This excellent, in-depth look at the forces driving rhino poaching, and the difficulties of stopping it in time, won’t make you optimistic. But it’s one of the best articles I’ve read yet:
The figures are shocking: At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia; in 1970 there were 70,000; today, there are fewer than 29,000 rhinos surviving in the wild.
Killing rhinos for their horns is a “complex problem where values of tradition and culture have been corrupted in the name of commercial exploitation”, says Jason Bell, Southern Africa director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“Be it elephants and ivory, tigers and tiger parts, rhinos and rhino horn, the endpoint is the same – profit. And that profit is being chased down in the most brutal fashion by organised crime syndicates who are fearless in their pursuit of the prize,” he says.
In the 1970s, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned international commercial trade in rhino products.
However, the black-market trade in wildlife is now a multibillion-dollar industry, trafficked on much the same lines as arms and illegal drugs.
“The recognition that illicit wildlife trafficking is a new form of transnational organised crime should be a wake-up call to governments worldwide,” says Wendy Elliott, global species programme manager of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). She wants governments to increase their law-enforcement responses to wildlife crime.
A number of things jumped out at me. 1) Any commodity that is worth $66,000 a kilo (making an average rhino horn worth more than $300,000) is going to motivate poachers to go to almost any length, and take any risk, to cash in. 2) The complete disconnect between the myth of rhino horn’s medicinal qualities (cure cancer?) and the reality (the horn is just keratin, the same substance as human fingernails). And 3) the involvement of organized crime, which is not a surprise given the value of the trade.
You put all those things together, and it is hard not to feel that the human forces driving the poaching (greed, obsession with magical cures and medicines, an almost complete lack of compassion or interest in preserving the wild) have built up such powerful momentum that even extreme anti-poaching efforts will not buy enough time to change the underlying forces.
That doesn’t mean that the fight to stop poaching and the rhino horn trade should be abandoned. If anything, it needs to be intensified dramatically. And here is the one thing I think needs to be happen as we look at catastrophic poaching on land and at sea around the globe: stopping it needs to become a priority goal for military cooperation and assistance programs. Pull the forces and investment that we waste on the drug war and throw them into the fight against poaching and you might see some impressive results. It’s not guaranteed to turn the tide in time, but there is a desperate need for a radically different approach because what we are doing now–whether it is elephants, rhinos, tigers, sharks or regulation-evading factory fishing ships–simply isn’t working well enough.
Getting there would require a transformative update of our notions of global “security” and “threat.” But dealing with climate change and protecting the fragile ecosystems we depend on are missions that are as (or more) important than most of the traditional missions we accept without question.
20 thoughts on “Forget The Drug War–Time To Throw Those Forces Into The Poaching War”
I am South African and we clearly see the difficulty private land owners and anti poaching units work with in order to protect and preserve these beasts. Read carefully, this is only “protect and preserve”!! Very little can be done to chase down, arrest and convict these poachers. We are so far behind that we are just making plans to protect the rhino. Nothing real is being done to counter the trade. These guys will always find a way around the safety and security around the animals. I feel that we should shift our focus and target the poachers, organised crime bosses and dealers. If you shut them down then you automatically save the specie. Agree with this article. Throw more at them directly!!!
Ek stel voor hulle trek semen van n renoster bul en vries dit en begin dit op groot skaal doen en kry renoster koeie wat hulle kunsmatig kan bevrug om die renoster se getalle te laat optel voor dit te laat is.
Niemand moet se dit gaan geld kos nie want hulle spandeur op ander goed en projekte wat nie help.
Dis wat ek voorstel en mense dis al wat gaan help.
Op die stadium is renoster stropery so n alle daagse ding dat dit nie eers meer die nuus haal nie,hulle se voor 2015 is al die renoster uitgewis my voorstel van hierbo is n uitweg,stropery sal aangaan maar dit gaan een of ander tyd stop liewers ons maak n plan en laat die getalle optel voor dit te laat is en daar is niks om mee te werk nie.Die dragtyd van n koei is 15-18 maande so hulle word vinniger gedood as wat hulle kan aanteel.
We have to stop the evil at the end users. Get the Far East out of Africa, boycot all imports from those countries. Not an easy task as they seem to have taken over already. Watch or we might be living in the African Republic of China very very soon.
