Arresting poachers in the field will not stop rhino or other forms of poaching! Having dedicated ranger and anti-poaching teams operating on protected areas will certainly reduce the carnage, but a far more integrated enforcement approach is necessary. We also need to remember that the scale of the wildlife-poaching crisis is immense and covers many species that are not as well known or iconic as the African elephant or rhino. The rhino and elephant have certainly focused attention on the illegal wildlife trade, but equal effort is needed to protect all terrestrial and marine species under threat.
Anti-poaching efforts can never be impenetrable and for this reason focus must also be given to striking and destroying the organized crime networks that supply the weapons and ammunition to the poachers. These crime networks are also the ones bribing police, customs and wildlife authorities and are the ones that transport the contraband to its end source.
To destroy these organized crime networks, good quality and up to date information is essential and strong legal and policy support is necessary. This support can only work if the various wildlife agencies and the legal and judiciary departments work closely together. Integration of skills and resources must happen at a local, national and international level with court proceedings and sentencing of guilty parties also being expedited. Currently those poachers caught at ground level are often quickly sentenced, while the judicial hearings of those higher up in the criminal network may take years to finalize, thus allowing these criminals the opportunity to continue with their illegal actions, where they easily replace and increase the numbers of actual poachers on the ground at any one time.
This conservation photography project is carried out in partnership with the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) that provides support, networks and representation for game rangers across Africa. This conservation photography project will use rangers as the “lead characters” to highlight the issues faced by conservationists and showcase opportunities for improved support of rangers in the future. Positive and targeted messages will be communicated that emphasise the critical role that rangers play in African conservation in ensuring that the continent’s natural heritage is preserved for the benefit of future generations. Support Africa’s Rangers by supporting the GRAA.
Peter Chadwick is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through photography. The iLCP’s goal is to use the art of high-quality photography to encourage people to take action in support of tangible and meaningful conservation measures.
Visit African Conservation Photography for a full gallery of Ranger images.