Poaching In Africa

By Davide Bomben

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When we talk about Africa the first thoughts flying to images in brilliant colors, characterized by warm earth colors and blinks of the big cats in Africa. These images, evocative par excellence, are collected in cameras of travelers and great nature photographers, unique shots, presenting the beauty of African biodiversity.

However, there are species that, if not actively protected, are likely to remain memories imprinted on the images of photographers or in the hearts of travelers, distant witnesses of the splendor of the natural parks of Africa.

This massacre is not caused by genetic changes or particularly aggressive diseases, but because of the presence of a cunning and deadly predator: man. After weapons, drugs and trade in human beings (prostitution and sale of organs) poaching is the fourth most lucrative illegal business, but no one knows, or rather, a few are interested in it.

One of mammals at greater risk of extinction because of poaching is the rhino (both white Ceratotherium simum and black Diceros bicornis), an animal that is hunted illegally for its horn, described by traditional Eastern medicine as a potent antipyretic, antibiotic and also invigorating males. Cases of rhinos killed by poachers in recent years have reached alarming levels, but a record was achieved in 2014, last year, with as many as 1215 rhinos illegally killed in South Africa alone: as many as 3 per day. The value of rhino horn on the black market reached appalling levels, over 90,000 US dollars per kilo ... African countries that have rhinos are South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania, and in all these countries are dozens, if not hundreds, cases where animals have been killed illegally.

How to remedy this difficult situation? Attempts have been many but it seems that the only country able to actively reject the scourge of "poaching" is Botswana, a country that employs the army in the fight against poaching. South Africa is the country most attacked with syndicates dedicated to illegal poaching, but the scourge of poaching is fast spreading like wildfire, also investing countries considered safe as Namibia and Kenya. Obviously not only the rhinos fall prey of poachers, elephants for ivory tusks, lions for body parts and for the preservation of grazing animals, gorillas for their hands (used as an ashtray) and for the puppies (which become stuffed animals for companionship until, too big, then in chains or worse ...).

Anti poaching units are fighting against a diversity of poachers: from poor people with scarce fighting skills to ex soldiers (or even other rangers…) with skills and heavily armed as well. It has been sayd from the south African ministry of environment that in the Kruger there are at list 6.000 active poachers doing their bloody job… The escalation of killings is really what worries most, with annual increases from 30 to 40% ... As of now (data on Aug. 2015) rhinos killed in South Africa alone are more than 700. If numbers don’t change we will witness another massacre with more than 1.200 rhinos killed in South Africa only… this means we are losing 10% af the total population of rhinos in 2 years… African poaching is also used to finance terrorist organizations linked to Al Qaeda as Al Shabaab. This cell has made the past year a tremendous attack being financed by the illegal sale of elephant tusks and rhino horns.

To answer this question governments, agencies and parastatals, NGOs and private organizations have mobilized to seek a solution. Even in Italy there is an organization that really active for years, deals with support, training and finance units of preventing poaching in 6 African countries. The Italian Association of Experts of Africa has also organized fundraising through the adoption of rhinos in South Africa and Namibia, funds that will go to fund anti poaching units so that they can acquire really effective equipment including night vision devices, tracking systems and more, in addition to organizing training courses for rangers.

Davide Bomben

Torino