Game Warden

Visiting John Hume's Rhino Breeding Operation, South Africa.

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The hunting debate is a completely different story. Do you think John Hume bought all the rhinos he has? Most of them were bred on his premises.


Rhino hunting, if done responsibly should have zero affect on the population. Killing of productive animals is usually called culling - that is how numbers are controlled. Removing bulls is good practice to encourage breeding. I know that the concept is very foreign to many people and yet that is the concept behind the success of the white rhino story.


Hume isn't the only person who has bought and sold rhinos in South Africa. Many tourist farms also sell their rhino for gene swops or to gear the correct sex ration. Rhino bulls are sold by a number of sources and to be honest, it doesn't make sense to allow it to die of old age - then it is worthless. That is precisely what is wrong with the law at the moment and what private owners are saying - why do they have to sell their rhino to be hunted, when they can get income from the horn without killing it.


I honestly don't expect many of you to understand the fundamentals of game ranching. There are people who di it for fun, people who just breed animals and sell them, people who capture and relocate animals, people who specialise in certain species like buffalo and sale or roan, then people who buy game to stock and replenish their eco tourist farms, as well as farms who specialise in hunting. The whole "industry" accounts for three times more land than the national parks provide as well as millions of animals. In most cases privately owned farms have more of any species than the National parks do - but in the case of rhinos they have 27% of the national herd.


This is not the time to take a stand on opposition to hunting, as we are talking about South Africa and the policies of sustainable utilisation which has been extremely successful and enabled rhino to come from the brink of extinction to what it is today. Its far too late to try and debunk the success of sustainable utilisation in South Africa - the facts speak for themselves.

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Us Naysayers are told to step back from the emotion and be objective. I have still to see some sound science to justify trade. I have yet to be convinced that trade will reduce poaching and not have the opposite effect. We have the Japan Experiment as a precedent:



In 1989, after ten years during which at least one elephant died every ten minutes, President George H. W. Bush unilaterally banned ivory imports, Kenya burned its 13 tons of ivory stocks, and CITES announced the global ivory ban, which began in 1990. Not all countries agreed to the ban. Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Malawi entered “reservations,” exempting them from it on the grounds that their elephant populations were healthy enough to support trade. In 1997 CITES held its main meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe declared that elephants took up a lot of space and drank a lot of water. They’d have to pay for their room and board with their ivory. Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia made CITES an offer: They would honor the ivory ban if they were allowed to sell ivory from elephants that had been culled or had died of natural causes.

CITES agreed to a compromise, authorizing a one-time-only “experimental sale” by the three countries to a single purchaser, Japan. In 1999 Japan bought 55 tons of ivory for five million dollars. Almost immediately Japan said it wanted more, and soon China would want legal ivory too. If Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi is the father of the ivory ban, then Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is the father of its first rupture.

Before it would allow another ivory sale, CITES demanded the results of the Japan experiment: Had the sale increased crime? Specifically, had elephant poaching or ivory smuggling gone up? To find out, it launched one program to count illegally killed elephants and another to measure ivory smuggling. For a science-based organization, it was an odd way to conduct an experiment. CITES had approved the sale and had then set about constructing a way to gauge its impact, which is a bit like pushing the button to test the first atomic bomb and then building a device to measure the explosion.

It’s easy to kill an elephant (lately poachers in Kenya and Tanzania have been using poisoned watermelons), but it’s hard to locate dead bodies, and it’s taken CITES years to get the counting program running. CITES officials refuse to issue a formal estimate of the elephants killed annually for fear that any number, which would derive from 2007 population estimates and limited 2012 poaching data, will “become embedded as hard truth in the public psyche.” Still, according to Kenneth Burnham, official statistician for the CITES program to monitor illegally killed elephants, it is “highly likely” that poachers killed at least 25,000 African elephants in 2011. The true figure may even be double that. Meanwhile, last year saw an estimated 34.7 tons of illegal ivory seized globally. Using an Interpol rule of thumb that says seized contraband equals 10 percent of actual smuggling, and assuming that each elephant carries 22 pounds of ivory, that weight equates to 31,500 dead elephants. “The point is this,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, “tens of thousands of elephants were killed last year. And the figures are going up drastically.”

