Friday 7 February 2014

Please, this has to stop

I've just read a report that two poachers were shot dead in a shoot-out last night at Phinda Private Game Reserve, in an incident involving Nyathi Security. It's very likely that I've met one of the men who were out in the bush in the dark, armed and up against desperate men also armed with a heavy calibre rifle fitted with a silencer, a knife and an axe. The axe was for hacking the horns off the rhino they meant to shoot; the knife possibly for beating off the baby it may have had at heel.

They needed the silencer because they knew there could be protection forces nearby: the poachers are of course fully aware that there is money available to locals for intelligence leading to the arrest (or deaths) of poachers (Peter Eastwood's charity here in NZ is one of the sources of that funding). They know too about the daily air patrols of the reserves, conducted at random times, to check for suspicious activity and to monitor the whereabouts of the rhino ( helps fund them, too). All this is absolutely necessary in the war with the poachers.

Unfortunately, it also means that the poachers have been forced to operate at night, making everything so much more dangerous and difficult for both sides. Rangers have been injured or killed by friendly fire in all the confusion. Some poaching parties have included an armed guard walking parallel to the poachers, his sole purpose to attack security parties. It's dark, dangerous, desperate work, and so very very urgent.

Last year more rhino were killed than ever before: 1004. Already, in January, 86 have been killed in South Africa. That's almost three a day. In KwaZulu Natal province alone, they've arrested eight poachers so far this year. But they've also lost eight rhino. It's entirely possible that some of them were rhino I was thrilled to see and photograph on game drives through the province last year. Look, perhaps this magnificent creature was one of them:
It's a black rhino. There are only 5,000 of them left in the world, you know. Won't you try to help them?

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