Dedicated to the rise of a small Anti-Abalone-poaching team who are making waves, and the fall of Abalone Poaching in the Eastern Cape
As a young, aspiring, female Nature Conservationist, trying to make a career in the field of Conservation has proven to be quite the challenge. I was very fortunate, however, to have received a golden opportunity to work on a team that has been making history in the Eastern Cape with regards to eradicating the poaching of Abalone (Haliotis midae).
I applied for and received an internship to work for the Tactical Task Force Marine Anti-Poaching Unit based in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. This team has been actively fighting the war against Abalone Poaching for the last four years and our efforts have proven to be successful enough to reduce the amount of poaching by more than half of what it used to be before the team was instated.
Along with preventing Abalone Poaching, our company also works for Wild Coast Abalone, one of the largest Abalone farms in South Africa, to assist with a first-of-its-kind Abalone Seeding and Ranching project to plant, protect and one day harvest farmed Abalone spat that has been reintroduced back into natural habitat.
Since May 2014 we have arrested more than 80 suspects, confiscated 13 rubber ducks, 22 vehicles, 31 sets of dive gear, 25 chest freezers (an estimated R66 million worth of assets have been seized while working with SAPS and Organized Crime units) and we have confiscated upwards of 60,000 units of Abalone. The latter is not seen as a win for us, however. Our aim is to keep the abalone in the water first and foremost and to try and stop these poachers from removing it in the first place. Abalone that we confiscate cannot be returned to the water due to the fact that these animals do not have a clotting agent in their blood. Once they are shucked out of their shell or accidentally cut while being removed, they will bleed out. On the other hand, for a small team of only 7 members, I am quite proud of our accomplishments and am honoured to be part of such a hard-working group of individuals.
We do from time to time work alongside other entities such as the Department of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries, SAPS and SAPS K9 units, the Hawks and Organised Crime departments, Nelson Mandela Metro Conservation officials and the Nelson Mandela Metro University. Together we conduct research projects, plan working operations and try to protect the Abalone and apprehend the poachers to the best of everyone’s abilities.
The opportunity of working for this team has been life-changing for me. It has come with a unique set of challenges for not only myself, but the entire team. Yet we prevail and keep growing from strength to strength and, going in to the future, I have no doubt in my mind that one day we will win this fight.