Kruger has dodgy staff in its sights with lie-detector tests
Park employees asked to take 'integrity tests' to weed out those helping poachers
Rangers and staff at the Kruger National Park are now being asked to take “integrity” tests after a number of employees were found to be working with poachers.
For the past six months voluntary polygraph tests have been conducted on staff, with the results being used to decide whether to further investigate employees for any wrongdoing.
Since 2012 at least 29 staff members have been arrested either for poaching or for helping poachers.
The park employs nearly 3,000 people and its managing executive, Glenn Phillips, told Times Select that of all of those who were asked to, none have refused to take the test.“The tests were done on current employees and all new rangers as part of conditions of service,” Phillips said.
“It’s done on a voluntary basis but so far not one person has ever refused to do it. If there is deception detected they have to go through a second test to clear their name.
“The test results can’t be used against them; they can only be used to give us direction for internal investigation.”
If officials are suspicious of a staff member following a polygraph test, an internal investigation with lifestyle audits is conducted.
Phillips said that workers’ unions helped SanParks in developing the test, which includes a series of rhino-related questions.He said that a gate security supervisor was recently arrested because of information gained from an investigation after he was tested.
“We also found police and military uniforms in his possession,” said Phillips.
Since 2007 an average of about 400 rhinos in the Kruger Park have been killed per year for their horns.On Thursday SanParks staff, together with the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), signed an anti-poaching pledge meant to urge staff members to place honesty “high on the list of their core values”.SanParks chief operating officer Lize McCourt said that following a number of paradigm shifts over the years, their biggest challenge today was wildlife crime.
“We surely can no longer deny that our staff members are involved on poaching one way or [another] and therefore it is true that to some extent poaching is perpetrated from within,” McCourt said.
“It is for this reason that we saw it necessary to engage our labour union representatives and say to them, let us work together to discourage our staff members from engaging themselves in poaching.”
Nehawu assistant general secretary December Mavuso said that while the union was committed to “educating, organising and mobilising” their members against poaching, there was also a responsibility by SanParks to include local communities in the wildlife economy.
“The fight to protect rhinos is also the fight to protect the jobs of our members,” he said.
“It is sad to see rhinos being killed daily in SA. But we must also deal with the marginalisation of local people, which is a significant factor that can facilitate poaching.
“The systematic exclusion of local people from protected areas as well as the growing securitisation of anti-poaching responses are aiding a perception that a wild animal is valued more highly than black rural lives.”
Other stakeholders, including the South African Police Service and South African Defence Force, also took part in the anti-poaching event.