Why do poachers poach? For the money of course. Desperation fuels the need. South Africa’s current unemployment rate sits at 25%, one of the highest in the world. While Mozambique’s is at 17%.
With Kruger National Park right in the middle, this makes for the most unfortunate situation for our rhinos. With just one horn, these men stand to better their families forever.
Youth unemployment is especially low; in 2013 it was as high as 63%. With underlying issues of a high drop-out rate in schools and a lack of experience and skills, these people have little chance of successfully finding a job.
The majority of South Africans who commit crimes, including poaching are married and unemployed who never complete standard 8 education.
A number of government initiatives for education and unemployment have been issued in the last few years, but it seems too late for the current generation.
Ironically the reason poachers poach is the same reason rangers do what they do. For a source of income.
As Ken Maggs, the head of the environmnetal crimes unit in SANParks explains about rangers, “You’ll get some individuals that are really heart and soul conservationists, but generally speaking, it is a job, and jobs are not easy to come by,” says Maggs, “To have a job is really important.”
When asked, most poachers would choose a safer, more reliable method of bringing home a paycheck if there was an option.
As one local poacher explained: “I don’t bear a grudge against the rangers. We’re all just trying to do the best for our family. If I was offered a job as a ranger, I wouldn’t have to poach.” But, the fact is that there just are not enough jobs to go around.
The reality is communities are fighting against one another in a war in which there are no winners. They’re trying to put food on the table for their families, while the wealthy do as they’ve always done; the Asians following a pointless trend of horn, the politicians turning a blind eye and basking in their own luxuries. And of course, an innocent species caught in middle.
*Mediterranean Journal of Social Science:Crime and Unemployment in South Africa; Revisiting an Established Causality: Evidence from the Kwazulu Natal Province N.G. Tshabalala, PhD
*The human victims in the fight over rhino poaching in Africa by: Kenichi Serino