The Star Late Edition

Where is it going to end?


IF THE 2010 rhino-poaching figure of 333 was alarming, 2011’s 443 is proof that this scourge is fast getting out of hand. Why, a mere five years ago, the toll was no more than 13. Where, we may ask, is this going to end?

It is not as if nothing is being done. After the 2010 killing spree, impressive initiative­s were launched to counter the assault on this particular­ly enigmatic part of our natural heritage that was so miraculous­ly brought back from the brink of extinction just a few decades ago.

The parks authoritie­s combined with the police, the prosecutin­g authoritie­s and government department­s like revenue services and customs to set up a broad-based network that could tackle the poachers, smugglers and their syndicates on all fronts. Even the military got hauled in to help contain the incursions into the Kruger National Park that is sanctuary to the vast majority of our rhinos. It hardly made a difference.

At least 21 poachers got killed in fire fights, but still they kept coming. The rhino tally came to 244. This, while private reserves got hit harder because of their vulnerabil­ity compared to the stepped-up security in Kruger. Evidently they, too, need help.

The time is past when this can be looked at as mainly a nature lovers’ concern. It is as if the corruption, banditry and greed of our time are all feeding off the helpless animals. From the increasing sophistica­tion of the equipment used, the ruthlessne­ss and brutality of the poachers, and the skill and defiance of the smugglers it is clear that this has become organised crime of the highest order. That is what it should be classed as. The pitiful few conviction­s attained show how hard it is to provide the normal proof in court.

It should be taken up at the highest level with Mozambique, where many of the poachers come from, and with the likes of Vietnam and China, where most of the booty ends up.

They cannot look on idly while their citizens are plundering our resources.

This is internatio­nal crime and should be treated as such.

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