One of the most serious threats facing wildlife in Africa is poaching. The increasing demand for bush meat, ivory and rhino horn, muti market, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and traditional African culture could very well see entire species disappear in the not too distant future. Animals such as leopard, pangolin, rhino and elephant find themselves under increasing pressure with little or no prospects of African governments getting the situation under control. There seems to a real unwillingness and little political will to protect Africa’s wild animals from poachers.
As 2011 draws to a close it has been a devastating year for rhinos in South Africa in particular. An estimated 487 of the incredibly majestic creatures have been slaughtered to feed an increasing demand for rhino horn from Vietnam, China and Yemen.
Graphic media reports and photographs have been thrust at the public with cruel reality. Images of rhinos left alive and suffering from the most terrible cruelty after having their horns hacked from their faces while immobilized with M99 (immobilization drug) has left the public in shock. The cruel reality of un-weaned calves maimed and killed simply because they would not leave their dying mothers has become an all too familiar sight. The media images and reports we have been exposed to have been gut-wrenching and as parents we would love to shield our children from this, but we cannot ignore the reality of this horrible situation.
On daily basis the problem is being discussed in various forums, public meetings and around the dinner table, but nobody seems to have the solution on how we should stop the poaching. It seems there is simply no simple solution to such a complex issue. At the moment South Africa is also pretty much divided on how to tackle the situation. There is much heated debate between those set on short-term financial gain, the government, private NGO’s and animal welfare groups. Each have their own agenda and version of what will ultimately be the right approach. Some arguments has merit, but what is evidently clear is that there is a passion among the population to stop the poaching.
The question however remains on how much political will there is in South Africa from the ANC government to address the rhino poaching crisis with its new-found partners in the east asian countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam. Only time will tell if our Government will put political pressure on the countries where the demand for rhino horn is rocketing.
In the interim however we need to stand united and ensure that private initiatives are put in place to not only protect rhinos, but all the many other species that could very well become extinct as a direct result of poaching. Where possible organisations such as SanWild need to ensure that effective counter poaching measures and teams are in place to prevent suffering and death.