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S. African parks to use lie detectors to tackle poaching

By NDUMISO MLILO in Johannesburg, South Africa | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-19 09:32
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South Africa will soon start implementing lie detector tests in addition to other technologies to tackle poaching, said an official from one of the largest game reserves in Africa.

A lie detector, or polygraph, is a junk science device or procedure that measures and records several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity while a person answers a series of questions.

"Polygraph will be used in the next few weeks, everything is in place. Initially there was resistance to it, but it has been explained and everybody has accepted it. This is our latest move to fight poaching by ensuring that we have honest and professional rangers," said Don English, a regional ranger at Kruger National Park.

Despite adopting a number of measures, such as installing cameras, radar systems and using detecting dogs fitted with global positioning system devices, to prevent poaching in national parks in South Africa in recent years, poaching of wild animals is still not effectively checked in the country.

Last year a total of 499 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, an increase of 51 compared with the previous year.

In addition to poachers, some national park rangers are also suspected of being involved in poaching. In a recent case at a section of Kruger National Park, 16 out of the 18 rangers were arrested for working with poachers including a section ranger. The rangers supplied tactical information to the poachers and were arrested after money was deposited in the accounts of various relatives.

Kruger National Park stretches between Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces and is near the borders of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, covering almost 20,000 square kilometers.

To prevent poaching, South Africa has been using various means including the use of cameras to record the number plates of cars entering and leaving the park.

Main targets

Recently the South African National Parks installed cameras in areas with high concentrations of rhinos which are the main targets of poaching.

English said: "We have developed radar systems that can pick up anything. It can differentiate humans and different species of animals and these (radars) are strategically placed. We have a magnetic cable system which picks up any movement or objects. We have high-tech camera systems."

The South African National Parks also use ballistic tests when they find poachers in possession of rifles. This helps them to link the poachers with animals which could have been killed in the park. English pointed out that some poachers were arrested in possession of rhino horns and rifles and DNA tests linked them to the crime where the rhino had been killed.

The South African National Parks also use dogs which track poachers with global positioning systems strapped on their necks and helicopters that can operate at night.

Rhinos are the most targeted animals because their horns are sold at higher prices in various parts of the world including Southeast Asia where they are used for jewelry and as an aphrodisiac. South Africa is home to the world's largest number of rhinos. In addition, some other wildlife such as impalas, kudus and birds like vultures have been killed for meat or medical purposes.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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