Posts Tagged With: poachers

Talk Radio Europe Interview

Just last Friday, April 3rd I was asked by the lovely Pippa Jones of Talk Radio Europe to come on her radio show to once again speak about the plight of the rhino and the connection we as humans on this planet have with this beautiful animal.

Please take the time and click on the Radio Mp3 Link below to hear the full interview.  ( you should be able to forward past the commercials and song to get to the interview)  It  starts at about 11 minutes in.   I hope you find it informative.

 

TRE1501

 

pippa_jones

Pippa has  been in producing and presenting her own programmes  for 3 years but Talk Radio was always a medium that inspired her. In no small part because she questions and challenges everything, and her show, Radio Jones, on Talk Radio Europe allows her the opportunity to question guests and experts on an array of hard-hitting issues that otherwise she would not find the answers to. Pippa is passionate about challenging complacency and this is what drives her.

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Words of Encouragement to our Rangers at Christmas time

rhino with ranger

Photo: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

 

“Never give up,  for that is just the place and time, that the tide will turn” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

game rangers association

 

“If you’re going through hell, then keep going”   ~ Winston Churchill

 

Bloodhound and ranger in Virunga Nat. Park.

Bloodhound and ranger in Virunga Nat. Park.

 

Courage does not always  roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,

“I will try again tomorrow.”  ~ Mary Ann Radmache

 

 

Nicky and caretaker

 

 

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The Many Faces of Poaching

poacher arrested with bush meat

Poacher arrested with bush meat.

The Poacher:

The poor man living in a hut with a pregnant wife and 3 skeletal children. One perhaps with a tear running down a sunken cheek, the wife begging the husband to find them enough for a meal. Finally, in exasperation the man reluctantly sets off on a dangerous, one-time mission to take part in killing an elephant or rhino. The few dollars will feed his hungry family for a week (if he makes it back alive).

Is this what you imagine when you think of a poacher?

Think again. Although  poverty is one aspect of poaching and can be a reason, it does not account for all of it. In fact, wealth is the driving force behind the most  destructive killings: mainly  our elephants and rhinos.

There are two types of poachers:

1) Subsistence Poachers – they target small game, have low technology, and hunt for food.
2) Commercial Poachers – they operate with organized groups for rare animals (elephants/rhinos) and  utilize advanced technology.

game farmers in sa part of rhino poaching ring

S.A. Game farmers convicted in rhino poaching ring.

Individuals who poach in poor communities are doing it for one of two reasons. Either they need the meat, in which case it is usually smaller animals who typically do not have as much effect on the ecosystem, as it is usually less often. Or there is a wealthy source seeking parts from an animal, such as the ivory of elephants or horn of rhino, and this has a more devastating impact on the environment.  In the second case, obviously without the demand, there would be no poaching.

In 2012, the wildlife monitoring network Traffic, issued a report showing  a direct correlation between the rising income in Vietnam and the rising demand for ivory and horn. In addition as a use for “medicinal cures”, it has become the status symbol of the elite in Vietnamese society, used during business deals and social gatherings, the rhino horn is ground to a powder, mixed with water and drunk.

Chumlong Lemtongthai

Chumlong Lemtonthai, convicted rhino poaching ringleader

With horn and ivory worth their weight in gold, it is the prized commodity taken and sold by everyone who can get their filthy hands on it.

So while the rich business men are vying for ego boosts in Vietnam, there are poaching syndicates taking advantage and making this a business of their own. These syndicates are  equipped  above and beyond the occasional villager poaching for his family, they have militia training, equipment and resources at their disposal.

seleka rebels in CAR

Seleka rebels: The CAR president has ordered the dissolution of the group.

Some of these groups are involved with  organized terrorist groups such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Darfur’s Janjaweed.  One group in Sudan, the  Séléka rebel coalition  is suspected of the 2013 mass slaughter of 26 elephants at the Dzanga-Ndoki national park in the CAR. The previous year, the same group was responsible for 300 elephant deaths.

In addition to subsistence and commercial poaching, in a 2013 study done by Evidence on Demand, the lines sometimes become blurred into what they term as a hybrid poacher.

For example: the rise in commercial hunting for bushmeat shows how traditional subsistence poaching has been transformed in response to the arrival of logging companies in remote forests where a workforce has to be fed. Likewise, the Chinese construction camps who allegedly seek ivory, and possibly bushmeat would fall into that category.

Sophistication, technology, and an expanding market  make for ambitious and deadly modern-day poachers. But poaching has no ethnicity, age or economic barriers. It is an equal opportunity evil in which the end is always the same. With 96 elephants and nearly 3 rhino a day being slaughtered, it hardly matters WHO is killing them, just that they are.

your greed my extinction

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Second Chances: Success in the Congo

Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo – Nowadays it takes cooperation and innovative thinking to combat poaching. African Parks (who manage the OKNP) has achieved success by doing just that.

For almost a year now, they have been conducting a plan they refer to as the “amnesty scheme”. Through word of mouth, poachers have been encouraged to turn themselves in. The catch? For giving up their weapons and their intel-they were offered an opportunity to apply for a ranger position in the park.

The result? 56 poachers turned themselves in; of them, 45 completed training for park employment.

Currently some are employed as eco-guards, protecting the park wildlife, and some have been given jobs as eco-monitors, recording information and conducting surveys.

More than just a gesture of goodwill, the program has paid off in the arrests of high level poachers and kingpins in the ivory trade.

Thanks to the success from the program, the park plans on launching a second amnesty scheme, along with a recruitment drive to attract more eco-guards.

Ecoguards in Congo (courtesy of

Photo: courtesy of Wildlife News

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To a Poacher

mom and babe ele 4I need to make a difference
I want to change your mind.
I’m begging you to see them
through my eyes.
Mother and child,
Lovers, cousins, friends
They raise their babies
they mourn their dead.
Close your eyes and listen brother
do you hear their pain?mom and baby rhino 1
Tearing families apart
you kill, you wound, you maim!
A mother lies trembling in her blood
listening to her baby cry
knowing she can’t protect him now
the pain excruciating, as she slowly dies.
How will you explain to your daughter
killing for cold bloody cash?
And what will you do
when your next one may be the very last?

By: Tisha Wardlow

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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.

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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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Wildlife Rangers: Unsung Heroes in the War on Poaching

ZAKOUMA NATIONAL PARK, Chad — Just before dawn, the rangers were hunched over in prayer, facing east. They pressed their foreheads into the dry earth and softly whispered Koranic verses, their lips barely moving. A cool wind bit at their faces.

All of a sudden, Djimet Seid, the cook, said he heard “one war whoop — or maybe it was a scream.”       

And then: “K-k-k-k-k-k-k,” the angry bark of a Kalashnikov assault rifle, opening up on fully automatic. In an instant, an entire Chadian squad of rangers was cut down with alarming precision… (NY Times 12-2012)park rangers

At least 60 Wildlife Rangers worldwide have been killed in 2012. (The exact number is a mystery, as it is believed that many more deaths go unreported)

As the duty of wildlife rangers has shifted from field biologists to military personnel, it is a struggle to catch up. Todays rangers are desperately in need of more funding, training and equipment. Seemingly a step behind the higher funded poachers, it hardly seems a fair war.

As the demand for tusks and horns has soared, poaching has evolved. The previous attack in Chad was carried out with military precision, making it necessary to be on guard for an ambush on any given patrol. Poachers have turned to AK-47s, land mines, and have even poisoned animal carcasses to kill off vultures, which serve as a warning signal to their presence.

The duties of game rangers vary from assisting with translocation of animals to patch burning to fixing pumps and generators. But their job can hardly be called routine when death can come at any time.

Recently I did a little “Q and A” with an experienced 14 year veteran ranger from Namibia. His name is being withheld to protect his identity.