Quantifying the illegal ivory trade is difficult too. Smugglers don’t file sales reports. To estimate smuggling activity, CITES uses ivory seizures as a proxy. Even as a proxy, seizures are tricky. They accurately tell you only the bare minimum of illegal activity going on in a country, and there’s a lot they can’t tell you. More ivory seizures in one year can mean that smuggling has increased, or that law enforcement is working harder, or both. Fewer seizures can mean what you might hope, but they can also mean that law enforcement is on the take. Big-time smugglers have connections in local wildlife departments, customs offices, and freight-forwarding and transportation companies that enable them to move multi-ton shipments from one country to another. (In the Philippines, for example, ivory traders I met accused customs officers of seizing illegal ivory only when someone hadn’t made a payoff.) Worst of all, a seizures-based system rewards countries for confiscating ivory, when what they really need to do is follow smuggled ivory up the demand chain to the kingpins, a reason good investigators consider seizures to be bad law enforcement.

To audit ivory seizures, CITES engaged Traffic, an NGO that monitors global wildlife trade. Traffic is not an independent auditor, however. It is a subsidiary of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which, like many NGOs, have research projects and offices in ivory-trafficking countries, complicating Traffic’s ability to render independent judgments. Traffic based its new ivory-seizures monitoring program, the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), in Africa’s leading pro-ivory-trade country, Zimbabwe.

From the beginning, Traffic boasted that its ETIS database extended back to the 1989 ivory ban, but countries were not asked to report ivory seizures to ETIS until 1998. For a decade its data came from random Traffic surveys, and it had scant data on seizures by key countries, such as Japan (20 cases in a decade), Thailand (21 cases), the Philippines (5 cases), and China (2 cases). Even after ETIS was up and running, many governments rarely bothered to report their seizures, so when it was time to judge the Japan experiment, Traffic’s database was heavy on cases from the U.S. and European Union (more than 60 percent) and light on cases from where it mattered: Asia (less than 10 percent). ETIS had no good baseline to judge the effects of the Japan sale.

CITES might have taken a holistic approach to the Japan experiment, combining reports of international NGOs, whose undercover investigators found an increase in illegal ivory trade after the Japan sale, with data from Traffic, whose ETIS statistics did not show a definite correlation between the Japan sale and seizures. It might have recognized the limitations of ETIS—whose core metric, seizures, is, after all, controlled by the countries being evaluated. Since CITES also had problems calculating how much elephant poaching was going on, it might have declared the Japan experiment inconclusive, or even a failure.

A failure is what China considered it. In a 2002 report China warned CITES that a main reason for China’s growing ivory-smuggling problem was the Japan experiment: “Many Chinese people misunderstand the decision and believe that the international trade in ivory has been resumed.” Chinese consumers thought it was OK to buy ivory again.

CITES ignored China’s warning and placed its faith entirely in the ETIS statistics. “The data we have from ETIS is that there is no correlation between decisions made at CITES and the illegal trade,” Willem Wijnstekers, CITES secretary-general, would later assert in anticipation of more CITES-approved ivory sales. Tom Milliken, director of ETIS, would likewise suggest that the Japan sale had worked: “It is encouraging to note that the illicit trade in ivory progressively declined over the next five years.” But Milliken didn’t know what the illicit trade had done; what he knew was his seizure statistics. Nevertheless a judgment was made, and the future of the African elephant may forever be clouded by the moment when CITES, lacking the data to evaluate the impact of its first ivory sale, endorsed a second.

By 2004 China had forgotten its concerns and petitioned CITES to buy ivory. In March 2005 CITES sent a team of three people, including Milliken, to China for five days to evaluate its ivory-control system. The team returned “more than satisfied” and predicted that China’s system could “eradicate, or at least significantly reduce, illicit trade.” They also noted, however, that two successive ETIS reports had found that China was the single most important reason the illegal ivory trade was increasing. The CITES secretariat therefore refused China’s request to buy ivory.

