MARIE CARES

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

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - @christine_­vand

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

Hon­orary SANParks

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT

Gen­eral Jo­han Jooste; tracker dogs rar­ing to go; Chris­tine with the vet­eri­nar­i­ans and rangers tend­ing to an

in­jured rhino

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