Posts Tagged With: Mozambique

Kruger Rangers Fight Back

Park rangers at Kruger National Park are upping their game. No longer just guides and conservationists, they are being trained in military tactics to fight the onslaught of rhino poachers.

With as many as 60 heavily armed groups of poachers entering the Park during a full moon, it has become so dangerous to rangers, they were forced to undergo paramilitary tactical training just to survive. They are intensely trained to track, ambush, gather intelligence and wage counter-assault operations in the modern warfare to save the rhino, and ultimately themselves.

Kruger Park is THE hotspot for poachers, since the majority of the surviving rhinos dwell there. More than 313 rhino have been poached this year, with 229 of them at Kruger. (See previous post Kruger Park: the Rhino Poaching Hotspot).

ranger in kruger

Kruger park ranger on morning anti-poaching foot patrol.

The good news is that there have been 98 arrests of poachers , 48 at Kruger. Unfortunately arrests are not enough to deter the determined would be poachers. They are becoming more conniving, more advanced and more brazen. Many of the  AK-47 wielding poachers have fought in wars, and are highly trained. As if that weren’t bad enough, many of them have informants on “the inside”, as shown with the previous arrests of  30 game rangers in Mozambique who were responsible for the official extinction of the rhino in that country.

The public is often under the perception not enough is being done to prevent the poaching. Yet, the rangers are constantly fighting to keep up and adapt, in the face of modern poaching. Camouflage  clothing, radio equipment, GPS tracking equipment and sniffer dogs are just some of the new advancements being utilized by the rangers on the frontline of poaching.

There is a necessity for aid in funding to provide resources such as equipment and updated training. In addition there is a constant need for more rangers to serve as foot soldiers in this bloody war.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Country is Innocent

Illegal wildlife trade of horns and tusks is a lucrative worldwide business. In recent years it has exploded into a black market worth of approximately $20 billion a year.  No one seems to be exempt from this growing tragedy. Most obvious involvement lies in Africa, China and Vietnam; but Ireland, the US, and now even the Czech Republic and Poland have blood on their hands.

Black rhinoceros and Africa elephant, Africa

To police the snowballing issue,  the US  has stepped up involvement with Operation Crash. It is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by the Fish and Wildlife Service, started in 2010,  that is addressing all aspects of US involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.

The first phase of this probe (focused on the unlawful purchase and outbound smuggling of rhino horn from the US) has resulted in 14 arrests and six convictions to date. Charges filed include conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion and bribery in addition to violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Recently a father and son team described by federal prosecutor as being “at the apex of the rhino horn smuggling pyramid” in the United States, has been sentenced to more than three years in prison on federal wildlife smuggling and money laundering charges. Their involvement in horn smuggling played a direct role in driving the price of rhino horn to nearly $25,000 per lb.

How are other countries faring? According to WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) data: Laos, Mozambique, Mynamar, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zambia are failing.

wildlife trade scorecard
It is imperative that each country step up laws and regulation on illegal trade. It is not just a Chinese or African problem. This is a worldwide epidemic and we’re in this together. While most countries see the wildlife trade as “an environmental problem”, WWFs President and CEO Carter Roberts warns “illicit wildlife trafficking compromises the security of countries. Much of the trade in illegal wildlife products is run by criminal groups with broad international reach, and the profits can be used to finance civil conflicts and terrorist-related activities. Illicit wildlife trafficking is also linked to other forms of illegal trafficking and money-laundering.”

