That’s not poaching, that’s a war zone!

Some startling figures about poaching in Southern Africa were given by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano recently.

Speaking in Maputo he said armed rangers in Kruger [National Park] have killed nearly 500 mostly young Mozambicans for poaching activities over the past five years. Two years ago Chissano said Mozambicans were responsible for 70% of the national rhino kill in South Africa. His statement was supported by Department of Environment Affairs statistics which then showed 68% of arrests in connection with rhino poaching were Mozambicans.

Minister Edna Molewa’s department has never released information on poachers and suspected poachers killed, either by SANParks rangers or police. Until the beginning of this year figures on rhino kills and arrests were released monthly but this has been stopped with information, to date, only made available three times in the first nine months of 2015.

Poaching gangs are usually heavily armed and rangers in Kruger, which shares a porous, 350km border with Mozambique, are allowed to open fire if threatened with lethal force.

. . .

Chissano, whose foundation is involved in conservation, said 82 Mozambican poachers had been killed in Kruger so far this year, compared with 106 during the whole of 2014 without citing the source for the figures.

There’s more at the link.

That’s averaging almost 100 poachers killed by park rangers every year . . . and they still keep coming, and the rhino and elephant still keep falling to them.  A full-auto AK-47 military assault rifle and a magazine of 30 rounds of ammunition could be bought on the black market in Southern Africa for $50-$100 when I was there, and I’m sure the price isn’t much higher today – Africa’s awash with AK’s.  A few poachers can buy two or three of them, walk across the border, riddle a rhino with up to 100 bullets, cut off its horn, and make a profit of some 5,000% by selling the horn to smugglers lined up waiting for it back in Mozambique.  By the time it reaches consumers in the Far East, it’ll sell for up to $27,000 per pound.

That’s why there will always be more smugglers.  With ignorant consumers, convinced that rhino horn is one of Nature’s ultimate aphrodisiacs, willing to pay that much, the market demand is irresistible to poor African tribesmen at the other end of the supply line – even if many of them die trying to supply it.



  1. There are ways to deter this -but they are not nice. And they all involve end users or distributors. Various methods of polluting the supply come to mind.

    but the governments don't seem to care. I was convinced of that a few years ago when some African government decided to burn tons of confiscated Ivory.
    They had a tool in their hands to attack the price structure and threw it away. What they should have done was register and legallize the sale of the confiscated ivory at below the black market price, to lower the poaching incentive, and use the funds generated in anti poaching efforts.

  2. I'd love to help out the park rangers. I'd like to reduce the poacher activity around here, by any means. A few years back, a local poacher/meth addict/wife beater, got caught. The success rate for legit hunters in this area increased by about 300%. Fortunately, Darwin caught up with the asshole, and he died in a logging truck accident. All the log truckers in the area were relieved he didn't take anyone else out as well.

  3. Is there any reason why rhinoceroses can't be farmed for their ivory? Beyond being african wildlife, and hence irascible?

    I'd expect that'd sort out the poaching problem and the endangered rhino problem at the same time, and probably be a lot safer than poaching them.

  4. Maybe you can explain something that has long baffled me about the trade in rhino horn:

    Why are the smugglers so concerned with authenticity?

    I mean, they're willing to murder, steal, poach endangered animals, smuggle, lie, evade taxes — but apparently none of them are willing to grind up a bunch of chicken toenails or dog hair and tell their well-heeled idiot customers it's genuine rhino horn powder?

    Is there some test that people can run, to identify real rhino horn? Maybe conservation movements should be trying to create better and cheaper counterfeits.

  5. @Cambias: The main reason is what would happen to the sellers if the buyers ever found out that they'd bought fake rhino horn. Death would be the least of their worries – and it would come at the end of a very long, agonizingly painful process. People in the Far East can be very inventive about such things, particularly where sums of money like that are involved.

    Also, there are tests that can identify the basic components of a compound. Rhino horn is basically compressed hair. If you sell anything that isn't that . . . get the idea?

  6. So here's a question: does it actually *work* as an aphrodisiac? If not then, yeah, big, stupid waste. If SO however, then someone needs to find the active ingredient and figure out how to synthesize it.

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