Posts Tagged With: rhino

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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Miss USA Lends Her Voice to South Africa’s Rhino

by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Miss USA

Nana Meriwether launching the Rhino Revolution/Blue Canyon Conservancy Black Rhino Relocation Project

Having opted to come to South Africa on her homecoming tour – a tour that each Miss USA makes, usually to the state from which they come – South Africa-born Nana Meriwether will leave with a new cause to speak to when she gets back to the United States.

rhino miss usa

Miss USA Nana Meriwether got to spend some time with four white rhino at Thornybush, a reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park

‘I was born into a humanitarian way of life and have always focused on the human side of philanthropy. This trip has really introduced me to the plight of the rhino, and it’s hit me hard,” she explains.

Nana and her mother, Nomvimbi, are frequent visitors to South Africa, which both still refer to as ‘home’. The Meriwether Foundation, which Nana co-founded in 2005, supports a number of projects to improve the health and sustainability of communities in South Africa and other African countries.

In between visiting Tintswalo in Mpumalanga over the weekend, the hospital where she was born during her father’s eight years of service as a missionary medical doctor, and various other projects in the area, Nana was able to spend some time watching four relaxed rhino at the Thornybush Game Lodge.

It was a rare moment of peace during an otherwise busy programme. While Nana watched the rhino grazing, they began to nudge each other and seemed to play, moving their massive bulk with surprising ease and gentleness as the light slowly faded from the sky.

The sharp contrast between the rhinos’ peaceful, even playful, demeanour and the constant threat of a cruel and unnecessary death was highlighted as new incidents of poaching were reported from elsewhere in South Africa during the course of Nana’s visit.

‘We don’t hear much about the plight of the rhino back in the United States and I didn’t know just how threatened they are until now,’ she says.

I am so glad for the opportunity to adopt the rhino revolution message and spread it; we can’t take the threat of extinction lightly.

Her title means she has a voice in the US, though, and she plans to use it: ‘I am so glad for the opportunity to adopt the Rhino Revolution message and spread it; we can’t take the threat of extinction lightly.’

Hosted by Rhino Revolution, Khaya Ndlovu Manor House and Leadwood Big Game Estate, Nana also had the opportunity to track some white rhino on foot and meet the men and women involved in the daily protection of South Africa’s rhino.

‘We were walking and looking for rhino and our guides were telling us about how the poachers operate; that they are so well armed, so good at covering their tracks and so ruthless in the way that they kill these animals for their horns. It is a war.’

The statistics confirm this  – so far this year, South Africa is losing more than two rhino per day to poaching.

nanas mother

Nana Meriwether’s South African mother, Nomvimbi

Not only Nana was moved by the plight of the rhino in South Africa, but her head of security, Nelson Feliciano, donated some much-needed radio equipment to the anti-poaching team to assist it in its daily fight.

On the final day of her visit to the Hoedspruit area, Nana officially launched the Rhino Revolution/Blue Canyon Conservancy Black Rhino Relocation Project. The first female rhino to be released through the project has been named after her, a fact that delights her and her family.

Nana was joined at the launch by Mrs South Africa Lynne de Jager, who is also hoping to do her bit for the rhino by taking a strong message with her to China, where she will be competing in the Mrs World competition in September of this year.

‘We’re grateful to Miss USA and Mrs South Africa for putting their voices behind the rhino of Africa to raise awareness and funds to assist with the protection of this iconic species,’ says Patrick Jordan, who, with his father Trevor, Josh Whyte, Jozua Scheepers and Eugene Potgieter, has been instrumental in getting the black rhino project in the Blue Canyon Conservancy off the ground. For more information on this project, contact

Mrs South Africa

Mrs South Africa Lynne de Jager with some of the rangers involved in protecting South Africa’s rhino

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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
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It Takes a Village

How far would you go to help your neighborhood? What would you do to protect it? In the US we have “neighborhood watches” for that very purpose. In northern Kenya, they have a watch group- a grass-roots squad of rangers  formed to protect the elephants and rhino from poachers.apu

Essentially a conservation militia, these volunteer villagers are fed up and taking matters into their own hands. The ordinary citizens are arming themselves and taking to the bush to fight back. Not necessarily out of a “Have you hugged an elephant today?” attitude, but to protect the money the elephant (and rhino) bring to their villages.

The safari/tourist industry is a successful and integral money-maker for Kenyans. An economic staple, tourists bring in more than a billion dollars a year. Much of that money is contractually bound to go directly to impoverished local communities, which use it for everything from pumping water to college scholarships.safari

The safari industry also provides 500,000 jobs for the community; everything from cooks to safari guides to accountants. Contrary to the general belief the safari jobs can pay quite well.

In addition to the poachers “robbing” the community of its wildlife, villagers are also turning against them because the illegal wildlife trade fuels crime, corruption, instability in the community. Here in northern Kenya, poachers are diversifying into stealing livestock, printing counterfeit money and sometimes holding up tourists. Some are even buying assault rifles used in ethnic conflicts.

Is this key to future conservation efforts? Nothing else seems to be working. Everything from high tech drones and military deployment to removing or poisoning horns and tusks is being tried; yet poaching rates are still soaring. Perhaps with the local people appreciating and protecting their wildlife, the elephant and rhino still stand a chance.

no poaching

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Poaching Update

URGENT: 13 rhino were poached this week in Kruger National Park.

The total now stands at 229 killed since January 1st.

rhino poached cartoon

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Yao Ming: Making a Difference

At 7ft, 6 in tall, Yao Ming is an intimidating figure, the tallest player in the NBA during his former career with the Houston Rockets. But this gentle giant is spending his time nowadays educating people on the crisis of elephant and rhino poaching.

As a goodwill ambassador to WildAid, he recently teamed up with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). They are launching a major public awareness campaign targeting the consumption of rhino horn and ivory, in China. With public service announcements stating “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

Yao Ming with one of the four remaining Northern White Rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Yao Ming with one of the four remaining Northern White Rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

According to WildAid.Org, in 2012  a Chinese research company did a study  on elephant poaching  finding that:

  •  More than half of the nearly 1,000 participants (over 50%) do not think elephant poaching is common;
  • 34%, or one in three respondents, believe ivory is obtained from natural elephant mortality;
  • Only 33% of all participants believe elephants are poached for their tusks; and
  • 94% of residents agree theChinese government should impose a ban on the ivory trade

A similar survey was also done on rhino poaching:

  • 66% of all participants, that is two out of every three respondents, are not aware that rhino horn comes from poached rhinos;
  • Nearly 50% believed rhino horn can be legally purchased from official stores; and
  • 95% of residents agree the “Chinese government should take stricter action to prevent use of rhino horns.”

Being an animal lover and inspired by Jackie Chan, the Chinese basketball sensation has made raising awareness a top priority. He is a goodwill ambassador and a promising connection between the poaching crisis of Africa and the demand of the Chinese people.

Yao Ming is followed by Kinango, a 2-week-old orphaned elephant whose mother was poached for her ivory, at Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage.

Yao Ming is followed by Kinango, a 2-week-old orphaned elephant whose mother was poached for her ivory, at Daphne Sheldrick’s orphanage.

According to Ming, “The most effective thing you can do to counter this kind of situation is raise people’s awareness. Eliminate the demand for rhino horn and ivory right at the source. That’s what I want to do. It might take some time, sure, but I’m really hoping that gradually we can start to see an improvement.”

“Poaching threatens livelihoods, education, and development in parts of Africa due to the insecurity it brings and loss of tourism revenue. No one who sees the results firsthand, as I did, would buy ivory or rhino horn. I believe when people in China know what’s happening they will do the right thing and say no to these products.”

Ming’s previous campaign to educate the Chinese on the demand of shark fins,  is credited with a reduction of 50 – 70% in consumption of shark fin in China in 2012. We can only hope his current drive to eliminate the demand for horn and tusk is just as effective.

Yao Mings PSA:

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Music to My Ears

One of the best sounds! This is what a rhino sounds like…


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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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Combating Rhino Poaching

Taken from Elizabeth Gordon via The Huffington Post
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Rhino horn is now more expensive (by weight) than gold or cocaine and as a result rhino poaching is reaching epidemic proportions. The number of rhino’s lost to poaching in South Africa climbed from 300 in 2010 to 668 in 2012! 232 rhinos have already been killed in 2013. And these numbers only represent South Africa! Rhino poaching is on the rise in East Africa as well.

2013-04-24-Poaching_headline_Jan_2013AfricanWildlifeFdn_Resize.jpgThere has been a lot of recent coverage of the increase in poaching of both rhinos and elephants (from the BBC to the New York Times to National Geographic) but as far as I’m concerned there can’t be too much attention on this issue, so here’s my contribution.

Today I want to talk about the Rhino Rescue Project (RRP), which is spear-heading a new and unique effort to prevent poaching in reserves around Kruger National Park in South Africa.

The idea is essentially to poison the horn to eliminate the its value

In addition to its ornamental value, much of the rhino horn that is sold illegally is consumed. RRP realized that if they could make the horn indigestible it would decrease the demand, so they decided to infuse into the wild rhino horns the same ectoparasiticide used to control ecto-parasites like ticks in captive rhinos, effectively making the horn toxic.

After some additional research and consultation they decided to add an indelible dye to the infusion, similar to products used in the banking industry to prevent counterfeiting. The dye is visible on an x-ray scanner even when ground to a fine powder so airport security checkpoints can pick up the presence of a treated horn whether the horn is intact or in powder form.

2013-04-24-HornInfusionResize.jpgPhoto of the Horn Infusion Process by Dylan Brandt for SingitaThe combination of the dye and the ecoparasiticides are intended to destroy the monetary value of the horn and discourage poaching with little to no impact on the rhino. Comprehensive testing is ongoing to ensure that the animals have not been harmed by the treatment. The acaracide selected is even one that is “Ox Pecker-friendly” (a bird commonly found “pecking” rhinos looking for ticks) to ensure little or no damage to other animals and organisms sharing the rhino’s habitat. It is expected that the treatment will remain effective for three to four years before re-administration is required. In addition to the treatment and dye, a DNA sample is collected and added to a national database to aid in prosecutions of poachers.