Q: What is a typical day on patrol like for you?

“Well its early up….after breakfast of only food in tins we start patrolling to see if we can’t find tracks of animals or poachers…..after we find tracks we follow…..till we get what we want. Sometimes we have to walk hours and lots of km a day to see the Rhinos or any other wildlife. We get to camp at dark and still have to make food, after that we get a few hours of sleep. Then comes night patrol. We have poachers coming at night to shoot the animals so we  have to be alert at all times. We get so tired but we help each other to stay awake.

This goes on for 10 to 15 days in  one area then we move again to the next.”

Q: What determines where you patrol? And how many of you are there at a time?

“We help lodges and farmers that breed wild animals and try to protect them. We have no routine, we go as we think its time or on request of the owners. We also work on the highways; that we do with police or the army. We help with road blocks and patrol with them helping with tracking and so on. We are about 30 guys depending on how much money we can get (as I pay them for their families, and for their supplies). Sometimes its only 6 guys.”

Q: Where does the funding come from?

“We get donations from people and the places where we work also help us with food for the periods.”

Q: It seems you must have a lot to take with you-the essentials for camping equip and food, weapons,etc?

“The weapons are our own, the tents we buy from china shops here. They are cheap but not strong so we have to change them out about every second month or so. We take nothing from nature ….no hunting or fishing for food….we take all with us when we go.”

Q: Do you have a lot of run-ins with poachers?

“Yes. We have a lot of run- ins with poachers….its easy to meet them when you live with them in the bush.”

Q: What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve been in?

“Well in 2005 one of our unit members was killed in a shoot out, but we caught them after 2 days of tracking. We were on highway patrol when we came upon the poachers. They started shooting at us as they tried to drive off….luckily none of us got shot THAT night too.”

Q: What’s the most rewarding situation you’ve had?

“One area in Namibia had a poaching problem for about 3 years…they heard of us and asked for help. We went in with about 12 members. We caught the poachers; they were police and nature conservation members along with the tribe king’s son. That was my best bust ever…..just their faces said it all.”

Q: What do you wish you had to make your job easier, more effective?

“Funds to get better equipment….this will make any job better and easy to do. We would  like to go on horse back doing bush patrols and when we move from one area to another we would like to  have some type of transport to help with the load. It’s nice working by foot but it can drain your body very quickly.”

Q: How does this fit in with married life and family? Is it difficult or do you get used to it?

“Yes it’s not easy on our lives if you have a wife and kids, but my wife understands and she is also into nature. You will never get used to it -being away from home. It’s very hard work..meaning the sun is really hot here, and  animals don’t stay in one place,  you have to follow them to make sure they are safe so its long distance walking.  And at  the same time you have to be alert for danger like wild animals, snakes and poachers. It’s not easy but I think it’s the best job in the world.”

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Judas Moon

full moon

A poacher’s friend,
a rhinos doom
Shining like a spotlight
this full moon.
On this night
blood will be shed
The rising sun will bear witness
to how many are dead.
Why must you betray
where they hide?
Stay among the clouds!
Keep our rhino alive.

By: Tisha Wardlow

Categories: Poetry & Art, Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thandi’s Story

Thandi found poached.

Thandi found poached.

Thandi recovered.

Thandi recovered.

Amidst the hundreds of rhinos slaughtered in 2012, one rhino beat the odds. Her name is Thandi.

In early March of 2012 three rhinos were found poached in the Kariega Game Reserve. One immediately
died. The remaining two made it through the night. The survivors-Thandi (meaning love) and Themba
(meaning hope) were tended to with intense veterinary care.

Unfortunately after 24 days, Themba died.

Thandi lived. She fought a long, painful battle, but miraculously recovered. She lives without a
horn, without her companions, but she lives with hope. Perhaps the one thing that almost killed her
(having a horn) will now be her salvation.

To follow more about Thandi’s story go to http://www.helpingrhinos.org or http://www.kariega.co/about-us/help-save-our-rhino-project

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