In 2013, the JABIRU aircraft factory in South Africa owned by Len and Les Alford made a brand new, fully kitted aircraft available for rhino protection. The Jabiru J170, ZU OPS known as the “Rhino Jab” was the first Jabiru in Southern Africa to be committed wholly to conservation flying.
It found a home with an organisation that was then known as Game Reserves United (GRU), an intelligence-driven partnership established to combat wildlife crimes, especially rhino poaching, in the private and provincial nature reserves flanking Kruger National Park (KNP). This area, inclusive of the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) inside the KNP became known as the Joint Protection Zone, or JPZ. The fledgeling GRU was well supported and achieved sufficient success to transform into a geographically broader and more structured organisation, the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Forum (GKEPF).
At its inception, GRUWing was financially supported by aviation enthusiasts and aviation businesses in South Africa. As demand for air support grew, the coloured gemstone company, GEMFIELDS, came on board with two generous donations that covered fuel, oil and maintenance costs for more than two years.
Since early 2014, Doug and Judy Woodgate, owners of Tsitsikamma Spring Water have been donating an amount to rhino protection for every bottle of their spring water sold. The Tsitsikamma Spring Water funding, administered by GKEPF has become the primary resource to cover the operating costs of the GRUWing aircraft.
In 2020, GKEPG acquired a Savannah aircraft which was placed in the care of GRUWing. Thanks to the ample funds provided by Tsitsikamma Spring Water we can run and maintain this aircraft as well, thereby doubling our capacity for responding to flight requests. The Savannah, being bright yellow, has been named "Gifappeltjie" and the volunteer pilots have grown quite attached to it. It is very light on fuel, has a great view from the cockpit and superb low-speed capability.