Rhino poaching is spirally out of control in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, and the original home of the iconic species has become the new ground zero as Kruger stabilizes… writes JAMIE JOSEPH, founder of Saving the Wild.
Government organisation Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is bleating on about ‘budget cuts’, but the truth is, you can have all the money in the world, but if you lose the war on corruption you lose the war on everything.
That is why innovative nonprofit Elephant Action League has partnered with Saving the Wild; to fight the fights that others cannot, and to go after the worst of the bad guys, because sometimes the very people put in charge of protecting our wildlife are the ones pulling the trigger.
But operational work is expensive, intelligence is expensive, and raising funds is an uphill battle.
Fighting corruption is not sexy like helicopters or men in uniform, and it’s not cute and cuddly like rhino orphans.
And operational work takes time; weeks, months and even years from arrest to seeing the bastards locked up behind bars. We rarely go after the poachers, rather we set our sights up the chain of command in the effort to dismantle syndicates so that the poaching gangs tumble like a house of cards.
No kingpin to sell the horn to, and no government official to bribe makes the job of poaching a lot more challenging.
It means the poacher may actually end up going to jail for killing a rhino, as opposed to the status quo, where the conviction rate is pathetically low.
Our greatest supporter is Thomas D. Mangelsen; the legendary wildlife photographer that has humbly observed the earth’s last great wild places for nearly five decades, is as much a conservationist as he is an artist.
Says Mangelsen, “The time I spent with Saving the Wild and the rhinos of South Africa was an experience that will mark me deeply forever. These magnificent animals, that have roamed the planet for more than 50 million years, can survive almost anything but human greed. I just refuse to imagine our world without rhinos. We all can and must do more.”
On the 1st day of June, around 300 like-minded individuals came together inside the exquisite Montage ballroom in Beverly Hills, to listen to our urgent call for action, and to have the opportunity to be the first in the world to not only acquire 12 unreleased 2017 Africa images (a very rare limited edition print run of 5), but they also had the first opportunity to purchase three of his ‘Africa’ legacy images, before the official Mangelsen Legacy Reserve Collection release next month.
The stunning sold out Mangelsen benefit collection raised US$165 500 (more than 2.1 million rand), and this will be invested into urgent, critical operational work to expose and eradicate corruption enabling wildlife poaching.
This is a message to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is soaked in the blood of rhinos, and many of them could have been saved. Ezemvelo is failing epically to protect South Africa’s natural heritage.
From 2015 to 2016 rhino poaching in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province increased by 40% with at least 162 rhinos killed in 2016 compared to 116 in 2015.
Of those 162 rhinos killed last year, 118 were poached in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), compared with 28 in 2015, an increase of 320%. The 2017 KwaZulu-Natal province death toll has already surpassed 100 butchered rhinos, of which most were killed in HiP.
Brave and courageous Ezemvelo rangers are being forced to work alongside traitors, and, according to an internal report by Ezemvelo, certain police officers have allegedly been working with poachers that have killed rhinos in HiP.
This is a declaration to say we are here to support you.
Together with Saving the Wild, Elephant Action League co-founders Gilda Moratti and Andrea Crosta are committed to supporting Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Rhino 7 Police force – on the understanding that polygraphs are urgently introduced, and conducted by an independent authority.
Says Moratti and Crosta, “Our rhino fund has been set up to support the financing of polygraphing, a legal fund with the objective of dramatically increasing the conviction rate of rhino poachers, and funding for upskilling of police officers and anti poaching rangers.”
Rather than going public, we will hand over incriminating information to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Rhino 7 police directly.
All that we ask is that polygraphs are urgently introduced. Kruger conducts polygraphs, the private parks do polygraphs – and clearly it’s working. It’s not a silver bullet, but it is a game changer.
Can Ezemvelo handle the truth?
Read: Jamie Joseph Activist journalism can save the wild