Dogs of War

In the war against the poaching of rhinos in the Kruger National Park (KNP), SANParks rangers need all the help they can get. One of the most effective weapons in this battle is man’s best friend.

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More than 40 highly trained tracker dogs are aiding rangers to sniff out poachers along the more than 300km border with Mozambique, where most of the poachers are believed to enter the park.

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I had the chance to meet two of these amazing animals which are Bloodhounds crossed with Dobermans. They’re not bred for attack. Given the chance, they would probably lick you to death.

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Training doesn’t come cheap and if you factor in maintenance and veterinary bills, the cost runs well over R100 000. The hounds hunt poachers by scent and are followed by air and ground crews.

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As part of ongoing anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park, rangers have embarked on a DNA extraction and profiling drive.

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It’s not as easy as it sounds, because each of the park’s rhinos has to be tracked, darted, then rehabilitated.

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Once the rhino was cornered and darted, rangers jumped out of moving vehicles to secure the calf and ensure it did not injure itself during the delicate operation in which its mother’s DNA would be sampled.

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The sedative used to dart the rhinos is so powerful it can kill a human just by contact with the skin. Even so, it took about seven minutes to take effect and, as soon as she became wobbly on her feet, the team moved in, lying her down on her side.

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It was the first time I had seen a rhino up close in the wild and the smell surprised me. Her skin was covered in dried mud from her last dip in the watering hole. The team of vets monitored all vital signs to make sure she didn’t undergo any undue stress.

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Gathering DNA data of each rhino in the Kruger National Park is crucial for the survival of the species because researchers are then able to trace each horn seized back to the specific animal from which it came.

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A few minutes later, the vets administered an antidote to the sedative and backed away carefully, waiting for it to kick in. Less than a minute later she rocked herself to her feet and stood up on shaky legs.

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She looked at us for a few moments before storming off to reunite herself with her calf. The estimated black market value of an average-sized rhino horn is said to be about R4 million. That is a substantial increase from 2007, when the rate was about R350 000 each.

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I was saddened to think that a substance with no medicinal value could lead an entire species to be hunted to the brink of extinction.

I was invited to the Kruger National Park by Rhino Tears wine, which donates R15 from the sale of each bottle to the SANParks’ honorary rangers program. It has raised R700 000 since its inception in 2014.

© Words and pictures by Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

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The Return of the Railway Police

At least R210 million has gone down the drain due to arson attacks that destroyed 146 train carriages in Cape Town in the past five years.

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October – Mere hours after the Portfolio Committee on Transport received a briefing from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) on the burning of trains, another train was set alight in Cape Town Station.

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Two trains with three carriages each on platform 17 & 18 were alight.

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There has been reports that the offices above the station deck are also affected, but fire fighters on the scene will be investigating.

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July – 3 Train carriages were set alight at Retreat railway station.

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2 Fire Engines, a Water Tanker and Rescue Vehicle plus 14 Firefighters were dispatched.

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At Maitland station there is a whole “graveyard” of  burnt out and vandalised train carriages. Last month two entire trains were set alight in Cape Town.

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Rewards of up to R25 000 are payable for information leading to successful convictions.

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A commuter at Maitland station who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “The fact that trains are being burnt out like this, is sad because all of us are being affected by it.”

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October – The much-anticipated Rail Enforcement Unit was launched during a parade ceremony at Cape Town railway station.

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A 100 officers underwent training and are ready to assist the existing security services.

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Their main objectives are to ensure passenger safety and prevent the burning of trains.

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The Rail Enforcement Unit seen in action as they apprehending their first suspect. The suspect was in possession of meth smoking paraphernalia and he was traveling without a ticket.

© Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Scavengelands

It is somewhat incongruous that from Maria Arendse house, just off the N7 highway between Morningstar and Melkbosstrand, there is an almost picture perfect view of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

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She lives in Wolwerivier, which is just 30km from the city centre but for its residents, who were moved there, it may as well be a million miles away. For decades the community of Skandaalkamp near the Vissershok landfill site used to scavenge just to survive.

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The landfill is now a restricted area. Now they have gone from extreme poverty to an even more desperate situation.

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Wolwerivier was designed as an Incremental Development Area, for people waiting for better housing.

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Residents say they feel as if they have been abandoned in a barren wasteland with no means of finding work or food.

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Life in Wolwerivier is hard for John Miket who is unemployed and struggles to find a job even at nearby farms. Families encamped in the Wolwerivier, about 28 kilomteres from Cape Town, still find it hard to adjust in the area, more than a year and a half after being settled there.

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The Wolwerivier development formed part of the City’s Integrated Housing Project. Wolwerivier made headlines after the City offered emergency accommodation there to seven families facing eviction from Bromwell Street, Woodstock. The families refused to move, demanding alternative accommodation in the inner city.

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Bromwell street residents await the Cape Town High Court decision on whether or not they will be move to Wolwerivier. The City of Cape Town says Wolwerivier had cost about R50 million and would see the accommodation of a maximum of 500 families.

© Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Living for Style

City Centre Muscat, Nissan Murano add campaign 2009. By Armand Hough

Al Ali Mall Bahrain, Jimmy Choo advertisement 2010. By Armand Hough

 

© Photos by Armand Hough

Fire in the Sky

Thunderstorms approach the Cape of Good Hope early on Tuesday morning as heavy rain is expected to bless the Western Province with some well needed rain. This photo was taken from Three Anchor Bay. Photographer: Armand Hough

The State of Our Nation

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© Photos by Armand Hough

Day 1

Schools in the Western Cape opened their doors again to over 109 000 learners in Grade 1. I went to see how parents cut the umbilical cord from their little ones as they formally start their training to become the future leaders of South Africa and quite possibly, the world.

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This is Chulumanco Gawulekhaya from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha. The unique colour of her eyes is a result of her hearing disability and does not affect her eyesight. Her eyes are more light sensitive than normal but she can see perfectly.

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Lilitha Linganiso from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha spells her name to the teacher.

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Mbali Gaqazele and Zlmonde Stulweni getting breakfast at Surrey Primary in Manenberg.

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Zahrah Barodien is clinging to her mother at Surrey Primary in Manenberg.

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The grade 1 girls of Highlands Primary School in Mitchells Plain line up to be separated into specific classes.

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Best friends Zoe Welgemoed and Qaiyarah Melrose from Highlands Primary in Mitchells Plain knows each other from Grade R (pre-school education) already.

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Lian Loubser from Highlands Primary in Mitchells Plain gives in to his anxiety when he realised that he was the only child whose name was not on the class register list. This was due to a minor administration error that was corrected immediately, but for a child’s first day of school and as I can recall from my own childhood, this can seem detrimental at the time. If only they knew what lies ahead…

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© Photos: Armand Hough