South African National Parks (SANParks) has tightened security at the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) ahead of the festive season.
There was a passing-out parade, in Newlands last Friday, for its new Sea, Air and Mountain (SEAM) special-operations ranger team.
The team consists of 13 rangers and five dog handlers who will reinforce the park’s existing rangers, according to SANParks acting CEO Dumisani Dlamini.
The team would aid anti-poaching efforts and the fight against crime in the park, he said.
The volunteers are armed and will be “a force to be reckoned with”, according to Johan de Beer, the ex-policeman who trained them
“They are all volunteers who went through a selection process that entailed a tough mental-and-physical process for each candidate,” he said.
“They come from all areas and have knowledge of the mountain. They have been trained since mid-September on various things, from taking down a suspect, patrolling, running an operation, visitor safety, search and rescue for the lost person to abalone poaching.”
Justin Buchmann, SANParks manager of Cape Point and Red Hill, said the deployment would be intelligence-driven with visible policing over the festive season to cover some of the TMNP’s tourism and recreational hot spots.
“They can work as elements on smaller problem areas or as a team in an operation such as abalone poaching,” said Mr Buchmann.
Mr Dlamini said the programme relied on close cooperation with other law-enforcement agencies, neighbourhood watches and SAPS.
Nicky Schmidt, chairperson of Parkscape, said the team would improve visitor safety in the park, and she wished them well.
“We hope that this ushers in the start of a new era in protecting Table Mountain National Park and keeping its visitors safe.”
Honorary ranger George Smith, from Kirstenhof, said they had sponsored the upgrade of kennels at Kloof Nek for the team’s dog, and they would also build temporary kennels at the Newlands base. They also donated funding towards the training.