Hundreds of our rhinos are being poached every year. But what is being done? Marie Claire’s CHRISTINE VAN DEEMTER joins the rangers on the front lines
THEY FOUND THE traumatised baby milling around her. Her spine had been ha ed through ith an a e her horn lumsily hopped o . he as in tremendous pain and had to be euthanised. Her calf was sent to a rehabilitation centre.
Scenes li e this bring home not only the de astating impact of poaching but also the immense pressure the Kruger National Park and its sta are under. lmost rhinos ha e been poached this year so far. ast year were slaughtered. here are fewer than black rhino left in the wild down from in . nd yet this is not a story of doom and gloom says retired army ma or general ohan ooste who has been hand picked by the inister of n ironmental airs dna olewa to lead S NParks anti poaching e orts across South frica. ut it is serious. he problem won t go away this year or the ne t. ut it can be done.
What is happening to our rhinos?
he rhino horn trade has increased between and with poachers dri en by po erty and unemployment and paid by ietnamese and hinese crime syndicates slowly mo ing south through frica decimating populations as they go and South frica is the last frontier sadly says general ooste elephants are ne t . Kruger home to most of the country s rhinos has been
hardest hit. orts like dehorning rhinos and or ooding the market with arti cial or poisoned rhino horn are not e ecti e long term solutions.
Why is rhino horn so popular?
ommercialised poaching is the fourth largest illegal trade after drugs arms and human tra cking worth almost billion about billion per year. hino horn smuggling is seen by criminals as a low risk high pro t crime with weakly enforced laws and minimal penalties. Poaching sentences depend on the magistrate o erseeing the case magistrates in the Kruger area gi e automatic ail sentences with recent con ictions of up to years and nes are not a deterrent there ha e been no arrests in South frica at the highest le el of poaching the e porters and importers . t is a myth that rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac says general ooste. t is seen as a status symbol in ietnam and hina with wealthy people ser ing up lines of powdered rhino horn with lines of cocaine at parties. nly about of poached rhino horn is intended for medicinal use e en though it has ero medicinal alue while the rest becomes ewellery trinkets or powdered horn.
What is happening in Kruger?
angers are the thin green line between rhinos and poachers says general ooste. he park is two million hectares big about the si e of srael and there is an estimated poacher community of li ing around it mostly coming in on foot from o ambi ue poaching only became illegal in o ambi ue last year . he park estimates that there are on a erage three armed groups of poachers in the park e ery day. Poachers are young and generally work in groups of four. hey strike at night usually during full moon when rhinos solitary animals that can t see ery well are sleeping.
f the poachers don t ha e a gun they will hack o the spine or chilles heel and often the animal is not dead when its horn is sawn o . e respond to e ery gunshot says section ranger ichard Sauri. e track e ery carcass. e will come for you. n addition to top secret security and sur eillance technology the park has a team of dedicated special rangers who do clandestine patrols and work underco er in the community. ut the park s biggest asset is its dog unit introduced in . he dogs track poachers sni out guns ammunition and wildlife products and patrol the area. ne dog and his handler who cannot be identi ed for security reasons ha e tracked and found poachers a park record. ogs track at km h says ichard. sain olt sprints at km h. tracker dog followed by a chopper is the best way to catch poachers but it is ery e pensi e. e need dogs you cannot do this on foot. o this end Howard u et son of S billionaire arren recently donated a state of the art irbus helicopter that can y night patrols to the park.
ommunity ownership is the key says general ooste. he surrounding communities need to be part of the long term wildlife economy and not choose the short term money route. People won t care until you show them you care about them too. South frica is under enormous political pressure from the on ention on nternational rade in ndangered Species of ild auna and lora ites to protect frica s last stable rhino population. ots of money has been spent and rhinos are still dying says general ooste. ut the numbers would be a lot worse if there had been no inter ention there would be at least three times more poaching if it weren t for ranger e orts. ur rangers are under huge pressure one day you re a conser ationist the ne t day you re paramilitary. e are working with inister olewa who does a lot and the o ambican authorities. e need to collapse the crime networks and clear the park from the outside not the inside. f we get emotional we will make mistakes. ut if it wasn t for South frica there would be no rhino left in the wild and how would we e plain that
‘ONE DAY YOU’RE A CONSERVATIONIST, THE NEXT DAY YOU’RE PARAMILITARY‘
and Parkrangers KrugerNational Rangers
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT
General Johan Jooste; tracker dogs raring to go; Christine with the veterinarians and rangers tending to an