Five strategy changes SA needs to curb rhino poaching


Duma, a female white rhino, looks on in her pen on October 4, 2012, in the zoological park of Peaugres, central France.

SANDTON  - The time for rhino poaching to be referred to as a conservation issue is over. The illicit trade in rhino poaching should be treated as wildlife trafficking and be tackled by intelligence services and not environmental agencies.

This statement was presented by Dr Lyle Pienaar, from the State Security agency, at a side-event during the 17th Conference of Parties on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) in Sandton, Johannesburg on Sunday.

“We need a new strategic overview to combat trafficking assisted by civil society,” said Pienaar.

The side event hosted by the Global Inititative Against Transnational Organised Crime included the presentation of a two-part report on rhino horn trafficking in Southern Africa, Tipping Point: Transnational Organised Crime and the ‘War’ on Poaching by Julian Rademeyer.

Pienaar says rhino trafficking could be seen as the beginning of a larger security threat facing the country, namely, “the challenge to effectively protect South Africa’s wildlife resources from being targeted by international wildlife trafficking syndicates.”

Pienaar adds that the way that rhino poaching is tackled in South Africa is severely problematic and needs to change in terms of intelligence being shared between countries and improving convictions of the kingpins behind global trafficking syndicates.



Rhino poachers operate in a sophisticated network of transnational global syndicates. Rademeyer says that at any given time there are between 5 – 15 poaching groups operating in the Kruger National Park.

These are some of the points that need to change in the ‘war’ against rhino poaching:

1. Rhino poaching can’t be fought by environmental agencies alone

“Environmental agencies which are the lead agencies have the smallest budget. The Department of Environmental Affairs had a budget of R5.9 billion in 2015/16, which is less than one percent of the total government budget,” said Rademeyer.

The struggle to bring an end to wildlife trafficking should actually be lead by intelligence agencies who have much bigger budgets.

2. Rhino poaching is not a priority

“On paper rhino poaching is a priority crime but in reality South Africa has far greater priorities,” he said.

Security priorities in South Africa are the increase in violent crime such as murder and assault. Other challenges the country faces are high levels of unemployment, poverty and corruption.

3. Rhino poaching is not on the crime database

Rademeyer said rhino poaching is usually captured as the illegal possession of firearms and not as rhino poaching on the crime database.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) would be more accountable to providing results in the ‘war’ on poaching.

4. Too much focus on catching low-level poachers

Pienaar said that the strategy of spending a lot of resources on catching low-level poachers and carriers on the ground is not working in bringing to book the major kingpins behind the trafficking rings.

Resources should be applied better to catch the leaders of syndicates who are many countries away.

"Taking funds to that level and will be a game changer,” he said.



“Unless you can impact on the illicit supply chain at every step, unless you can disrupt it at every chain, what that leads to is what you see around here is that low-level people are arrested,” said Rademayer.

5. Names of wildlife traffickers remain hidden

Unlike Pablo Escobar, a world-known name for drug trafficking, the names of the kingpins involved in wildlife trafficking remain in the shadows.

Some traffickers whose names are known by authorities are still doing business in the trade.




Pienaar has suggested that a new strategy is needed for law enforcement agencies needed to tackle rhino poaching.

The new strategy should include the following three objectives:

•      Improving law enforcement, supported by the whole government and society, to effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate wildlife trafficking as a form of transnational organised crime.

•      Increasing the government’s ability to detect, prevent and combat wildlife trafficking in South Africa and beyond.

•      Increasing national, regional and international law enforcement collaboration and cooperation on combating wildlife trafficking.

Listen to the full presentation by Julian Rademeyer below:



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