Pretoria, 17 September 2014 – What stands nearly ten meters tall, weighs a tonne, has the body of a legendary armoured vehicle and is on a mission to raise awareness of Africa’s endangered wildlife?

The answer… #Parabot, Africa’s largest super hero robot developed to showcase Africa’s defence technologies and raise awareness of the plight of Africa’s threatened wildlife populations.

Towering over Africa’s largest defence and aerospace exhibition, Africa Aerospace and Defence 2014 (AAD) at Waterkloof Air force Base in Centurion, #Parabot is a big statement from Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace company, Paramount Group, to raise awareness of the role that the defence industry can play in fighting poaching through the provision of technologies, equipment and training.

To develop and promote #Parabot, Paramount Group has partnered with the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a charitable foundation leading efforts to find new and innovative ways to support national parks in South Africa and other African countries in their fights against poaching.

Eric Ichikowitz, Marketing Director of Paramount Group said: “AAD is one of the largest exhibitions in Africa with tens of thousands of visitors from the general public. On 22 September it is World Rhino Day so what better time and place to raise awareness of the plight of Africa’s endangered wildlife.

“We have built #Parabot to stand here as a symbol of resistance, a symbol of the fight back, and as a message to the criminal gangs who are behind the slaughter that we will not give up on Africa’s wildlife heritage. The defence industry is in a unique position to strengthen conservation efforts. We have technologies and equipment that are making a real difference.”

Over the last two years the Paramount Group has committed its resources to supporting conservation efforts through the provision of aerial platforms, combat training programmes for park rangers and more recently the establishment of South Africa’s largest K9 facility that trains detection and ranger dogs for anti-poaching patrols.

In the shadow of #Parabot, the Group is showcasing some of its anti-poaching initiatives including the K9 school, and a mobile anti-poaching command and control centre that demonstrates the coordination of forces on land and in the air that are involved in fighting poaching.

Ichikowitz added: “Paramount Group is a key supporter of the AAD Youth Development Programme and we will invite schoolchildren visiting the show to make a pledge to rhino conservation by covering our Mbombe armoured vehicle with their handprints. ”


#Parabot – the stats 

  • Parabot’s concept and design is based on Paramount’s Group largest armoured vehicle, the Mbombe 6
  • Weight:1 tonne
  • Height: 9.7m
  • Hours to build: 600 man hours
  • Built by: CFX, a famous Film Effects and Fabrication Company based in Cape Town
  • Mission: Raise awareness and protect Africa’s wildlife from poaching


Rhino stats

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs:

  • 769 rhinos have already been poached in 2014
  • 227 arrests associated with rhino poachings have been made in 2014
  • The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of rhino poaching in South Africa, having lost 489 rhinos so far this year.
  • A total of 103 rhinos have been poached in Limpopo, 65 in KwaZulu-Natal, 47 in North West and 43 in Limpopo.

Poaching unit ready for ‘full-out war’

Johannesburg – Just metres away, five armed men have their sights trained on you – but you can’t see them, and it’s broad daylight and open veld.

Suddenly, their commander orders them to rise, and what was grass just seconds earlier reveals the team with their backpacks and rifles.

The Counter Poaching Unit (CPU) at the Madikwe Game Reserve have undergone special training to take the fight to the poachers, at a time when the latest figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs show that 746 rhinos have been poached this year.

The Ichikowitz Family Foundation has brought in the experience of Alan Ives – a former British Special Forces soldier – to train the CPU at the reserve, and the foundation has also equipped them with full camouflage uniforms and weaponry.

According to Ives, who has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little difference from the combat he experienced in war and the fight against poaching.

“It’s exactly the same, the only difference is there is no artillery or air support,” he said, adding that the techniques he teaches are the same that would be taught to soldiers.

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Former British army soldier and anti-poaching instructor Alan Ives demonstrates the effectiveness of the concealment equipment and techniques used by the Anti-poaching trainees in the Madiwe Game reserve. Picture: Chris Collingridge INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Just a few months ago, some of the CPU members didn’t even have hiking boots to trek up and down the hills of Madikwe.

One of the CPU members, Moosa Maluka, said he had to stitch his takkies back together at the end of each training day.

“It was difficult. I was full of blisters every day. These new shoes have made a big, big difference,” he said.

The CPU showed off their skills on Friday, including their ability to disappear into the terrain within just 15 seconds.

Before Ives arrived, the team were also struggling to shoot a target from 25m away. To prove what sharpshooters they had become, one member nailed a practice target from 650m away without a scope.

“When I first met these guys, they were a ragtag bunch. So to see where they are now, it’s incredible,” said Eric Ichikowitz, the director of the foundation.

The intensity of Ives’s training was much higher than many of the CPU members had experienced before, but they still speak fondly of it.

“I was like ‘I’m gonna die’, all of my body was in pain,” said Colman Mgwenya, a childhood friend of Maluka.

“But I just wanted to train more, I never thought of quitting,” he said.

“People are still saying this isn’t a low-level war. It’s not, it’s a full-out war,” said Declan Hofmeyr, the operations manager at the reserve. – The Star

l Brendan Roane was a guest of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation at the Madikwe Game Reserve on October 10 and 11.