A SANParks AS350B3 (ZS-OXK) transports rangers in Kruger National Park. SANParks' four helicopters support diverse activities across the Kruger, including anti-poaching missions.
Rhinos have been under intense poaching pressure in the Kruger for a decade. SANParks pilots have evolved their tactics, but poachers have adapted theirs, too. "For anything you deploy, there are countermeasures," said pilot Jaco Mol.
The Kruger encompasses a vast land area. At around 7,500 sq miles or 2 million hectares, it's nearly as large as Wales.
Some poachers enter the Kruger from local communities in South Africa, while others cross the border from Mozambique. "The guys are covering serious distances and they're walking at night in Kruger National Park. It's kind of crazy what they do," observed Grant Knight.
With its limited staff, the SANParks Air Wing does its best to maximise the availability of its four helicopters. "There's enough work here for ten aircraft and 20 pilots," noted pilot Jaco Mol.
SANParks chief pilot Grant Knight clad in body armour for an anti-poaching mission.
The view from the cockpit as a SANParks AS350B3 flies low over the Kruger.
The Kruger's senior veterinary manager Peter Buss prepares to tranquilise an elephant using a dart. "Pretty much all our work, particularly in the field, particularly with the large mammals, is done with the Air Wing. We can't do without them,” Buss said.