“Conservationists around the world need to pick up the pace to not fall in the back of this race,“ says WPS’s newest team member, Pierre Blignaut. As Project Manager of our South African research camp, Pierre comes with almost 20 years of experience in Nature Conservation. Working at Big Five Game Reserves with endangered species, he has assisted in all aspects of anti-poaching. Following is his account of the state of rhino protection in South Africa:
Over the last three years, on average more than three rhinos are poached daily in South Africa. We’ve lost roughly 5000+ rhinos in the last five years alone, and these are only the ones that are accounted for. We had the numbers as 20,000 white rhinos, but this has decreased to an estimate of 19,000, and black rhinos are at 2,000.
The reason for this, from discussions amongst local ranchers, is that poachers have become more in touch with the professional old school war veterans who make their money from the illegal trade of all types of animal parts. It has become a war out there – not just a chasing game for conservationists trying to catch these culprits, but a game of life and death. Many of the dedicated rangers fighting this war are targets and receive threats on their families lives on a daily basis. It was mentioned “the rhino war is real and poachers will go to great lengths to fight those who oppose their efforts”.
All wars in the world are sponsored to some degree, whether they have a country or terrorist group’s name on them. The poachers are operating with money from very well connected syndicates and it has become a highly competitive profession. There are 16 different poaching groups moving around in the Kruger National Park at any moment. This is causing a huge threat for land owners, anti-poaching personnel, and informants helping for the good. If one poacher doesn’t succeed there are many others standing in queue. We were informed that there are two different poaching syndicates that recently met and are planning to form a mega syndicate to enhance their efforts.
It’s a growing concern that the business of poaching is functioning like any other success-driven business. We need to sharpen our efforts by bringing more people on board, getting the world involved, and showing them the reality of what really happens on the ground. We have less than 10 years left, and the reality then would be that we must find something else to protect because there will be no rhinos and pangolins left in Africa.
WPS continues to implement advanced technology to locate poachers and protect the endangered species they are targeting. Our centralized monitoring system wpsWatch is in place all over the world and has interrupted poaching attempts and saved threatened wildlife.
With Pierre’s help we will continue to fight wildlife crime globally in collaboration with other local and international conservationists. But as Pierre points out, poaching is an evolving industry and we must increase our efforts and methods to keep pace.
Are you a conservationist who wants to help in the race against extinction? You can help us protect threatened wildlife by volunteering, contributing equipment, or donating. Contact us here to help.