“Rhino poach­ing funds other black-mar­ket crimes”

Business Spotlight - - GLOBAL BUSINESS -

JES­SICA BABICH is the di­rec­tor of Save the Water­berg Rhino. She spoke to Lois Hoyal about the group’s aims.

What is your per­sonal mo­ti­va­tion to save the rhino?

The ironic thing is that the rhi­nos are saving us. By work­ing to save rhi­nos, we’re help­ing to in­crease se­cu­rity sup­port within our greater area, en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion between pub­lic and pri­vate stake­hold­ers, and bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether. Ev­ery­one ben­e­fits.

What are the wider im­pli­ca­tions of rhino poach­ing? Rhino poach­ing is linked to one of four black-mar­ket trades that af­fect our daily lives, namely weapons, drugs, hu­man traf­fick­ing and wildlife traf­fick­ing. Where one of these ex­ists, so will the oth­ers. Poach­ing is ob­vi­ously linked to weapons and this trans­lates into a broader crime is­sue. Through our work to help pro­tect the Water­berg rhi­nos, we have re­al­ized that ev­ery­thing links back to the is­sue of crime. By pro­tect­ing rhi­nos, we pro­tect ev­ery­thing else as well, from the land it­self to the busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties that rely on a safe, healthy, nat­u­ral world here in the Water­berg.

How would you de­scribe your aims to help pro­tect the Water­berg rhino?

Our vi­sion is to lock down the en­tire 1.7-mil­lion-hectare (4.2-mil­lion-acre) re­gion of the Water­berg plateau. This is cur­rently un­der­way, thanks to the in­te­grated use of var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies, as well as man­power.

Could drones or other new tech­nol­ogy help?

There is no sil­ver-bul­let so­lu­tion to solv­ing the rhinopoach­ing cri­sis, which is why in­te­grated ap­proaches to pro­tect­ing rhi­nos are so im­por­tant. As long as the de­mand is there, poach­ing will con­tinue. Horns fund other black­mar­ket crimes. That is why STWR has adopted a proac­tive as op­posed to a re­ac­tive ap­proach to rhino poach­ing — and, ul­ti­mately, to crime re­duc­tion. From foot pa­trols to our aim of lock­ing down the Water­berg, we’re work­ing to keep crim­i­nals out as much as pos­si­ble. Why are rhino poach­ers so suc­cess­ful in South Africa? Poach­ers usu­ally act on in­side in­for­ma­tion. As long as you have cor­rupt peo­ple at all lev­els of the pri­vate, gov­ern­ment and pub­lic sec­tors, poach­ing and lack of law en­force­ment will per­sist. This is a global prob­lem and not just one that af­fects South Africa. It is also a factor that South Africa’s so­cioe­co­nomic and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion isn’t healthy. With high lev­els of poverty come higher lev­els of crime.

Why isn’t more being done by the police or the gov­ern­ment to pre­vent rhino poach­ing?

Be­lieve it or not, there is a huge amount of good work being done by good peo­ple at police, gov­ern­ment and law en­force­ment lev­els. Cor­rup­tion is a factor that is very dif­fi­cult to fight, but we work with peo­ple, groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions that con­tinue to fight the good fight against some ex­tremely dif­fi­cult odds. The sit­u­a­tion would be far worse if it were not for the col­lec­tive that works for the greater good.

What would be the best way to stop rhino poach­ing? There is no sin­gle so­lu­tion. De­mand is there and as long as there is de­mand for a prod­uct, trade will con­tinue. Ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the cri­sis is key to suc­cess. Peo­ple can’t con­tribute to a so­lu­tion if they’re not aware that a prob­lem ex­ists. For ex­am­ple, there isn’t any point telling a child or an adult to pro­tect a rhino when they don’t even have food on the ta­ble. But telling them how rhino poach­ing is linked to crime and how we can work to­gether to keep our com­mu­ni­ties safer can help.

Is there a dan­ger that rhi­nos might become ex­tinct un­less we act?

Yes, with­out a doubt. The poach­ers want rhi­nos to become ex­tinct, as it in­creases the value of their prod­ucts, fur­ther fu­elling black-mar­ket trade.

Jes­sica Babich: fight­ing to save the rhino

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