The first large scale horn infusions recently began in the Sabi Sand Reserve, west of Kruger National Park. Over 100 rhino have been treated and there have been zero losses.

2013-04-24-RRPinSabiSandsResize.jpgHorn Infusion in the Sabi Sands, Photo by Dylan Brandt, SingitaThere has been speculation and some outcry that the program’s aim is to poison rhino horn consumers.

In RRP’s efforts to clarify their position they have pointed out that; 1) the ecoparasiticides are toxic but not lethal to humans and 2) central to the program’s success is the extensive publicity surrounding the effort.

If the rhinos in a given reserve have been treated, it is widely publicized with 200+ signposts around the reserve’s perimeter and, if a treated rhino is killed, the indelible dye is clearly visible inside the horn to indicate that the horn had been tampered with. RRP also strongly advocates involving as many reserve staff as possible in the horn treatment process so that word about the treatment spreads. All of properties and reserves in the Sabi Sands who have participated in the program are also posting extensively on social media.

2013-04-24-InfusionpublicationResize.jpgSigns posted to warn that horns have been treated from Rhino Rescue ProjectRRP’s hope is that the publicity prevents the rhino’s being poached in the first place and that treated rhino’s will be left alone, their horns intact. From RRP’s perspective every treated horn that enters the market means another rhino has died and the program has failed that animal.

This effort really interested me not only because it involves close cooperation with many of the properties I work with, but also because it is an innovative and proactive solution to rhino poaching that is cost-effective for reserves with small rhino populations that do not have the resources to provide each rhino with an armed guard.

Other Anti-Poaching Efforts

This is by no means the only approach to preventing rhino poaching going on in Africa. Other tactics include traditional methods like 24/7 armed guards and rhino relocation (for example from the Solio and Lewa Conservancies in Kenya and Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa) to more innovative tactics such as the horn infusion described above and East Africa’s first unmanned drone patrolling Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

2013-04-24-AnnandSteveToonNorthernWhiteRhinoOlPejetaConservancy_Resize.jpgNorthern White Rhino with armed guard in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Photo by Ann and Steve ToonThere is also an on-going debate over the creation of a legal market for horn harvested from farmed rhino. Because rhino horn is made of compressed keratin (similar to fingernails and human hair) it can be trimmed periodically. Each rhino can produce about a kilo of horn per year and supporters argue that harvested horn could increase volume enough to drive down the price of illegal horns and reduce poaching. They point to the legal trade in farmed crocodile skins as an example of how legal trade can drive conservation.

Opponents argue the harvest procedure is invasive and harmful to the rhino and that the trade is driven by excessive demand not lack of supply and that a legal trade would not discourage poaching. They point to examples including ivory and abalone where criminal markets flourish alongside the legal one and encourage poaching. Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency points to the spike in illegal ivory sales in China after it legally bought stockpiles of ivory from Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe in 2008. (Find more about the farming debate here)

Whatever the end result of the debate, a variety of solutions clearly need to be explored because if the pace of poaching continues to accelerate, Africa’s rhino could be extinct in the wild in just 20 years! Some species including the Western Black Rhino are already gone.

Please check RHINO RESCUE PROJECT for information and ways to support them in their endeavors.

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Endangered Africa

2 cheetah

There are only approximately  3,600 Black Rhino left in the wild.  But they are far from the only endangered species in Africa. I was going to tell you about all the others until I realized there are actually 221 mammals , 174 birds and 48 reptiles that are endangered on the world’s second largest continent. So let’s start with the endangered species on the savanna:
*African Elephant
*Grevy’s Zebra
*African Wild Dog
*Reticulated Giraffe
*Rothschild Giraffe
*Black Rhino

Habitat destruction is one of the primary causes for their endangerment. The expansion of human communities, deforestation, global warming, mining operations, oil spills, and slash and burn agriculture are all contributing factors to this. For example,  humans infringe upon the territory shared by lions, cheetahs, hyenas and African wild dogs; then  as the lowest predators in the chain, the wild dogs are forced toward the villages.  Humans then kill the dogs as a protective measure.LYCAON PICTUS

Poaching is wiping out the Black Rhino and Elephant, and every animal listed is a target for canned hunts. Factor in global warming which is contributing to climate change; i.e. droughts,  and it’s no wonder these majestic beasts are barely hanging on.

Although not technically endangered, the lion, white rhino, and giant anteater are not far off; being listed as Threatened.
(The difference being Endangered: Any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Threatened: any species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future)

Can you imagine an Africa without Lions and Elephants? It’s time  for government to step up;  harsher penalties for poaching, making canned hunts illegal, and most importantly preserving areas for wildlife. Safaris are big business in Africa; it would be an economic disaster NOT to protect the animals.grevys zebra

You can help. Please view and sign these petitions, as well keeping an eye out for the many others that are out there:

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