SANParks has taken possession of a military helicopter that will be added to its current anti-poaching fleet.
The Gazelle was donated by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation in association with Paramount, an African aerospace and defence group.
The Gazelle will be based in Phalaborwa and will be used over the northern Kruger National Park, Paramount said in a statement today, which added that the aircraft was displayed at the Letaba Shooting Range during an event attended by the Rangers Corp leadership led by Officer Commanding, Major General (ret) Johan Jooste and his colleagues. The Gazelle has been configured by Paramount’s Advanced Technology Division and will increase areas that can be traversed, while providing additional aerial support.
Paramount said the Gazelle will bring the advantages of a light attack helicopter to the aid of SANParks Anti-Poaching operations the minute it takes to the air. It has a maximum airspeed of 310km/h, a range of 670km and service ceiling of 5 000 metres.
“We are grateful to have patriotic partners like the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, who have unselfishly been behind SANParks, supporting us with resources regardless of cost,” said David Mabunda, SANParks CEO. “The Ichikowitz Family Foundation understands our needs”.
The Gazelle and Seeker plane are just part of their greater involvement, which has included provision of fuel, pilots, specialised training and operational capacity.”
“During war time, the strategic advantage always belongs to the force that has superior airpower. Essentially, although this is a unique ‘warzone’, the Gazelle will strengthen SANParks’ existing forces and bring this element to the Kruger National Park,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation.
“A critical part of this helicopter’s capabilities is its speed and the fact that the Gazelle has a night vision capable cockpit – part of our contribution is to the training of the pilots to be able to fly at night thereby fundamentally taking the war directly to the poachers.
The donation is part of an on-going capacity-building partnership announced almost a year ago.
The foundation has previously donated a Seeker MKII Surveillance aeroplane, and support crew to Kruger which has been operating in the Kruger National Park since December last year.
Ichikowitz said his Foundation will make other contributions to the fight against poaching including further training of rangers and, next year, the rolling out of a canine programme together with Paramount and SANParks to provide tracker dogs.
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