But ETIS could be manipulated. It scored countries not only on ivory seizures weight but also on law enforcement. It was possible to game the ETIS system by reporting lots of small seizure cases, such as a tourist wearing ivory earrings. “Tom Milliken told me to make raids on Chatuchak [a Bangkok market] to get my cases up,” a frustrated Thai official told me. In 1999, the year of the Japan sale, China had reported seven ivory seizures to ETIS. Soon after it petitioned CITES, China was reporting dozens of cases a year to ETIS, most the personal effects of tourists. Recently it has been reporting hundreds of cases a year. This past February China made public one of its big ivory-enforcement efforts of 2011, involving 4,497 personnel and 1,094 vehicles and leading to 19 cases. It had resulted in the confiscation of 63.5 pounds of ivory, the weight of an overfed poodle.

In July 2008 the CITES secretariat endorsed China’s request to buy ivory, a decision supported by Traffic and WWF. Member countries agreed, and that fall Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe held auctions at which they collectively sold more than 115 tons of ivory to Chinese and Japanese traders.

As a test for whether ivory sales increase crime, the Japan experiment was flawed. As a prognosticator for China, it had deeper problems. Japan is an island nation with a narrow primary use for its ivory: signature stamps called hanko. China shares borders with 14 countries; it has a vast coastline, a booming economy, ten times the population, a separate system for ivory-loving Hong Kong, extensive investment in Africa, and uses for ivory ranging from sculptures to cell phone covers. After Japan bought ivory, China said its smuggling problem went up. Now China itself was entering the ivory business. CITES urged the world not to worry.

Meng Xianlin is executive director general of China’s CITES management authority, making him China’s top wildlife-trade official. He attended the 2008 ivory auctions in southern Africa. Over sheep tripe and noodles near his Beijing office, he shares a startling secret with me: The African auctions had not been competitive. Before they left for Africa, the Japanese team of buyers flew to Beijing, where they made a strategic suggestion. Since Japanese use primarily medium-size, high-quality tusks for hanko and Chinese prefer either large, whole tusks for big sculptures or small pieces for decorative touches, the Japanese proposed that each country bid on separate types of ivory and keep all the prices low. The prices they paid were so low, Meng tells me, that an official from Namibia, which had held the first auction, followed the Asian delegations from country to country hoping for evidence her country had been cheated.

Still, to the CITES secretariat, the auctions had been a success. They’d raised $15.5 million, most of which was supposed to go to African conservation projects. And while an average price of only about $67 a pound for the ivory meant that the Africans had less to spend on conservation, it also meant, according to CITES, that China could now do its part for law enforcement by flooding its domestic market with the low-priced, legal ivory. This would drive out illegal traders, who CITES had heard were paying up to $386 for a pound of ivory. Lower prices, CITES’s Willem Wijnstekers told Reuters, could help curb poaching.

Instead the Chinese government did the unexpected. It raised ivory prices. Through its craft association, CACA, the government charged entrepreneur Xue Ping $500 a pound, a markup of 650 percent, and imposed fees on the Beijing Ivory Carving Factory that brought the company’s costs to $530 a pound for Grade A ivory. China also devised a ten-year plan to limit supply and is releasing about five tons into its market annually. The Chinese government, which controls who may sell ivory in China, wasn’t undercutting the black market—it was using its monopoly power to outperform the black market.

Applying the secretariat’s logic that low prices and high volumes chase out smugglers, China’s high prices and restricted volumes would now draw them in. The decision to allow China to buy ivory has indeed sparked more ivory trafficking, according to international watchdog groups and traders I met in China and Hong Kong.

And prices continue to rise. According to Feng You Min, sales director at the Daxin Ivory Carving Factory, the price of raw ivory has risen to 20 times the price paid in Africa. The genie cannot be returned to her bottle: The 2008 legal ivory will forever shelter smuggled ivory.


Here is the link and the highlights in red are mine. Scroll down to the Japan Experiment


As for emotion, Jane Goodal says it a lot better than me in this Video Clip





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Thanks to @@Bugs (again) and Panthera Pardus for lots of interesting thoughts and points and links. I think you both put a lot of effort into this and it is appreciated and (mostly) read. I could have said that via "likes" i suppose, but it didn't seem the right way.


