The special Olifants Reserve anti-poaching unit, established in 2018, forms an integral part of the fight against poaching in the Greater Kruger National Park/Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park under the leadership of security manager, Callan Hartman.
The Olifants Reserve is prime rhino territory and home to populations of both white rhino and their more endangered black counterparts. Having suffered steady losses over many years at the hands of sophisticated poaching syndicates, the reserve has in more recent times significantly increased its anti-poaching resources.
The armed anti-poaching and K9 unit do foot patrols at first light and in the evening before dark, man the observation post listening for gunshots at night, as well as set and monitor camera traps. Their efforts – coupled with the dehorning initiative undertaken in Balule in 2019 – have seen rhino casualties almost eliminated in the area.
According to Hartman, the working environment is complex and challenging, with the modus operandi of the poachers ever-changing. “With temperatures in the area regularly exceeding 40 degrees, and the fact that we conduct our duties regardless of the weather conditions, patrols and follow-ups can be extremely mentally and physically demanding.”
FALKE, the leading technical sock brand in South Africa, is rendering its support to the team. “FALKE prides itself in unconditional quality, superb craftsmanship and constant innovation, and understands the importance of functional footwear – which is why we feel the FALKE Ranger is the ideal fit for the anti-poaching unit that covers over 20 kilometres of rough terrain daily,” says FALKE group general manager, Michael de Koker.
Crafted from a blend of natural mohair wool and acrylic yarn, the FALKE Ranger sock offers superior moisture-wicking properties for unbeatable temperature regulation, making it the ultimate hiking sock to keep feet cool in summer and warm in winter. The sock has full cushioning for comfort and durability as well as a reinforced heel and toe with fine toe seam. The FALKE Ranger sock is designed with a soft elastic that prevents the sock from sliding and provides gentle arch support and stability.
According to Hartman, the team is invested in protecting the pristine wilderness and the Big Five in the area, although this comes at a price. “Technology is instrumental in our fight against poaching, but it comes with a hefty price tag. For example, one pair of night-vision goggles can cost upward of R100 000, while a thermal drone can cost upward of R115 000. As a result of this, good funding is essential in keeping our operations going, but is not easy to come by – especially considering the current financial climate,” he stresses.
“Gear is as important. Although we have very good quality boots, we have never been able to find socks that suit our needs. I did some research and came across the FALKE Ranger hiking sock, which is a perfect fit,” says Hartman.