Stemming the onslaught by rhino poachers

Hennie Pauw

THABAZIMBI – Amidst a nationwide onslaught by rhino poachers, rhino owners of Thabazimbi and surrounding areas held a workshop last week in the hope of stemming the flood of rhino killings.
Over 60 rhinos have been poached already this year in South Africa. In the 10 days preceding the meeting 5 rhinos were killed in the Limpopo Province – two of them in the Rooiberg area and more poaching activities were observed, in that area.
The impact of these poachers and the syndicates behind them are referred to as a “tsunami” and “a much bigger problem than most realize”.
The effort and co-operation that rhino owners must put into a joint resistance operation was compared to safeguarding gold coins by stowing it in a safe place, by Pelham Jones, one of the conveners of the meeting. You will not leave your valuable gold coins lying around to be stolen, he said.
From the meeting it was clear that the time has expired for farmers to think it was beneficial to divulge as little information as possible about their stock. It is clear enough by now that the poachers know of the existence and position of most of the rhinos in the country and that the best way to fight these informed organizations, is to build up a proper database and communication system amongst rhino owners in a specific area.
At the workshop, which follows after a high profile workshop in the Kruger National Park with Ken Maggs, well-known anti-poacher, it was decided that private rhino owner hubs will be created throughout the country, each with its own communication and operations network.
The Thabazimbi hub will be the first to be created in this fashion in South Africa. In a radius of 120km around Thabazimbi the area will be divided into four sub-sections. The Bela-Bela, Dwaalboom, Brits and Lephalale roads will form the boundaries of the four sections. In each of these four sections rhino owners will organize themselves and be on stand-by to communicate and act if and when poachers strike, but primarily be more pro-active in the protection of this threatened species.
Jones said it was important for all farmers to have telephone numbers of neighbouring rhino owners, police, nature conservation officials, veterinary surgeons and all other concerned parties handy at home, in the car and wherever. Intelligence must be shared.
A Johannesburg security company will assist in getting the communication network going by providing to each subscriber, for R85 per month, relevant information on rhino poaching activities and risk periods.
In turn the rhino owner, when a rhino has been poached on his farm, must submit all relevant information to the network, such as police case numbers, type of vehicles spotted, information on tracks and snares etc.
It is important for farmers and neighbours to bury longstanding differences, said Jones, since the network will only be as strong as its weakest link. The “all for one and one for all” approach must be applied since it has been proven that on their own rhino owners are not capable of protecting their valuable livestock, and indeed are very vulnerable.
The workshop was attended by specialists, game capture experts, rhino owners, facilitators, veterinary services, nature conservation and members of the police.
Anybody who is interested in joining the rhino owner network can contact Pelham Jones on 082 299 3161,  Rubin Els on 082 371 5083 or Trevor Roberts on 083 655 1315.