Interview with an abalone poacher

Poacher Tattoo_©PeterChadwick_AfricanConservationPhotographer

Interview with an abalone poacher. In meeting this guy at a local harbor, he proudly showed me his tattoo and allowed me to photograph it. The tattoo itself is interesting in that it not only proclaims his position as a poacher but also indicates to whom he supplies to. Looking closely you can see that it is a “chinaman” that goes by the nickname of Oom Jak (Uncle Jack). The self-proclaimed poacher then told me that he had spent four years in prison for abalone poaching and had been recently released from jail. He was keen to give up the poaching lifestyle but admitted that the cash offered by the gangs was a huge enticement and as bonuses, these gangs also provided drugs such as mandrax to keep the guys hooked to poaching. In an area where options for legitimate employment are rare, poaching provides an opportunity for survival.

If we are to address the issue of environmental crime, we need to realize that it is a societal issue and communities have to be given viable alternatives for following a legal lifestyle. Until poverty is addressed, poaching will continue! Poaching is not only an environmental tragedy but also a human one!