Thanks of course to everyone else too. Some very interesting stuff (for me).this tima around.

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Us Naysayers are told to step back from the emotion and be objective. I have still to see some sound science to justify trade. I have yet to be convinced that trade will reduce poaching and not have the opposite effect. We have the Japan Experiment as a precedent:





You know @@Panthera Pardus, I have seen sound scientists and respected veterans in conservation supporting trade theories and encouraging the necessary caution.


To explain my views is increasingly difficult. Let me put it this way. I had my own business, which was employing nearly 400 people. Everyday there were people who came to me and said - "Have you tried this" and "you should try that". I listened, but I knew my business so well that I could feel it. I don't have a degree in economics, I knew my customer and my employees, my product and understood the market. I didn't have to have meetings to discuss changes and ideas I had - I simply did it. I made many mistakes, but learned from it. It also used to amuse me at what my opposition would be doing, as I could spot a mile away mistakes they were making and learned to capitalise on them immediately. What I am saying is that with experience you learn things and you get a feel for it, and as much as you listen to everyones suggestions, you realise in time who's opinions you give the most credit to. I am pretty sure that you are all professionals in your own countries and in your own field, and will understand what I am talking about.


Strangely my passion and interest was never in my business, and tended toward an interest in wildlife. My experience in game farming gave me a taste of how things work. I have said before - that there are elements of the industry that disgust me, but the overwhelming facts are that it functions, despite elements of greed and corruption. I would never claim that I am a know-it-all when it comes to game farming, there is so much I still need to learn, and I haven't stopped probing people for information. My wife gets annoyed with me because, I am not able to visit a park without seeking someone out and asking pertinent questions, which helps me put the pieces together.


I do put faith in science, but I also put faith in people who have unquestionable experience in South Africa and have pioneered conservation principles. Currently in South Africa we are trading almost every animal available to us, without a single animal's population suffering from it. The private industry should not be underestimated and the relationship between private game farmers and SAN Parks should not be discounted. The cornerstone of the private industry (including eco tourist reserves) is the ability to trade wildlife. If you pulled the carpet under the private game farms, National parks will also suffer, and ultimately wildlife and environment will suffer.


One thing we are assuming is South Africa is incompetent, and SAN Parks are dysfunctional. You need to take a look at Kirsetnbosch gardens and see what SANBI are doing and the level of academia there. Kruger Park isn't known as the worlds biggest laboratory for nothing. Have some faith in the advisors and experience South Africa has.


Its funny - watching Oscar Pistorius trail - suddenly everyone is a legal expert. We can't seem to accept that he got a fair trail, and the judge was true to the letter of the law. Everyone is crying corruption, bribery and incompetence. I still have faith in the experts and in the system.

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You know @Panthera Pardus, I have seen sound scientists and respected veterans in conservation supporting trade theories and encouraging the necessary caution


You are twisting my words Bugs. I said I have to see some sound science to justify trade. Sure, there are some good scientists and conservationists that support trade but like I said previously there are some exceptional scientists including a Nobel Laureate that don’t believe that HIV causes AIDS.


There is no sound science to use rhino horn for all of the purported claims attributed to rhino horn. Thus, we are not addressing the root cause of the problem. Science 101 – address the root cause of the problem.


I used the Japan Experiment as an example of why I think trade is not the answer and you respond with personal anecdotal evidence.



I do put faith in science, but I also put faith in people who have unquestionable experience in South Africa and have pioneered conservation principles.



I need more than faith and would rather be guided by facts and precedents. We are re-looking at a lot of the pioneer work we did years ago. As an example, the waterholes in Northern Kruger are today looked upon as a bad idea and many of them are now closed as they were detrimental to species like Roan and Sable but benefited species like wildebeest and zebra.


The jury is still out on whether elephant culling in Kruger is an aye or nay. Kruger is a closed system and perhaps there is a maximum carrying capacity for Kruger. Scientists believed this number to be about 7500 and maintained it thereabouts. Today we have twice the number of Elephants in Kruger and Kruger is seemingly coping.


