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Sadly, this is a true reflection of what is happening to rhinos in South Africa daily.
A small two or three man team with a weapon, some bullets, a back pack, an axe, a few old cell phones and the desire to make money can wreck deadly havoc in a reserve. Equipped with some water, bread and perhaps a few cans of tinned fish, they are able to infiltrate for up to a few days surviving on their bush skills and the bare minimum. In smaller reserves where the risk of detection is high, they orchestrate shallow hit and run attacks and will often be back over the fence before the rangers get to the scene. Armed with handguns or semi-automatic weapons for personal protection - more commonplace now as security measures become more effective - aggressive poachers don't think twice about opening fire on our rangers. There has been a large proliferation of level 1 poaching teams, with new groups becoming involved all the time. There is evidence of groups hiring in guns and/or shooters from other teams, teams splitting to form new teams and some teams selling horns off to a highest bidder. Mozambique has a lot to answer for when it comes to doing far too little too late to address the poaching situation, though at least towards the end of 2013 this seemed to be changing. Their citizens illegally breach our border, armed with illegal semi-automatic/automatic weapons (on its own an act of terrorism and a matter of National Security) with the intent to kill rhinos in Kruger.
Mozambique is upset that South African's are killing their people, yet never mind the threat to our ranger's lives this side. The community upliftment from poaching profits in Mozambique is staggering, poachers openly call themselves 'professional hunters' and have become untouchable "Robin Hoods" in their communities...all factors that make up the complex web of challenges that need to be tackled. Although there is great emphasis on Mozambique, the damage being caused by local South African organised crime gangs is of grave concern. It is here that our South African Police Services (SAPS) have yet to commit sufficient enforcement capacity. While the existing SAPS members working on cases - all unsung heroes - do their utmost to bring poachers to book, there are just far too few police members to deal with the existing case load let alone get on top of new cases.
Ongoing, well coordinated intelligence-led arrests aimed at poaching bosses and their local Vietnamese/Chinese buyers would go a long way to bringing the numbers down. Coupled with an expedited court process and strong sentences, our authorities could be sending out a strong message. Sadly, our failing systems, lack of political will and leadership, lack of investigative capacity, slow court processes and deeply embedded corruption are playing right into the hands of the poachers. While our focus is on the future of the rhino, the bigger question will ultimately be - what will it take to secure a future for our wildlife?
Footage taken by Elise Daffue of a poaching incident near Pretoria, 18 July 2013.
"On March 31 there was an arrest effected by the Rangers Corp and a .385 rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were recovered.In the same incident a badly mutilated rhino cow was discovered nearby with its horns hacked off.The poor animal was still alive and bleeding profusely. There was no alternative for the rangers but to euthanize it. The search for the arrested poacher’s accomplices is continuing."
This video tells the story 'Poached' written by Dr William Fowlds, a heartbreaking story of Geza's life and poaching.