Fight against rhino poaching, now a war

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The fight against rhino poaching must be treated as a war, Africa’s leading anti-poaching coalition said Thursday, as it called for the illicit wildlife trade to be monitored like global conflicts.

Enact, an EU-funded anti-poaching analytical taskforce that includes Interpol, called for the expansion of a media tracking system to track poaching incidents similar to established conflict monitoring methods.

“We’re following the model put out by conflict data programmes which have basically used media monitoring” on incidents of conflict, said Ciara Aucoin, a researcher at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.

“From that research we’ve been able to get a more nuanced understanding of conflicts around Africa,” she said while presenting the findings of Enact’s new study entitled “Guns, poison and horns”.

Those methods can be applied to anti-poaching efforts to spot trends and help law enforcement tackle the trade, she said.

More than 6 000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa over the past decade. As home to 79% of Africa’s last remaining rhinos, South Africa is the centre of the storm, suffering 91% of the continent’s known poaching losses in 2016.

However, the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) report on the status of rhino poaching in SA between January 2017 and June 2017, confirmed a “slight decrease” in poaching nationally.

According to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, a total of 529 rhino have been poached since January 2017, compared to 542 in the same period for 2016, representing a decrease of 13 rhinos.

TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network , says such incidents are facilitated by resilient, highly-adaptive criminal networks and endemic corruption in many countries along the illicit supply chain, demand for rhino horn is driven by consumers in Asia, with Vietnam and China identified as the dominant end-use markets.

TRAFFIC documented recent cases in which police have discovered small home-based workshops for processing rhino horn and have seized beads, bracelets and bags of rhino horn powder.

Taken from the 456 seizures recorded by TRAFFIC between 2010 and June 2017, Pendants, Powder and Pathways presented a detailed overview of known smuggling routes from Africa to Asia and some of the myriad methods used by criminal networks to smuggle their contraband.