BGP Intensifies Anti Rhino Poaching Effort

BGP Intensifies Rhino Poaching EffortIn response to the escalating threat of rhino poaching in Swaziland, Big Game Parks (BGP) has introduced the use of dogs in the fight against poaching. This is one of a number of strategies which BGP has employed recently to increase the effectiveness of rhino protection.

Anti-Poaching Dogs
BGP has recently partnered with Almanac Publishers and Stoprhinopoaching.com to send a number of rangers and dogs to attend an extended anti-poaching course, where they received specialised training over a number of months. The dogs are specially trained to assist the Rangers in various anti-poaching situations, and to enhance the effectiveness of day to day anti-poaching operations directed at protecting rhinos and other wildlife in the country.

“It is hoped that the use of the dogs will increase the success rate in anti-poaching operations, and further lead to a suppression of all forms of poaching and illegal activities on the parks, especially those that house Swaziland’s rhinos. BGP will continue to explore all legal avenues that can be used in the fight against poaching as we expect that increasing levels of criminal attention will be paid to Swaziland’s rhinos as the conflict escalates to warfare with a sharply rising human and rhino body count in South Africa, and the criminal syndicates look for alternative perceived soft targets”, said Mick Reilly of Big Game Parks.

Reward
BGP has also recently offered a substantial reward to anybody who comes forward with information with leads to the arrest and conviction of any suspect who is planning to poach rhinos in Swaziland. Rewards also stand to benefit informants of wildlife product traffickers who use Swaziland as a conduit for illegal wildlife products poached elsewhere.

“We would prefer to have rhinos alive and breeding with only a few people in jail who have been made an example of through the deterrent custodial sentences proscribed in the Game Act, before they commit the crime of killing any rhinos, rather than many suspects passing through our jails and Swaziland losing all her rhinos anyway. Swaziland’s Game Act is preventative in nature and is tough on trafficking and poaching, and it is hoped that poaching levels will remain under control. It is of utmost importance that the law enforcement effort is consistent throughout the process from the intelligence gathering phase to arresting the suspects and processing them through the courts in a manner that creates a clear disincentive to poach and traffic. Mozambique is the only country to hold the dubious record of having had rhinos go extinct for a 3rd time. If Swaziland is to avoid a second extinction, then a Zero tolerance towards poaching must be exercised, and this requires a dedicated team effort from the Rangers in the bush through to the Judges of the courts of appeal!” Reilly continued.

Dangerous
“Poachers, and Rhino Poachers in particular, are extremely determined and dangerous criminals. By the very nature of their gruesome trade, groups of poachers have to be heavily armed to deal with their targeted animals – and any Rangers that dare stand in their way. While law enforcement agencies are bound by rules of engagement and due processes, these criminals operate outside all laws except possibly at times those rules of their illegal trade as dictated by their criminal syndicate masters. While International boundaries served to curtail law enforcement activities through bureaucracy, the poaching syndicates use these to their advantage, crossing borders as and when they please.” Reilly continued.

The public at large is urged to assist with Swaziland’s conservation efforts by promptly providing the required information to avoid the levels of poaching taking root in Swaziland, that South Africa is now seeing,” Reilly concluded.

  • Rhino Poaching Hotline – 00268 76500501
  • 00268 76043867
  • poachingalerts@biggameparks.org
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Win a Rhino Game Drive in honour of World Rhino Day!

world rhino day 2013The 22nd September 2013 is World Rhino Day; an international team effort, a day of celebration for all five species of rhino and a method of debunking myths which stimulate the demand for rhino horn.

Swaziland is home to two species of Rhino: Black Rhinos which can be found only at Mkhaya Game Reserve and White Rhinos which can be found at both Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve. To commemorate World Rhino Day, Big Game Parks is hosting a competition and offering one lucky winner who correctly answers our 2 rhino-related questions below a FREE Rhino Drive at Hlane Royal National Park (see how to enter below).

If you’ve ever visited one of the three Big Game Parks in Swaziland (Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary or Mkhaya Game Reserve) you must also be thanked for helping to protect Swaziland’s Rhinos and other wildlife, as the small conservation entry fee you pay on arrival goes towards our conservation efforts. Just by visiting Big Game Parks you can make a difference, so we welcome you wholeheartedly to visit us soon.

FREE Rhino Drive Competition: How to Enter

In honour of World Rhino Day, we’re giving you the chance to win a 1.5hr Guided Rhino Drive* at Hlane Royal National Park for 2 people! To enter simply follow these 3 steps before the end of September 2013 & you’ll automatically be entered into the prize draw, with the winner being announced on Tuesday 1st October 2013.

1. Like our Facebook Page by clicking on the ‘Like’ button on our blog homepage
2. Follow our blog by email by clicking on this option on our blog homepage
3. Email the answers to the simple questions below to marketing@biggameparks.org with the subject line: World Rhino Day Competition.

Questions

1. How many of the 5 Rhino Species can be found in Swaziland?
2. Where can you view Black Rhino in Swaziland?

*The prize is subject to availability and will be valid for 1 year, commencing on World Rhino Day (22/09/13 – 22/09/14). Winners must be over the age of 13 years old. The winner will be contacted via email and announced on our blog on Tuesday 1st October 2013. The prize cannot be substituted for its monetary value. Terms and conditions apply.