SANParks advocate a policy of minimal interference and this seems to be working for elephants. Yet they have removed 1500 rhinos from Kruger between 2000 and 2013. Why? Don’t answer, because of the poaching. Elephant poaching had gone up to 300 per year in the late 80s early 90s and we not only controlled it but reduced it to zero. Let me quote Dr. Mabunda (ex CEO of SANParks) from Minutes of meetings held by the Parliamentary Monitoting Group on Rhino Poaching - the link is below



Dr. Mabunda: There were a limited number of South African Police Service (SAPS) and South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel to police the border. When there had been an onslaught on elephants in the 1992, there had been six companies of SANDF troops deployed, but now there was less than half a company. DEA deployed 450 game rangers, and outnumbered SAPS and SANDF members.


More people were needed to monitor the boundary.



Bugs, you further state:



Kruger Park isn't known as the worlds biggest laboratory for nothing. Have some faith in the advisors and experience South Africa has.


I know this too well, I started the Science and Research Forum on the SANParks Board – look Here



SANParks employs 10 000 people and the majority do a wonderful job. South Africa has a great Natural Heritage and it did not happen by accident. I have promoted both SANParks and South Africa here on ST and on many other forums. There are many good scientists doing good work in SANParks but the research they do is driven by themselves/their tutor. So yes Kruger is the biggest laboratory in the world. However do not ask me to take on faith the research, or lack thereof, that is driven by the Department of Environmental Affairs to justify trade in rhino horn.





One thing we are assuming is South Africa is incompetent, and SAN Parks are dysfunctional.


Once again you make a blanket statement and expect us to take it at face value. I was disenfranchised till 1994 and do not recognize any Government before then. Now a lot of good things have happened post 1994 and we are indeed a miracle nation in that we had a negotiated settlement, we avoided a full blown civil war, and our infrastructure was not destroyed. Just because we have a democratically elected Government does not mean we should not hold it accountable. It was a long and tortuous path to get to 1994, so I will not accept mediocrity and corruption. We deserve better, this is not what we fought for. How are we going to effect change for the better if we keep looking the other way? There are many examples I can give you but I will limit my argument to Kruger and the DEA and even quote the CEO of PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of SA)


Qoutes taken from the Minutes of meetings held by the Parliamentary Monitoting Group on Rhino Poaching:









The Chairperson felt that the schedule was completely unrealistic. Amnesty should be limited to one month, failing which there should be serious repercussions. He asked why the DEA wanted to take as long as a year to implement the programme. The Committee could give guidance, but did not have all the information. The only way to get information from the private sector in current conditions was to impose penalties. There had been too much of a 'laissez-faire' attitude in the past. Government's house was not in order. When government wanted to engage in limited trade, it was not possible if there was no information on stockpiles. South Africa's credibility was in doubt. He wanted answers on when the amnesty would be completed and what the numbers were. It would be treated sensitively. There was no credibility in the process.



Mr Mabunda said that there were internal threats as well. One area on the Mozambique border had experienced losses of over thirty rhino annually. After changing management, this had stopped altogether.



Lemtongthai was not an ordinary poacher but the kingpin which used the Department’s permitting system to get pseudo-hunters into the country.

Mr S Huang (ANC) questioned the increased poaching at SANParks despite the increase in budgets. He wanted an explanation for this. He questioned the increase in illegal rhino killings despite the Department controlling permits. It was an unacceptable proportion. He wanted to know about the Department officials involved in the illegal poaching. He questioned the number of poaching incidents compared to the number of arrests made.


I now quote from the book, “Killing for Profit” by Julian Rademeyer (Pages 113 to 116)


South Africa’s relationship with CITES has been prickly and it’s past track record of compliance with requirements abysmal. In 1992, the CITES secretariat announced a far reaching national legislation project that was designed to ensure that all participating countries enacted national laws and met the basic requirements. Five years later (1997) South Africa was warned that it faced a blanket trade suspension if it did not comply. We continued to miss deadline after deadline. It was another seven years (2004) before we enacted national legislation and another six years (2010) before adequate regulations were put in place. The threat of a trade ban saw the regulations hastily gazetted on 05 March 2010.


