I don't know about you, but over the past few months we've been hearing more and more stories of Rhino poaching making their way into the news, along with "legal" hunts like the controversial Ezemvelo hunt, which is good (the stories, not the poaching) because it does make us more aware of the issue. However the down side of that means that its happening more and more often. Taking a look at the stats, this raises more than just alarm bells.
These are the stats since 2007 for the number of Rhino killed through poaching..
2007 - 13
2008 - 83
2009 - 122
2010 - 333
2011 - At least 443
Obviously as you can see, since 2007 which is only 5 years ago, Rhino poaching has increased around forty times over... bit of a reality shock isn't it? As you can see a very serious problem has emerged.
The reason for this is the age old myth in Asia that ground up Rhino horn has medicinal properties, where scientific research shows this to be exactly what it is... a myth. Apparently people may just as well save their money and chew their own toenails. These days, the value of Rhino horn has increased to around $65 000 per kg, making it more valuable than gold... so as you can see, as the value increases so does the demand, which means more and more poaching. It is said that South Africa holds 90% of the worlds Rhino population which is estimated to be around 22 000, yes, 22 000 Rhino in existence... now to put that into perspective, that only fills a third of your average 60 000 seater Football/Rugby stadium. Doesn't seem like much now does it? Hence the reason why Rhino are endangered animals, so you would think that every effort would be made to preserve their existence with no further loss.
Well, while you'd think that Wildlife conservation organisations in South Africa such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, would do everything possible to preserve the existence of Rhino, since you could say that Rhino are a signature animal for South Africa, you'd think that they would hold them so close to their hearts making them completely untouchable, at any whisper of hurting them, you'd expect the reaction a mother would give of hearing you wanted to hurt her child. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be so, as recently it has come to light that there is a dark side to their efforts, something that would be quite unexpected given how much the say they are pro Rhino... more like professional Rhino Wholesalers... Don't get me wrong, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife do do a tremendous amount for wildlife conservation and I imagine that almost all involved are a part of it because they have a love for what they do, but what you'll read below is that there are some practices that leave more to be desired and just plain wrong.
Recently Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (formerly Natal Parks Board) held an online auction which had a minimum bid of R750 000. The winning bidder of the auction bid a whopping R960 000 (around $120 000). Now you'll be interested to know, this wasn't an auction to bid on a Rhino to keep as a pet in your backyard, or private game reserve should you be so lucky to have one, the prize for this auction... a permit to hunt a Rhino and kill it... yes you read that correctly, to kill an endangered animal. This obviously caused outrage since, aren't these the guys who are supposed to be protecting these endangered animals? During the controversy the CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Dr. Bandile Mkhize even blurted out that animal activists had been quiet when 23 permits were issued to private game reserves in the past year for the same thing... well Dr. Mkhize, that is the first time I and probably most of the general public are hearing about it, and to be quite honest, I think you just made matters a whole worse for yourself... something like digging yourself a bit deeper into the Rhino poo.
Now obviously they are going to have their reasons. I have read a number of arguments on the matter where firstly they said the money was going to go towards conservation, then they said it was going to go to the poor community near the Mkuze game reserve where the hunt was to take place, as apparently the community were jumping up and down because they had not benefitted from the reserve being there. Sounds a bit dodgy since you'd think they would have had a very clear plan of where the money go long before they even decided to hold the auction. They said the money would go to providing market stalls, education etc for the community. Now to be fair, them wanting to help the community is not a bad idea, but haven't these guys ever heard of things like sponsorship, I'm sure any major brand wouldn't mind setting up a few market stalls with a nice big board with an ad, "proudly sponsored by...", there must be a number of different ideas they could come up with to help the community without even beginning to think of sacrificing an endangered animal. If any killing of Rhino was illegal, I'm sure they would make a plan. It just seems that arranging a hunt like this is taking the easy option, which clearly it is, if they really wanted to raise money and prevent going down the road of Rhino hunts, where is the appeal to the public saying something along the lines of, "please help, we need funding, we really don't want to have to kill a Rhino but if we don't get the funding we may be forced to go down that road." I guarantee if an urgent appeal went out like that, animal rights groups would no doubt do their part with urging people to help. I can appreciate that funding is an issue with wildlife reserves after conversations with people that have worked in the industry, but even they absolutely agree that killing an endangered animal should be an absolute last resort, if not, not really an option at all. Dr. Mkhize has also argued that if the Rhino was relocated to other reserves there are no guarantees that it wouldn't get poached. To be quite honest, I'd expect more from a guy of his calibre, because what guarantees can he make that the Rhino wouldn't be poached where it is? It's not like Ezemvelo has a clean poaching record, poaching still does happen in reserves under their control, he even said it himself, last year 34 Rhino were killed in KZN, 27 of which were in protected areas. In any case, they want to kill it, which means it will be dead, so whether it gets poached or not in another reserve, its still got a better chance at living if it is relocated. A bit of a lame excuse, the clutching at straws springs to mind. Of the articles I've read it seems one of the biggest concerns that Dr. Mkhize has is, who benefits from the killing of the Rhino. Obviously if it is poached the syndicates will benefit and if it is hunted then Ezemvelo will benefit, but aren't we more concerned with preserving life here? this isn't a question about who will get what, this is a question of the life of an endangered animal. It comes across that he is so tied up with who benefits from all this, that you'd think if he had it his way he'd have them all shot at a price so poachers would never benefit and Ezemvelo would get all the money. It seems Ezemvelo should start thinking about better, more positive solutions, stop thinking of making a quick buck, get the right "ideas" people in and bring Ezemvelo into the 21st century and others who do the same will follow, get with the times and start working closer with the outside world, get into social media etc, form a closer relationship with people, and they'll probably find it would certainly help a huge amount.... I say this because they don't even have a Facebook page that they control let alone a Twitter account. Personally I would have been more than happy to help out which I'm sure many people would, had they cared to put it out there, but there's no chance I'm going to do that if they continue to permit Rhino to be killed. All in all, in my opinion, I think all these justifications that they've given can be solved without the need to kill a Rhino, if they really needed to, they'd make a plan, end of story.
