Mike has a game rating and has done extensive flying in the game counting and catching arena within Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Mozambique. On three occasions he has helped with the Kruger National Park’s annual elephant and buffalo census when their pilots were not available. He has also flown extensively in the area known as Coutada 16 of Mozambique in the Gaza province, as well as the Parque Nacional da Gorongosa, and is very familiar with the area.
Mike has been counting every year since 1991 and has vast experience in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo bushveld, (Lowveld of South Africa) and mountainous areas, (Songimvelo gamereserve, Metetamusha game reserve in Mpumalanga, Pilansberg game reserve, NWP, and Kgaswane reserve, NWP. Welgevondend in the Waterberg, Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in Mpumalanga and the Timbavati, Klasserie and Umbabat Game Reserves) Based in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. He has also counted the North West Province reserves since 1998.
In 2004, Sunrise Aviation carried out the initial game count of the Bahine National Park in Mozambique, and in 2007 the Zinhave National Park and continues to count the Gorongosa National Park.
In conjunction with Dr. Mike Peel of the Range and Forage Institute based in Nelspruit Mpumalanga, who is the computer operator, Mike Pingo, pilot, of Sunrise Aviation, has developed the computerised game counting system that we have used over the last 28 years and has proved to be very accurate.
A Bell Jetranger is used because of its maneuverability, particularly in densely wooded terrain and provides good visibility.
A GPS linked to a notebook computer allows for a grid of the required dimensions to be placed over the area to be counted. The grid is then visible on the screen.
The actual flight path of the helicopter appears as a moving dot on the screen and ensures that the helicopter is flying along the correct course. The animals seen are entered into the computer by code form and appear on the screen. This allows the computer operator to locate the animals and overcomes the possibility of double counting on the return path.
The doors of the helicopter are removed to allow maximum viewing for the counting team of 4. The team consists of the pilot who also spots and counts game, the front observer who spots and counts the game, and enters data into the computer, and two back observers who spot and count game.
Total game distribution and species distribution maps are produced together with additional reports on stocking rates, species mix proportions as well as guidelines relating to them.