Surely Rhinos should be farmed properly and sensitively and the trade in horn legalized? That’s the only possible way forward as obviously the other thing since the 70s hasn’t worked – only made it worse!!
I agree, we need to get to the root of the problem, getting the South African government involved with governments from Thailand, and other Asian countries to help dispel the myth that the horn is medicinal. You have more nutrients in your own nail than what you get from a rhino horn. As a South African, it breaks my heart to see this happening.
If there’s no demand for the horn, it will stop this vicious circle of killing our beloved rhino.
Peter John Blackwell updated the description.
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Peter John Blackwell – new personal activist
Cape Town- Western Province-
Supply and demand- that’s what it comes down to. So the price is inflated and the poachers greed take over. I was watching a programme today that quoted that the value of a Rhino horn is twice that of gold. We have to stop the demand for these products and this can only come about by education and protest against the use of the horn. But in the countries e.g China who have these false beliefs, they are creating such demand. This is difficult as it is a nation who will eat a cat or dog killed inhumanely, eat a monkeys brains while alive, take medicine made of bear bile where the bears have endured a life of hell so the bile can be extracted from them and will beat dogs cruelly to death if they suspect rabies. Where to be virile or younger looking at the cost to animals or nature is completely abused. Of course this does not go for all of them but with a population of a billion people, you don’t need many to practice these behaviours to cause a problem.
CITES decision to ban trading in Rhino horn is the main reason for the poaching at the moment One can understand the ban on trading in endagered species but the Rhino is an exception because ,if allowed, the Rhino’s horn can be “harvested ” with no harm to the animal at all The demand can be supplied and the whole problem resolved The forces presently figthing poachers can rather be deployed to help with the war against drugs and the Rhino can be saved against extintion WAKE UP before it is to late
No danger but leaves the rhino with no horn and limits its protection of itself. Its their horns and so humans should just leave their horns alone. I like Mollys idea 🙂
More than 60% of the surviving Rhino’s in South Africa are inside private game farms or reserves where they do not need their horns for protection.Many of these Rhino’s are in any case dehorned in an attempt to save their lives. This dehorning is very costly These horns are then destroyed because of CITES prohibition on trading .It does not make any sense at all.The only solution to this serious problem is that CITES allow the farmers to sell these horns.The demand will then be satisfied and the poaching will stop.
Start boycotting the Asian countries that r all 4 Wildlife Poaching by STOP BUYING their MOTOR VEHICLES. Your MOTOR VEHICLE is your 2nd biggest asset after your home. SOUTH AFRICANS, please wake up 2 this fact. U as an individual can make a big difference by NOT buying ASIAN MOTOR VEHICLES.
It is high time that man becomes part of the food chain. All hunting should be banned if the “hunter” relies on a rifle to klll his prey. Let these so-called “men” go out there and hunt with their bare hands! Let us level the playing fields. Damn Cowards!!!!
Brabarism of mentality! We exist until animals exist. Not vice versa!
Dis-information is a very powerful tool.
if we started advertising powerfully that we have found a new poison that we could inject iinto the Rhino horn that in no way hurt the rhino but would kill a human if ingested. This could turn the tide. Get our wonderful marketing / advertising companies involved create a campeign about this new wonder drug we have created. Involve interviews with the people who invented it. We can create a new truth that the horn is now toxic to humans, you advertising guys out there this is your field the pen is mightier than the sword.
That’s a great idea. Thinking outside of the square. Very good.
There are too many legal issues around it. they tried it in on of the national parks in SA and it ended up killing a number of other animals because A rhino rubs its horn on trees for sent marking territory. the poison transferred onto the tree, insects ate the bark, birds ate the infected insects and so on resulting in a number or species dying. I like the idea it just needs to be refined then they need to find a way to prevent the farm owners from having cases of premeditative murder brought against them.
Why don’t we start parceling our nail-clippings (as Lawrence Anthony suggested) and post it to the leaders of China….
There is just to much money passing hands here. I think we will shocked if we knew who the real players are!
Unless the government authorities get to understand and buy into this matter then l am afraid it’s like fighting a losing battle. We as citizens of our own country must take this matter into our own hands and make the difference.