WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOUR ATTENTION?
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Rhino PIPZ (Private Intensive Protection Zones)
A special project by the SanWild Wildlife Trust and Wild Africa Conservation Fund
Prior to 2006, illegal killing of rhinos was maintained at consistently low levels. Since 2008 however the number of rhino butchered increased rapidly to the point where a rhino now dies every 6 hours.
Sadly there is no indication that the current poaching crisis can be brought under control. Despite the South African Government’s assurance that the numbers of animals that are killed are in decline; the death toll is in fact steadily increasing.
There are some areas where the numbers of animals killed for their horns are dropping, but this is not something to get excited about as it is as a direct result of a decrease in the species numbers in the area. The drop in numbers can be contributed to a number of factors including poaching, but also because many reserves and private rhino owners are effectively selling their animals as they cannot cope with the increased security and financial costs of physically protecting the animals.
Rhino poaching is by no means isolated to South Africa, but is surging across the entire African continent. Organized crime syndicates that drive this type of poaching is a constant threat to the smaller rhino populations in Asia.
The danger and threat of extinction of these beautiful and magnificent creatures is very real and urgent action and commitment is needed to combat the evil of poaching.
Most measures to tackle rhino poaching remain reactive, but fundamental changes need to be made to become proactive. There is no doubt that “prevention is better than cure”, but there are times when it is a lot easier said than done.
Unfortunately the illegal trade in horns is not confined within the borders of one country, but a number; each of them facing their own internal challenges. This makes saving rhinos from extinction that much more complicated.
Private rhino owners, reserves and national parks successes or failures will be determined on the frontline. The physical protection of rhinos on the ground is only a short-term solution to stem the tide of death and destruction; leaving governments and law enforcement agencies to address the illegal smuggling and trade in rhino horn.
There is of course a strong argument to be made for reactive initiatives against rhino poaching, but law enforcement and applying legal justice is simply not the work of conservationists and rangers.
To end rhino poaching proactive measures must follow up the chain of command of rhino poaching syndicates through intelligence collection, arrests and successful prosecutions. If we are to see an end to the current rhino poaching surge it will be imperative that the chain providing substantial wealth to criminals be broken without further delay.
Legislation in South Africa in particular must be changed to adopt a zero tolerance approach to rhino poaching as soon as possible
It will be advisable for large organizations, governments and NGOs to continue to look at ways to change beliefs and educate the end-users about the importance of rhinos as a flagship species. Education remains of critical importance as part of the ongoing awareness campaigns, but we know reducing the demand will take time; time which rhinos unfortunately no longer have.
The only sure short-term solution for their survival is to establish Private Intensive Protection Zones (PIPZ) as quickly as possible. The SanWild Wildlife Trust and Wild Africa Conservation Fund, a USA based Section 501(c)(3) Organization, have established an PIPZ at a secret location in South Africa. This hands-on project is already up and running, but still in its infancy.
Here wounded rhinos will receive professional veterinary care and post-operative treatment when necessary to ensure they stand the best possible chance of making a full recovery. Orphaned rhinos will be hand-reared and provided with specialist care to ensure that they can be returned to the wild to play an active role in the conservation of their species.
All involved with this project are dedicated to the protection of rescued rhinos, but dedicated commitment from donors will be crucial to expand this project to its full potential to meet the demands of successful rhino conservation programs.
If you would like to help ensure the survival of the species there is simply no better way to get involved.