All eyes are on South Africa as the epicenter to the war on rhino poaching. As the death toll rose to over a 1000 in 2013, this year is shaping up to be comparable to that.
But rhinos, just as poachers, know no borders. So what is happening in the surrounding countries?
Namibia ~ From 2005 to 2010, there were no reported poachings. 11 have been killed since then, with 4 all in this past year. Namibia has deployed soldiers in anti-poaching units to stop the escalation.
Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga said “We have created a permanent unit made up of the army and all security services solely dedicated to anti-poaching. “The unit will be in place forever, or until poaching has been drastically reduced.”
Botswana ~ Working on sustaining its rhino population, they have recently relocated up to 100 rhinos from South Africa. Botswana is home to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a model for conservation, with no animals being poached since it’s founding 24 years ago.
“Our number one focus has been to make local people aware that these animals are worth more alive than dead,” Moremi Tjibae, the sanctuary’s chief warden.
Zimbabwe ~ The bright spot for rhinos here is the Lowveld Rhino Program. Approximately 80% of the country’s surviving rhinos are in Lowveld Conservancies. Poaching levels dropped by 66% in 2013. Although it’s a comprehensive conservation program, it is hard to know if the drop is from stricter penalties or with less than 1000 rhinos, if they have simply become harder to come by.
Mozambique ~ The biggest thorn in the side of conservationists in southern Africa-where poachers and crime syndicates are so brazen, they reside in an area known as “Poacher’s Alley”, a neighborhood built on the blood of rhinos and elephants.
They have a blatant disregard for the rules of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). Not only do they ignore the rampant poaching, there is evidence the state is complicit in the activity.
“Many of the crime syndicates have moved their base of operation from South Africa to Mozambique, where they are able to act with impunity,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF, a nonprofit rhino conservation organization with field programs around the world. “Mozambican poachers are highly organized and are slaughtering rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, while the Mozambican government turns a blind eye.”
It has become so out of control that on 3 July, the Environmental Investigation Agency petitioned President Obama to sanction Mozambique for their continuous role in rhino and elephant poaching.
With Obama’s Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking announced a year ago, this is in direct and obvious violation.
“…the United States shall promote and encourage the development and enforcement by foreign nations of effective laws to prohibit the illegal taking of, and trade in, these species and to prosecute those who engage in wildlife trafficking, including by building capacity”