Betrayal and More Betrayal – The new norm
More betrayal, though it’s becoming the norm.
Here’s the thing.
In predominantly State run reserves, it appears more and more that insiders – be they corrupted rangers, general staff, security personnel etc – are the ones killing more rhinos than the unemployed and underprivileged community members neighboring the parks. While the conservation world scrambles for funding to address the socio-economic struggle in communities along the reserve boundaries (an almost bottomless pit and hopeless situation considering the population of a few million along for eg the Kruger boundary – and the fact that these issues should actually be being addressed by government) those that DO have employment are enabling poachers or pulling the trigger.
The amount of time and effort it takes to identify these corrupt individuals, and then catch them red handed, is painstaking. In the process, not only are many rhino lives lost but the good guys – field rangers and enforcement teams – risk life and limb. Often only to be painted with the same brush by the public when this kind of news breaks.
An arrest is the start of a lengthy legal process that can take years to finalise. Suspects more often than not get bail and rangers need to worry about the safety of their loved ones. In this process, rangers and arresting teams spend days travelling to court, sitting around to testify, cases being postponed once you are there, being verbally abused by expensively dressed defense attorneys that will use the slightest of technicalities to get their client off the hook and use dirty tactics to delay the case or fluster and discredit witnesses. There is no sense of honour in the process of finding justice nor sense of urgency by our overburdened courts.
We owe such gratitude to our enforcement teams who continue to do their best. They endure betrayals, growing internal corruption, dirty politics, unfounded allegations, purposefully broken, delayed and slowed internal systems.
To all of you still following and supporting the rhino cause – thank you. No matter how hard this gets, we need to keep supporting those on the the front lines, for without them the rhino will be lost.
(Important to note that internal involvement, when encountered on private reserves, is swiftly dealt with and that the private sector is not scared to be taken on by the unions.)
Media Release: SANParks staff members arrested on suspicion of rhino poaching
23 October 2020
South African National Parks (SANParks) announced the arrest of three staff members on 20 October 2020; in an extended Intel driven operation by SANParks, SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit, Sabi Sands and Skukuza SAPS Stock Theft Unit outside Kruger Gate. Two of the officials were employed as Security Guards and one was attached to Technical Services at one of the rest camps. The three were likely to appear in court on Thursday, 22 October 2020 and will thereafter be subjected to internal employee disciplinary procedures.
The arrest of the suspects followed after the law enforcement officials chased after their car, which was found with a fresh set of rhino horns.
The Managing Executive of the Kruger National Park, Gareth Coleman stated that: “whilst not commenting on the merits or otherwise of this case, it is always disheartening when colleagues from SANParks are involved in criminal activities. It breaks down trust amongst employees which impacts on our responsibilities to act as an effective conservation authority serving the people of South Africa. Whilst they may succeed in the short term, history shows that they will eventually be caught and this will be at the expense of their employment, the wellbeing of their families and community.”
Between July and September 2020, the anti-poaching teams arrested 16 suspected poachers inside the Park and confiscated seven rifles. The teams also observed and followed-up on 410 poaching activities, sightings, spoors and camps in the last three months.
“SANParks remains committed to doing everything in its power to stop poaching and help secure the future of fauna and flora for sustainable use and for the benefit of future generations. We also take this opportunity to encourage members of the public and employees to report wildlife criminal activities on 013 735 0197 or 076 801 9679”, concluded Coleman.
Investigations are on-going.
South African National Parks- Kruger National Park
GM: Communications & Marketing, Kruger National Park
Tel: 013 735 4363, Cell: 083 673 6974