Corruption escalates rhino poaching

2013-07-16 10:00
Wildlands Conservation Trust officials have darted and tagged seven rhino to prevent poaching in Kwa-Zulu Natal. (Luke Pallet, Wildlands Conservation Trust)

Wildlands Conservation Trust officials have darted and tagged seven rhino to prevent poaching in Kwa-Zulu Natal. (Luke Pallet, Wildlands Conservation Trust)

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Rhino tagging

2013-07-16 09:52

This YouTube video shot by Luke Pallet shows how the Wildlands Conservation Trust carried out rhino tagging.WATCH

Cape Town - Corruption among senior officials plays a significant role in perpetuating the poaching of rhino in SA, a conservation organisation has charged.

"We do believe corruption at the higher government levels continues to play a significant role in the ongoing escalation of poaching. This also filters through to officials managing border posts and points of export (harbours, airports)," Kevin McCann project manager for the Wildlands Conservation Trust told News24.

The trust recently carried out a darting and tagging programme in Kwa-Zulu Natal to help protect rhino from poachers. They tagged seven rhino and fitted them with GPS devices provided by Wildlife ACT Fund so that rangers have a constant flow of rhino location data.

It has been suggested that at the current rate of poaching, rhino in SA will become extinct within decades.

Poachers killed 668 rhino in South Africa in 2012, a 50% increase over the previous year.

Armed poachers

Vietnam has emerged as one of the key destinations of rhino horn where it is ground down and used for a number of medical ailments as well as a status symbol.

Despite an "action plan" signed between SA and Vietnam in May, conservationists have lamented the Asia country's record in fighting rhino horn trafficking.

"Our rhino war is going to be won or lost in Asia, not in Africa," World Wide Fund for Nature CEO Dr Morné du Plessis, recently told News24.

According to Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), poachers are heavily armed in their determination to kill rhino.

"AK47 assault rifles and 303 calibre rifles have been the most commonly used weapons but, recently, heavier calibre arms (eg .375s and .458s) are now being used," Cites said.

The WWF said that the prosecution of poaching "foot soldiers" would not stem the tide of the illegal activity.

"At the moment we're mainly hammering these okes on the ground, but they just replicate themselves," said Du Plessis.

Corruption

McCann added that sophisticated syndicates are involved in rhino poaching.

"To our knowledge complex, well resourced syndicates are running these poaching operations and recruiting military trained individuals to carry out these sorts of activities.

"The exact process is not known to us but the fact remains that they are extremely well resourced and have the ability to offer large sums of money to individuals in order to get them on board."

Cites said that corruption among Vietnamese officials had contributed to the escalation of rhino poaching.

The African and Asian Rhinoceroses - Status, Conservation and Trade publication compiled by Tom Milliken, Richard H Emslie and Bibhab Talukdar, says, in part, that investigations revealed "the repeated involvement of Vietnam Embassy personnel or vehicles in the illegal procurement and movement of rhino horns within and out of South Africa, one of whom invoked 'diplomatic immunity' to avoid arrest".


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