Rhino Wars – Hearts and Minds

Another reason why, a very large reason why, we are losing this Rhino War is; we are failing hopelessly to gain the support of the grassroots people in the area. Nah, indeed many private rhino owners are pushing the people into the arms of the poaching syndicates.

By now even people that have no experience in war can see that this is not just a simple poaching problem, it is an invasion of our land by insurgents, a real war.

500 years before Jesus walked the earth a man, ironically a Chinese man, wrote, “If you capture the countryside you will rule the city.” Tsu Sun in The Art of War. Here we have a war in bush but led by people in the city, this is as it always has been.

The Americans called gaining the support of the local population “Hearts and Minds.” They failed to succeed with this in Vietnam and we all saw the resulting evacuation of Saigon.

Having spent time on some of the game farms I observed how, sad to say, many of the wealthy owners treat their staff. (Detailed account of one incident is written in my last Chronicles.) This may be the now not so New South Africa but in the country things have not changed much. The staff are poorly treated and poorly paid. At the Rhino Sanctuary I tried to help my tracker was paid less than R1000 a month. Over Christmas the staff was told that the Sanctuary was doing so badly that the entire staff would get only half pay, the same staff unloaded crates and crates of expensive booze into the owner’s house. Now if a poacher approaches these people offering to pay for information and silence, what do you believe will happen?

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6 Responses to “Rhino Wars – Hearts and Minds”

  1. Sue Mac Says:

    great wayne nice read !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! take care stay safe !

    ________________________________

  2. Allan Neill Says:

    Hey Wayne, I agree with you on the salary issue, but you forgot about the lack of secuirity on many farms. That should be the worring part! Abd then those rhino owners want to know how it was possible to lose so many rhino! Mtcw

  3. Wayne Bisset Says:

    Ha! Did not forget that. Wrote a post a while back dealing with the issue. It was inspired by a farmer in KZN that had been hit for the 2nd or 3rd time. An activist was willing to pay for my flight down there but then the farmer bitched about feeding us and would not pay 1c!

  4. michael b Says:

    Howzit Wayne.. Yes the salary issue is a tipping point. Why work like a slave for a pittance and get treated like a slave when for simply turning a blind eye and giving info to poachers the underpaid ranger can realistically feed his family! The game farm owners must reassess their approach and distribute a little more money to their underpaid staff. That is of course if they really actually care a darn about the rhino to begin with. You must remember that when a farm has one or two of their rhino poached they receive “publicity” on television, the radio and the print media. This is their farm name advertised for free! The rhino are an attraction and when butchered can be replaced. The free advertising is a godsend and thus off sets the loss of the animal. Remember that the rhino are replaceable and the farm that loses one today will replace it the day after tomorrow once they have garnered national press. People then hear the name repeatedly and will have that game farm in mind when planning their next bush getaway.

    Here in Natal the anti poaching crowd are chuffed as Chaucer as they have raised 600K+ to “keep a chopper in the air”. It is a great idea but an unnecessarily expensive initiative. Helicopters are hell expensive to operate. I would have thought that possibly 2 microlights would be a better choice in airborne surveillance. They are easier to fly and the pilot licence required not as demanding as a chopper one and they also take off and land on very short runways(dust paths). The 600 grand would go a shit load further using microlights than 1 chopper on standby.

    The problem with a chopper is also noise. A turbine engine and chopping blades are heard just as far away as the din from a microlight which sips fuel in comparison to a chopper. Unfortunately the woes do not strop there. The poachers will simply alter their attack plans and operate when the chopper cannot fly, like in pitch black and in inclement weather. A quick visit to Cape union mart or any other outdoors shop will see the poachers purchasing off the rack basic night vision equipment for under 3000 rand, a good investment as these can be used on many night hunts.

    the game farms still need dedicated well paid men on the ground and in vehicles to patrol the parks and react using their off road 4×4 pick up trucks to intercept the poachers . There is no golden solution here other than stuffing all the rhino into one reserve and policing the animals from there on.

    The single biggest problem in the anti poaching war is the owners and their refusal to pay for adequate security. Paying a man a non sustainable salary and treating him like a slave only opens that man to collusion. I have written all this before but it will not change as the almighty buck still rules supreme and men on the ground are all just buffoons according to the owners of many of the game farms sanctuaries etc.

    Good luck brother.

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