There are many that claim to be working for the sake of the rhino’s and yet, when we take a closer look, what we see is a highly divided conservation fraternity. These divisions are playing right into the hands of the poaching and organized crime syndicates and are definitely not helping the current plight of the rhino!
Amongst us, we have the trade versus non-trade fraternities, the dehorning versus the infusion supporters and the state run conservation areas versus the private game reserves. All of these groups spend time arguing amongst themselves to the detriment of finding effective solutions. We must realise that we need a suite of solutions and some of these solutions will work better in some areas than others. There are those that are constantly lambasting the authorities, police and judiciary, instead of trying to work with them to solve the issues. Countless new organizations are popping up daily that all claim to be collecting funds for rhino conservation and yet where does this funding end up? Finally, there are also those glory seekers that claim successes while actually doing little but ridding upon the backs of other dedicated individuals that work tirelessly for the rhino. Social media plays right into the hands of these glory seekers and helps with the spreading of their misinformation.
It is very clear that poaching pressure is increasing with ever-greater numbers of incursions by poachers taking place. This year, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal are being particularly hard hit and poaching is increasing in the neighbouring states of Namibia and Zimbabwe. Corruption and collusion is also on the increase thereby compounding the situation even further.
To halt the poaching, we need to change these current divisions amongst us and we need to start finding collaborative solutions that develop long-term, successful and pragmatic strategies to the benefit of the rhino. Political will must continue to ensure that the highest level of evidence collection results in effective arrests and prosecutions and that these then carry appropriate penalties. Corruption and collusion must be rooted out and state conservation agencies need to work more closely with those private rhino owners genuinely supporting rhino conservation. The trade versus non-trade debate needs to be based on sound conservation imperatives and must not be lead by those standing to gain the most economic benefit. Importantly, while long-term solutions are being found we need to all support the ranger teams at the frontline of this poaching war. They are risking their lives daily and do so with the highest levels of dedication and integrity.
If the rhino is to survive into the future then we have to stand together, putting petty turf-war politics aside. We are all in this for the sake of the rhino, let us start properly coping with the current suite of realities in order to find a viable solution to this crisis!