Even in 2012 South Africa remains on a short leash and CITES has flagged SA for attention because of high levels of poaching, inadequate reporting of numbers of rhinos and horn stockpiles on private land, and pseudo hunting. SA still has some way to go to be Category 1 State.


We do not have a centralized database to manage permits. The software was specially developed for us 12 years ago (2000) and never implemented. The project was given to a Danish Company and the consultant had left for the USA and we could not marry what we paid for with what we had.


I call the above incompetence


Another challenge is the ungainly provincial nature conservation ordinances. It would be easier if nature conservation was a government competency.

Adri Kitshoff, CEO of PHASA, says provincial ordinances are unmanageable. National Goverment issues norms and standards to the nine provinces, but each province legislates itself. Some are stricter than others, it is unmanageable. We would like to see one national system. If the Government makes it difficult for you, to do things correctly, then it becomes a case of impossibility.


Dysfunctional I would say.



Talking about Norms and Standards, we just want to change them for elephants because we cannot manage them - here



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Best news on this subject in a long time and not your "typical" poor poacher from Mozambique - Here


A warrant Officer for the Organized Crime Unit in Pretoria is one of the alleged poaching kingpins.

Edited by Panthera Pardus

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A historical perspective on the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn.



That Kruger is a success there is no doubt. It generates most of the income for SANParks and boasts a diverse range of birds, mammals, reptiles and also flora.

In 1925 James Stevenson Hamilton, the first Warden of Kruger, estimated Kruger had 100 000 head of game. There were two breeding herds of elephant in the Letaba area, rarely seen Nyala at Pafuri, a few impala between Skukuza and Satara, a small herd of buffalo, some sable and roan. Only blue wildebeest, zebra and waterbuck were common. Just the impala number now stands at 100 000. Stevenson Hamilton served Kruger for 44 years until his retirement in 1946. Each successive warden built on what he started to give us this magnificent Park.


While we were protecting our natural Heritage and built Kruger to what it is we were destroying the wildlife in our neighbouring countries and opening illegal trade routes and channels and dealing in rhino horn and ivory to finance our wars.


In January 1979, a 23 year old intelligence officer returns to base in Rundu (Namibia) after an operation deep in Angola. Des Buurman is strung out an exhausted. A lieutenant in the SADF, he has been working closely with elements of Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA movement.. Buurman needs a new rifle. He heads for the stores. The warehouse is chock-a-block with army green packing cases.


He opens one, then another, and another. He is astonished by what he finds,

“Every single case was packed with ivory and rhino horn and game skins, including sable, roan antelope, leopard skins and lion skins. boxes and heaps and heaps of it. I blew a fuse. I lost it completely. Nobody was mentally normal at that stage, but in my case, that was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back. There must have been at least sixty crates, all labelled ‘dental equipment’ and marked for dispatch to Waterkloof Air Force base near Pretoria."

(Reference: Julian Rademeyer. Killing for Profit. Pages 44-45)


Colonel Jan Breytenbach broke rank in October 1989 and took his story to the South African Sunday Times. The Roos Board of Inquiry was set up and was a whitewash so typical of the Apartheid Government. Read pages 99-100 and 105-108 in link below:


The Kumbleben Commission was set up in October 1994 and all was revealed


The front company was Frama Intertrading. It was used to carry arms to UNITA in Angola and Renamo in Mozambique and carry back wildlife products back to South Africa.


De Wet Potgieter a journalist for the Sunday times wrote all about it



And if all this is not enough, John Hanks and the WWF set up a front company to infiltrate smugglers and poachers and ended up doing some very unsavoury things which you can read about



Ellis, the editor of Africa Confidential at the time, got hold of the story and according to him the WWF attempted to stop him from publishing the article. He also claims that Hanks pleaded with him not to publish because it would jeopardise a process that was carefully buily over a three year period, and would hasten the decline of the remaining populations of rhinos and elephants. He offers to provide Ellis with exclusive information amd interviews when details can be divulged. Ellis did not fall for it. ((Reference: Julian Rademeyer. Killing for Profit. Pages 91-92)