There is something we can all do. We can be more conscientious and alert.  There are several steps the public can take to support the elimination of the illegal wildlife trade both abroad and domestically:

  • International travelers should avoid purchasing and/or carrying wild animal products, including meat, skins, and traditional medicines. Intentionally smuggled wildlife imports are often concealed in boxes or coolers; if you see a passenger carrying a suspicious container report it to Customs and Border Protection officials.
  • When traveling domestically, be aware of national and state laws regarding the transport of wild animals. Some laws differ among states.
  • We encourage you to make conscientious choices about your pet choices. Always make sure pets are captive-bred and choose pets that present minimal health and environmental risks (please visit PetWatch for more information), and can be adequately cared for in a captive situation. Please visit for more information.
illegal trade routes
Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Nation Divided; the Rhino Betrayed

Kruger National Park once again is the flash point for rising tension. As more rhino poachers are entering the park from Mozambique, the relations between the country and South Africa are straining. Are authorities in Mozambique doing enough to stop poaching?

kruger mapKruger had taken down existing fences to allow a “peace park” which links Kruger National Park with game parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This park  is the  Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The theory is to allow game to freely roam in much the way it would have in the time before man’s intervention. This was supposed to be a protected area for the rhino.

Sadly it has only led to their extinction in Mozambique. The numbers of rhino in the Transfrontier Park had recently shrunk to 15, but now they are all gone. The worst part of this tragedy is they were betrayed by the very people assigned to protect them-the rangers. Thirty rangers are being charged with collusion in the rhino deaths.

In what should be the end of a tragedy, it is likely just another endless chapter. Justice is rarely given. The courts barely serve as a deterrent: while killing a rhino in South Africa can attract stricter punishments than killing a person, in Mozambique offenders generally escape with a fine if they are prosecuted at all.

It’s no wonder South Africa tempers are flaring. 
South African National Parks (SANParks) chief executive David Mabunda has called the crisis of rhino poaching a “war situation”, with the   boundary between Kruger and Mozambique proving to be “the weakest line of defence against incursions”.

So what happens now? Should the fence be put back in place? Will it even help? Surely the poachers will venture further into Kruger to butcher the remaining rhinos. With the vastness of a 20,000-square-kilometer (7,700-square-mile) park with a dense lush terrain and only 339 rangers on foot patrol it’s a difficult, if not impossible task to successfully keep poachers at bay as it stands.

Incidentally the rangers were paid  about 2,500 meticais each (about $80)  to direct the poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. (Game rangers are paid between 2,000 and 3,000 meticais ($64 to $96) a month.) A months worth of pay for the extinction of  a species…

rhino and vultures

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Kruger Park: the Rhino Poaching Hotspot

There have been  227 rhinos poached already in 2013. Of those, 146 have been in Kruger National Park.

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserve in Africa. Located  in eastern South Africa, it is home to all of the Big 5 game (rhinos, elephants, lions, buffalo, and leopard).

To combat poaching the Park
*employs 650 anti-poaching unit rangers
*has borrowed 2 drones
*utilizes 2 helicopters
*has automated movement sensors along Mozambique
*has a specialized canine unit

Yet with 9 main gates in a 7580 sq mi area, which is an area slightly smaller than New Jersey, poaching is rampant. They are losing more rhino than any other location in Africa; an average of 2 a day in the Park.

kruger mapThe Park is surrounded by countries in which poverty and unemployment are both endemic. Mozambique  is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries with 59% of the people living below the poverty line; while Zimbabwe, suffering from a shrinking economy and hyper inflation, has the world’s largest unemployment rate at 95%, and 80%  living below  poverty. Limpopo is fairing only slightly better, but is still one of the poorest areas in South Africa, especially in rural areas.

So is it any wonder the rhino are being stalked like a starving lion after a gazelle? With one horn worth a few hundred (just a fraction of the market value) to the poacher, he can feed his family and then some. That one rhino life is worth less than its horn to them.

Over the last 5 years, authorities have killed 279 Mozambicans involved in illegal rhino hunting. 300 more were detained for poaching during that time. For the Mozambique government its a monstrous problem, especially because of the involvement of members of its own defense and security forces.

Tragically for the rhino, where it lives is why it’s being killed. Economics. Poor men committing the murder out of necessity to fuel the greed of the middle man (criminal syndicate) to supply the ignorant (Asian market); the perfect storm that will spell the extinction of the species if we cannot stop it.

2 rhinos

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