FIGHTING FOR OUR RHINOS

Ashleigh Dore, Manager, EWT Wildlife in Trade Programme

ashleighd@ewt.org.za

Few people are unaware of the rhino poaching crisis which persists in South Africa. 7,900 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2008 for their horns. These horns are then smuggled out of South Africa to demand countries, primarily in Asia. In an effort to combat the illegal trade and smuggling of rhino horn, the EWT will be partnering with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to enhance detection capabilities at ports of entry and exit through the use of highly trained canines. These canines will screen cargo and luggage for wildlife products like rhino horn.

The EWT has been actively involved in addressing the scourge of rhino poaching since 2010, and this partnership is the latest of these efforts. Others include:

Patrol optimisation

Observations made by patrol teams are pivotal for monitoring poaching trends and identifying patterns. With proper analysis, these data provide enforcement decision makers with invaluable information for patrol deployments or reallocation of other resources. We have undertaken projects to enhance capacity to prevent wildlife crimes within private and state-owned protected areas through the collection of data (using CMore or other relevant platforms) and analysis of the same, thereby generating valuable information and facilitating more intelligence-driven investigations. Further, these projects facilitate the creation of predictive models that will enable law enforcement to take a proactive approach towards targeting illicit networks.

Prevention and detection

Our Conservation Canine Project continues to grow from strength to strength. Conservation Canines play a vital role in the protection of South Africa’s wildlife and offer critical support to anti-poaching efforts. The Conservation Canine Project provides three different types of service to combat wildlife crimes involving rhino including poaching and smuggling:

  1. Tracking Conservation Canines: these Conservation Canines are trained to follow humans through the bush. These dogs follow tracks when breaches in the reserve boundaries have been noticed or to track poachers from poaching scenes to apprehend them. Our trackers include EWT Conservation Canines Annie, Blacky Grizzly, Puk and Basil.
  2. Detection Conservation Canines: these Conservation Canines are trained to detect and indicate various wildlife contraband such as rhino horn and elephant ivory as well as ammunition. The dogs are used at reserve gates to search vehicles and people, to search luggage and crime scenes. Our detection canines include EWT Conservation Canines Condor, Fury, Hitsch, Heddie, Vito, Bullet, Spike and Fly.
  3. Conservation Patrol Dogs: The Conservation Patrol Dogs are used to support anti-poaching units such as the Black Mambas with visible policing and as a first alert system to dangerous game in the area. EWT Conservation Canine Alice is currently our only conservation patrol dog.

We have worked closely with law enforcement agencies over many years to build capacity to combat wildlife crimes, including the poaching of rhino and the smuggling of their horns. We also have undertaken dedicated awareness raising with prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority as to the seriousness of rhino related crimes.

We are also commencing with a new project, utilising restorative justice approaches. Restorative justice is a holistic approach to justice that aims to involve the parties to a dispute and others affected by the harm (such as the victim, the offender and the community) in collectively identifying harms, needs and obligations through accepting responsibilities, making restitution and taking measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident and promoting reconciliation. Restorative justice is a well-established approach to justice that can and will have very meaningful impacts on rhino related crimes in South Africa. It will promote enhanced community engagement, provide an opportunity to the victim to be properly heard and will contribute to a change in mind-set and reduce recidivism on the part of the offender. The Restorative Justice Pilot Project will facilitate the application of restorative justice processes to inter alia rhino related crimes in key sites in South Africa.

Governance

We participated in both the Commission of Inquiry to potentially legalise the trade in rhino horn and the 2016 Rhino Lab. We are also  commencing a rhino horn trade analysis project. Continuous analysis of trade trends of rhino horn is vital to ensure compliance with the legal framework. Through improved monitoring of legal domestic trade, illegal trade (both domestic and international) and historic trade in rhino horn, we will be able to ensure that key threats to rhino from trade – both current and emerging –are fully unpacked and reported, thereby facilitating informed decision making and proper accountability.

This work is made possible by US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tourvest, Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, Greef Properties, Relate Trust, MyPlanetRhino, Platinum Life, and Royal Canin