Hanks testified at the Kumbleben Commision and was adamant that the WWF officials were not party to the operation but Judge Kumbleben was not convinced and Hanks candidly conceded that the operation was not a propitious one


Three were no arrests resulting from the Kumbleben Commission of Inquiry. Jasper Humphreys And M. L. R. Smith from the Institute of International Relations try to bring all this together in a paper they wrote earlier this year. I quote two passages from it:



The criminal structures underpinning the modern rhino poaching crisis in South

Africa can be dated from the era of the so-called ‘apartheid wars’ of the 1970s and

1980s, when elements within the former South African Defence Force (SADF)

used the fighting and the draconian security laws promulgated by the National

Party as cover to organize a vast smuggling network involving ivory, rhino

horn, drugs and diamonds, particularly in conjunction with UNITA, the former

Angolan resistance organization led by Jonas Savimbi. Colonel Jan Breytenbach,

conservationist and commander of the renowned 32nd ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Battalion,

witnessed the resulting slaughter of wildlife in Angola.According to Breytenbach,

‘the hundreds of thousands of elephants became thousands, the thousands

became hundreds and the hundreds only a very few’.

An integrated southern African smuggling trade that was effectively sanctioned

by the state, with Johannesburg as the hub, had even wider strategic implications,

the most notable of which was that the smuggling enabled South African military

intelligence to leverage influence over both friends like UNITA in Angola and

enemies such as FRELIMO in Mozambique who were also involved in the illicit

trade. Over the longer term, however, the state’s involvement in smuggling

had two even more powerful consequences. First, the lengthy period of fighting

allowed the smuggling cartels to establish themselves with little fear of disruption,

claiming that they were allied with the security forces in the fight against

communism. Over time the roots of the smuggling networks grew deeper and

wider, spreading corruption, evasion and non-compliance. The second consequence

was that no senior military figures were indicted for their part in this

enterprise, despite a major investigation carried out after the end of apartheid.

Soon afterwards, a rebranding and reorganization of the defence forces from the

heavily compromised SADF to the current South African National Defence Force

(SANDF) put further closure on the past.

Through this process rhino horn and ivory smuggling became institutionalized

within the fabric of the South African state through the collusion of the

defence forces, both in their smuggling activity and in the subsequent evasion of

prosecution. This was to send a powerful political message in the post-apartheid

era when the poaching networks began to take root, namely, that the agencies

of the state could be compromised and would likely be ineffective in the face of

forceful vested interests.

(My Bold)



What these gestures amounted to was political messaging. The intention was
to send signals, particularly for international consumption, that conservation was
being toughened up. At the same time, it also held the ring for the campaign
to legalize sales of rhino horn to gather momentum; the escalating death-count
of rhinos was used as justification for legalization, as outlined by Environment
Minister Molewa: ‘South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates
slaughtering our rhinos’, and rhino poaching could be curbed by the ‘establishment
of well-regulated international trade’. This legalization campaign bore
fruit for in July 2013 the South African cabinet announced that it would support
rhino horn sales Proposals included permitting a one-off sale of confiscated
rhino horn in order to lower the price and make poaching less economically
attractive or seeking a regulatory mechanism similar to the Kimberley Process


Editing to put link to above paper:

Edited by Panthera Pardus
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I have strongly believed that enough was not done to cut back poaching. We used to get the rhetoric and tough talk but the numbers of rhino poached told a different story. It just kept getting worse and worse. It is my observation that ever since Mr. Abe Sibiya was appointed acting CEO of SANParks we have not had much rhetoric and some good stories. Here is the latest one. Sad but not surprising at all that a Section Ranger and Guide were involved in poaching but great that we are now catching them.

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"Rhino horn demand in Vietnam drops by more than 33% in one year. Information campaign successfully changes minds of people who think rhino horn has medicinal value"

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Hi Matt,


I am a regular visitor to South African safaris but have never been able to visit a rhino farm. Great article about such a thorny issue - thank you! Your account gives an authentic insight into John Hume and his ethics. I wondered if you knew any if there were any other rhino farmers in South Africa? I am fascinated to find out more about these breeding operations and see if the majority care as much for saving the rhino as much as Hume. Any information would be highly appreciated.





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