There have been comments by people supporting a reason, saying that these male Rhino are identified as older Rhino that no longer gel with the other males in the area and can possibly be killed by these Rhino. However I'd like to challenge that argument be asking if Ezemvelo can provide a full report as to how they came to the conclusion that this Rhino is, "the one"? Also if that were the case and absolutely necessary (although I'm a strong believer in letting nature take its course, you'll never stop a lion taking a buck even though its sometimes devastating to watch, but its nature), wouldn't it be more humane to put the Rhino to sleep than blast it with a high powered rifle dying in absolute agony in possibly the most inhumane way possible? If you had a choice to die by lethal injection or be a moving target, you'll definately take the first option since you know the latter is going to hurt like hell. To use a further example, if you have a few dogs in your yard and one dog really didn't get on with the others, continuously getting in fights, are you going to simply put the dog down or are you going rather find it another home?... naturally you'd find it another home so it can live out the rest of its days, why is it any different with Rhino? I guess its the price tag... perhaps also supported by what you'll read in my closing paragraph.
I did read on IOL something quite interesting this evening which does raise a few alarm bells since rumor has it that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is full of corrupt activities... take a look at this...
But sources from within Ezem-velo, a government parastatal, felt that some questions remained, such as why the tender was only advertised for two days, when other tenders for that amount of money are advertised for two weeks; why it was done during this period when most of the board members, known to be activists, are on leave; why the tender amount of R960 000 was kept just under R1 million because it would not require board approval; and finally, why the identity of the hunter was being kept a secret as the tender was a public government one.
Sounds a bit suspect doesn't it? To give you an idea, it seems that Ezemvelo has a bit of a history went it comes to corruption within its organisation, if this is anything to go by... and I'm sure there's probably a lot more info lying around if you Googled it. You'd think that with not much of a clean history, they wouldn't want to attract more attention to themselves with, like, issuing tender auctions and permits for Rhino hunts...
As for those who hunt Rhino, they'll argue that the money they spend on hunts goes to the locals and straight back into conservation which they feel proud of, but I'd like to challenge any one of these people to say that if they cared so much about providing for the locals and conservation, eagerly blowing almost R1 million ($120 000) then why not just give the money to the community and conservation, I'm sure my reply from them would be a swift "Not a bloody chance"... so yes, I doubt they really care at all, they just want to boast about killing a beast with a high powered rifle that doesn't stand a chance. Really takes balls don't you think... I'd like to see them do it without that rifle, cause that would take a pair. Personally I don't see any glory in it whatsoever, just seems more of a case of compensating for the lack in size of something with the size of their rifle. If these people want to show that they have a pair, then game reserves should introduce "Poacher Hunting Holidays" where you get to go out with rangers who hunt poachers on a daily basis risking their own lives by getting shot at,, sometimes getting killed, now that takes a pair of balls, plus then you'll be a real hero, not some ridiculous wannabe. Personally I would find it far more gratifying getting rid of poachers than getting rid of endangered Rhino. (see there's another free of charge money making idea for Ezemvelo and other game reserves... nothing an indemnity form can't sort out )
Ezemvelo choose to still keep the name of the winning bidder a secret, which is basically admitting that they know what they are doing isn't exactly kosher. The reason being is that obviously they don't want him and his business to get any flack. I'm sure his name will pop up sooner or later. These okes will always want to boast to their mates about things like this, and as more and more people know, the more chance it will eventually surface. Also you never know, maybe someone at Ezemvelo may be a good samaritan and pass the info on... just saying 🙂
The thing is that this guy may possibly make a lot more than he put in to this hunt... as mentioned before, Rhino horn is fetching around $65 000 per kg, now when you take into account the mean weight of White Rhino horn is 3.68kg (Black Rhino - 2.88kg) so 3.68kg x $65 000 = $239 200... now remember this guy only paid R960 000, which works out to $117 789.... so he potentially stands to make almost twice that amount by selling the horn in Asia... remember the guy is a "businessman" he's not going to have all that money hanging on his wall, he'll have the real head with a fake horn. Now I may just be speculating here, but given Ezemvelo's previous track record; the questions raised in the quoted piece from IOL; Ezemvelo refusing to say exactly who this mystery businessman is... can you see where I'm going with this? possibly some dodgy dealings going on here and certain people at Ezemvelo may be co-ordinating the whole thing trying to mask it as a "legal" hunt... again, just saying... but food for thought, it's more than possible don't you think?...
Incase you haven't seen my taster video for this campaign, check it out below, since I posted the video on my own Facebook profile hoping to get a bit of feedback from mates before officially releasing it it literally blasted its way across the net going viral in a way that can only be described as lighting a match too close to a petrol tanker.
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