Rhino owners are facing a total onslaught from the Far East

Hennie Pauw

THABAZIMBI – At a private rhino owners security meeting on 25 November in Thabazimbi it has become clear that the poaching of rhinos has reached an all-time peak, with an anticipated 126 rhinos which will have been poached during 2009, the most ever.
Before that 126 rhinos were poached in South Africa over a period of three years and before that 148 rhinos were poached over a period of 24 years. In the whole of Africa the Chinese and Far East demand for rhino horn has resulted in the killing of between 80 000 and 100 000 rhino in the past 50 years.

Apart from the poaching there were break-ins at 7 museums and armed robbery in National and Private Parks for rhino horn stockpile.
In the past month alone 10 cases of rhino poaching have been reported in the north western section of South Africa, excluding Kruger Park and parks in KZN. Borakalalo has been hit, Nylstroom, Messina, Groblersdal, Cullinan, Warmbaths and Rooiberg. At Rooiberg two armed poachers were chased while attempting to kill a rhino. One cow was wounded and one poacher arrested.

An anonymous person once said and was quoted by advocate Antoinette Ferreira, Organized Crime – Director of Prosecutions “It is preposterous that human illness, flagging libido or sexual insecurities in one corner of the globe could spell the end for a species of massive pachyderms on another continent, but the reality for the survival of both black and white Africa rhino is stark”.

Pelham Jones, organizer of the Private Rhino Owners’ Group says: “we don’t go to the east and kill their panda bears, why should they come and kill our rhinos?” Herewith he has also made it clear that the rhino poaching problem is not only that of the rhino owners, but of the whole South Africa, who is host to the remaining rhino population. The northern African population has virtually been wiped out.

It is uncertain whether the rhino poaching onslaught has intensified during the past year, because of stronger efforts from the poachers’ side or whether the resistance in South Africa has decreased. About a year ago the local anti-poaching units of the police have been “relieved of their responsibilities” to catch rhino poachers. It is to be hoped that alternative measures are put in place by the police to control the poaching and expose syndicates.

The fact that rhino poachers are organizing themselves better and better is also a fact. The get-away method, splitting up of teams, swopping of vehicles and speed with which poached horn is delivered to buyers are all tactics used by poachers. Lately helicopters have been used in poaching operations.

At the recent rhino security meeting held in Thabazimbi, it has once again been made clear that the problem can only be tackled if all rhino owners work together. A security company, Conservation Security, has been appointed to supply a basis from which information and intelligence is dispatched through cell phone sms’s and e-mails.

Information is coded according to its urgency and authenticity. For example a code red notification will inform people in a specific area of poaching activities probably being executed at the time of the sms.

The first anti-rhino-poaching hub is currently being established in Thabazimbi. This means that rhino owners on the north west, south west, north east and south east of Thabazimbi will organize themselves into groups where information will be shared, expertise will be sourced and ground work will be executed, for example closing off of roads during poaching operations etc.

Trevor Roberts of Conservation Security, a company better known for its anti-crime programmes, said it has been proven over and over again, that where well-organized communities stand together, crime rates are much lower. The same principal will apply when the problem of rhino poaching is approached in this way.

The national rhino owner body has been established with clear objectives, one is a specialist private investigation unit working with the SAPS Organized Crime and Endangered Species desk, National Prosecuting Authority, SanParks and DEAT (Dept of Environment Affairs).
However funds are urgently needed to realise this goal. The revenue received will be used to cover costs of special investigators, an informer network, administration and specialist equipment.

For any further enquiries Pelham Jones can be contacted on 011 792 6073 or 082 299 3161 or pelham@yebo.co.za .