20 February 2012

When the're gone, they're gone!

I was horrified to see, on YouYube via my best Beloved's Facebook page, a video of a rhinoceros that had had it's face hacked to pieces by poachers, who had removed not only it's horn, but most of it's nose and upper jaw.  The rhino was still alive, and in obvious agony.

While this sort of blatant, evil cruelty brings a red mist to my vision, it is only one incident of many such incidents that are taking place at an ever increasing rate throughout southern Africa.

According to savingrhinos.org, the actual tally of rhinos killed since 2007 is as follows:

2007:  13
2008:  83
2009:  122
2010:  333
2011:  448

and the tally so far in 2012 is over 40, and it's only February!  

A glance at the figures shows that the slaughter is increasing at an exponential rate year on year, and it will be obvious to anyone with half a brain that the rhino population cannot sustain this rate of decimation.   It is also disturbing to note that the majority of poached rhinos in 2010 and 2011 were lost in the Kruger National Park, with the numbers escalating there more than elsewhere.  Something smells..... 

Alarmingly, the number of arrests of poachers is low, due to the lack of resources of the various conservation authorities and game reserve managers, but more alarmingy the successful prosecution of suspected poachers, (and many are not "suspects" but are caught red-handed, with blood up to their arm-pits) is even lower, with only 5% of the total of 397 arrests being convicted in 2010.  Some cases are regularly and continuously postponed or deferred, and case files simply disappear.

Giving hope for the future, the arrest of three Mozambican nationals for rhino poaching in South Africa recently resulted in 25 year prison sentences being handed down by the court.  The cynic in me thinks that the judge may have had a vested interest in rhino conservation - but I hope that the sentences were just the result of good justice and that such sentences become the norm from now on.

Rhino are not the only endangered species being targeted by the poacher's guns - elephant are also being killed for their ivory despite the stringent international restrictions on the sale of ivory,  The recent proposals by SITES to lift these restrictions and once again allow commerce in ivory make me despair for the future of the African elephant, and I wonder what the hidden agendas are that motivate such lunacy?  Of course, the answer is money - it always is!  Man's greed - the most destructive of all evils.  Stupidly - yes, stupidly, most westerners, who wield the collective and individual economic power to bring change, don't believe that saving a species of animal such as the rhino is all that important!  What's in it for them?  I wonder if most people even know what the term "extinct" really means?   

How do we bring change to this deplorable situation?  As with most things, education is the key, and the will to force politicians to bring pressure to bear on the countries where the spoils of the poaching are purchased and consumed by an ignorant populace, to not only curtail the importation and trade in these products, but to introduce educational programs to diminish the future demand.  It's a cultural problem, you say?  So was slavery in England and the USA, and so was opium in China, but change happened!  We just need the awareness and the will!
I am delighted to read that Sir Richard Branson is putting his considerable weight behind the conservation of the Tiger in India.  Virgin’s non-profit arm, Virgin Unite, is partnering with Wild Aid in India for the tiger conservation effort.  Tiger poaching is just as serious a problem in India, and just as dangerous to the survival of the species, as rhino poaching is in Africa.  Bravo, Sir Richard!

If you want to help the survival of the rhino, you can start here;

and if you want to help prevent the Tiger from becoming extinct, start here:

To read more on the Rhino Wars, see the March National Geographic on-line feature, here:




Out of Africa

Once upon a time, we had a farm in Africa.....and a game reserve called Ulusaba was owned by a family member.  In 1985 it was a wondrous place, on the border of the Sabi Sands conservation area adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.   In those days, there was only one rock lodge and one river lodge, and it was an unspoiled paradise.  It was sold to the De Beers corporation, who in turn, after discovering large supplies of ground-water, sold it to Sir Richard Branson, who has developed it as one of his exclusive Virgin resorts.  Sir Richard, as one would expect of a dedicated conservationist, has accomplished this with great sensitivity to the ecology and the environment, causing as little intrusion into the natural order as possible, yet providing a facility that encourages people of influence to experience the wonder of Africa at it's best.

Photographs can never convey the true spirit and beauty of such a vast landscape because there is so much more that just the visual aspect.  There are the sounds, (and the background sound of the African bush is unique in all the world, made up as it is of birdsong, baboon barks, monkey shrieks, lion grunts, elephant rumbles, hippo snorts, fish-eagle cries, zebra whistles and antelope snorts) the smells, (of the damp red earth after the rain, the dust when there is no rain, the scent of the acacia tree blossom, the dung of the wild game, the putrefaction of the odd carcass, the scent of the grasses and the smell of the water-holes) and the all pervasive, almost spiritual, presence of the continent, which is the most captivating influence and which is the thing that will seize one's soul and make one forever a child of that land.  This is the Africa that my best beloved and I love and miss.

We can only hope that some of the measures being used today to conserve the wild game and the environment, will be effective, and that our children and their children will still have the opportunity to venture into this magical wilderness and see the creatures to which it is home, in their natural environment. 

You can see more images of Ulusaba taken during a visit in 1985, here:

You can see what Ulusaba is like today, here: