrol 1: Hein Brauckmann and Johan Meiring
Patrol 2: Duncan Deane and Steve McCurrach
Aircraft used:
Hein: Bushbaby
Johan: Zlin Savage
Duncan: Rally 105 XP
Steve: Rainbow Cheetah
Beneficiary: Phinda Reserve and others   

Intro for the Annual Report:

The Bateleurs ZAPP missions are ongoing aerial patrols that attempt to curb the activities of rhino poachers in northern Zululand. They are flown in Light Sports Aircraft and Microlights, and all patrols are co-ordinated by Bateleurs director and pilot, Steve McCurrach. The Bateleurs and the ZAPP beneficiaries believe that these patrols are having a positive effect. 

Patrols took place on 16 to 19 March, and again on 31 March to 01 April 2012.

The report presented below is a compendium report, prepared by Steve McCurrach.

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Objective of the flights

To curb the activities of rhino poachers in northern Zululand

Pilot’s report by                Steve McCurrach

Two Bats volunteers flew home on Monday 19th March after a ZAPP long weekend from 16th to 19th March. Upon landing, Hein Brauckmann and then Johan Meiring both called me, purely for the “down and safe” peace of mind. Hein’s call clearly conveyed his excitement and the afterglow of a ZAPP experience; he reported this as a ‘best ever flying experience’ and it was great to feel this energy coming from a volunteer. Johan, who is an airline pilot says that these ZAPP flights are real flying.

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Hein flies a bushbaby and Johan a Zlin Savage. Their patrol was hosted at Nyathi by Brett Pearson who commands the patrols, sets up the accommodation and even fixes the aeroplanes! The feedback report from Brett appears below, followed by reports from Hein and Johan:

“Yet again another very successful patrolling session with no major incidents to report, Hein and I covered nearly 2000 km in just over 11 hours during the 4 days. We got great coverage and even made it into Somkhanda early one morning where we flew along the Ozobeni fenceline and returned to base along the coast. Johan was based over the Phinda and the ZWSI Farm Watch section of our zone, where he flew with Ryno. They also returned with an “all clear” report after which Johan took Julian up to look for his leopards.

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Thanks must go to Alwyn from Thanda for hosting the pilots, Hein seemed impressed with his “tent”. It was great working with both Hein and Johan who were both very keen to fly as much as possible.”

Hein Brauckmann and Johan Meiring had this to report:

“Our recent ZAPP patrol was a great privilege, and the best combination of enjoying real bush, whilst enjoying your passion in life – flying! This is actually something we should be paying to do, but being a member of The Bateleurs, it comes naturally to us, to assist in the preservation of our country’s beautiful natural treasures for generations to come. We find it difficult to comprehend why every pilot in South Africa  does not contribute to this!  Not only is it the best bush/mountain flying experience, it also makes you a more proficient pilot, whilst gaining the wealth of knowledge shared with us by the APU spotters. This is not only interesting, it also makes one realise how fortunate we are, to be able to help with the conservation of our endangered wildlife. Johan and I will most certainly do this as often as possible, we are really grateful and proud to be able to contribute our time and skills to this pursuit.”

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The following photo is a stirring portrayal of the finality brought on by poaching. My own December feedback report showed images of the first rhino losses (poached for horn) from within our ZAPP zone. Last week I passed over that same location and the sight of bones was both disturbing and motivational for me. The sight of those rhino live the day before, then as corpses the following day, and now, only three months later, as bleached bones only, might as well have been a billboard saying “Dead and Gone Forever”.

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The second ZAPP Patrol in 2012 was flown on 31st March and 1st April, by Duncan Deane and Steve McCurrach, in a Rally 105 XP and a Rainbow Cheetah, respectively. While they did a lot of flying, and covered a great deal of ground, the entire three-day patrol was 100% incident free.

Consequently, Steve has asked senior personnel at Phinda and other participating farms, if these ZAPP patrols are still necessary. The unanimous response was that the incident free quality of patrols in 2012 is largely attributable to the visible policing benefits of the patrols flown earlier, in 2011, particularly the saturation of patrols over December. Rhino deaths elsewhere in the country in 2012 have made them feel that these ZAPP patrols are as necessary, if not more so, and that they should continue unabated, rather than have us reducing patrols through this year.

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Instead of animal and game images, these photos relate directly to the spotting of vehicles and the investigation thereof. As opposed to camouflaged animals, a vehicle can be seen at a great distance from the air and any vehicle within the boundaries of our patrol areas is immediately deemed to be suspect and investigated. Very fortunately the noise of any vehicle is greater than that of our ‘stealth’ Light Sport Aircraft and we are therefore able to get up close and have a good look at the vehicle and its occupants, before we are even noticed. An added advantage is that we can capture an image and fly on ahead, so the vehicle occupants assume we are simply a passing aircraft. The camera is then used to verify the vehicle and identify the occupants.

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