It beggars belief that a government which has wasted billions on pointless weaponry, a grossly inflated bureaucracy, an obscene volume of graft, and excessive perks for its politicians, is unable to stop a handful of poachers from wiping out its small population of rhinos.
Yes, it has beefed up the National Parks Board with more rangers, a couple of helicopters and drone spotter aircraft commanded by an experienced ex-army general. But this is spitting into the wind.
It has a large, inexperienced, not very well trained and mostly idle army sitting on its backside except for a few shunted north allegedly to help bring peace in a couple of African states nobody cares about because they will go on tearing themselves to pieces regardless. Even them it cannot equip properly, although the army does thoughtfully provide camouflaged condoms.
The government can take several actions immediately which will not instantly stop but will dramatically reduce the level of poaching.
One is to redeploy its armed forces along the borders the poachers cross, from Mozambique into the Kruger Park and Northern Natal. They should be instructed to treat poachers as they would terrorists and use lethal force against them, including hot pursuit across the border if necessary.
Anti-poaching forces in the Kruger Park should operate freely on the Mozambique side – to hell with territorial protocols. This IS, after all, a single “transfrontier” park and in principle its wildlife belongs to both nations, therefore its rangers must have the right to function freely on both sides.
The Mozambique authorities do nothing. There is not a single live rhino on their side. Their Frelimo troops sit on their butts. The poachers live in high style in villages around the park fringes, their new 4X4s parked outside their huts. They are tough men, excellent in the bush, and they know the risks in poaching.
They should be chased out of their villages, their vehicles and guns impounded, and arrested if found in possession of wildlife products.
Conservationists say the kill rate of over two each day is fast approaching the point where it will overtake the birth rate. We have little more than 20000 white and just over 5000 black rhino left in South Africa, which has about 85 per cent of Africa’s rhinos.
Tests have been made by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with injecting poisonous, easily seen dyes into live rhinos’ horns which would make anyone using the end product – powdered horn sniffed up like snuff or tasted or taken in food – “extremely sick”.
Why not make the poison lethal? Vietnam and China and those other countries which use rhino horn in some ridiculous, meaningless “tradition” have huge populations and can afford to spare a few to make the point. No matter how many treaties South Africa and Vietnam make against the use of rhino horn, they will have no effect. Suicide by rhino, however, is unlikely to become a popular new tradition.
I bet that if poachers started taking some of the highly valued nguni cattle from the million-rand kraal at Nkandla the entire South African Defence Force would be there within a week, blasting away.