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.
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, 21 September 2014 - 02:41 PM.