Mkhaya Ranger Back in Action after Mediclinic Operation

1069264_623220151024524_1893476902_nAn octogenarian game ranger was able to return to the job he loves at Mkhaya Game Reserve after undergoing vital hip replacement surgery through Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg’s corporate social investment (CSI) programme.

Prior to developing a severe hip problem, 83-year-old Philemon Ndlovu was a key rhino security ranger at Big Game Parks’ Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland. He could outwalk most men half his age and his rigorous long-distance patrols often proved daunting to the younger rangers. In addition, he has the extraordinary skill of being able to recognise each and every one of the country’s black rhinos by their tracks. With Philemon at the helm, Swaziland’s record for rhino security was unmatched in Africa until June 2011 when Hlane Royal National Park lost rhino as a result of poaching. The country had gone 20 years without losing a single rhino to poaching, and Mkhaya Game Reserve continues to hold that record to this day (touch wood!).

Knowing that not being able to work would be devastating to Philemon, his employer; the pioneer of conservation in Swaziland and Big Game Parks’ CEO Ted Reilly, set about finding a solution. Mediclinic believes in giving back to the communities it serves – and CSI plays an important role in this – so when Mr Reilly approached Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg, the hospital readily agreed to help with the costs. In addition a top team of doctors and nurses donated their time and expertise for the surgery.

“If it were not for the generosity of many people, I would be a disabled old man, reliant on my family to sustain me,” says Ranger Ndlovu.

“We at Big Game Parks are all very grateful to Mediclinic and the doctors and staff who gave so willingly and generously of their resources to get this tough game ranger back on his feet again,” concludes Mr Reilly.

Second Rhino Poaching Incident Hits Swaziland

At Midnight on Tuesday 27th September 2011, Swaziland fell victim to her second Rhino poaching incident; a pregnant white rhino cow poached for both her horns at Hlane Royal National Park. The incident shortly followed the loss of Swaziland’s first rhino in over 20 years which capped the African Rhino Range State record on Friday 3rd June, and the subsequent death of her weaner calf. A cost often not considered when rhinos are poached is the resultant loss of the calves due to loosing their mothers. Swaziland lost one such calf in the first incident while the unborn calf of the second cow can also be added to the cost of poaching. This has obvious impact on the breeding potential of the rhino population especially as rhinos normally calve every three years from the age of approximately ten years old. The second incident confirms that the first incident was orchestrated by the same South African Rhino Poaching Syndicate. Both horns and two firearms have been recovered following a tip-off to the Royal Swaziland Police.

Swazilandis one of the few remaining stable breeding environments in the world and this is now at risk. To date poachers have never reaped the promised rewards for their participation. Indeed, duringSwaziland’s Rhino War of 1988-92 when the Kingdom lost almost 80% of its Rhino to poaching, not a single poacher was paid the promised reward. Similarly, the re-emergence of rhino poaching this year has lead to arrest or in the most recent incidence, death, within a matter of days following the sharp detective work of the Royal Swaziland Police, the commitment of the rangers and, importantly, to the eager support of the concerned public.

Swaziland also has a highly-respected and strict Game Act, a tight-community culture, in which large poaching operations can’t fail to go unnoticed, and the support of its monarchy and people who culturally place the protection of their children’s natural heritage, and the preservation of one of their key employers; the tourism industry, as a priority.

The two incidents below serve as an example of the perils of rhino poaching:

On 3rd June 2011 Swaziland lost her first rhino to poachers since 1992, capping the African Rhino Range State record. Ironically, the brutalised Rhino carcass, a young two-ton white rhino cow and mother to a calf which later died as a result, was discovered on Saturday 4th June; World Environment Day. Five men were arrested within three days for the poaching incident, but the two (ultimately charged for the poaching) were initially released on bail. The shooter had escaped back toSouth Africa with some of their accomplices, apparently commissioned by a South African.

On 27th September 2011 a second, pregnant rhino cow, was shot dead by poachers, again at Hlane Royal National Park. Having heard the gunshots at midnight rangers found the carcass from the viewpoint of a hired helicopter the following morning. Both horns were missing. Big Game Parks worked closely with the Royal Swaziland Police and leads were quickly established. On the 28th September, the Royal Swaziland Police received a tip-off and homed in on Maphatsindvuku near Hlane. The suspects opened fire after refusing to surrender and the police were compelled to shoot in self-defense which resulted in three South African men shot dead. The men were in possession of two rhino horns and a mini .223 Ruger as well as a 375 H&H Magnum. The three men are believed to be of the same syndicate which orchestrated the June poaching incident, some allegedly on bail for rhino poaching cases and others having broken out of jail cells from Badplaas Prison in Mphumalanga South Africa, while one is suspected of killing a South African policeman. The suspects are allegedly connected to at least 12 rhino murders in Songimvelo Game Reserve inSouth Africa’s Mphumalanga province on the North-West border of Swaziland as well as other surrounding areas.

Big Game Parks would like to express its gratitude to the public for their support of rhino conservation through public sympathy as well as passing on valuable information to the rangers and police to help them solve these serious crimes. Further, we urge the public to continue to support their natural heritage by simply visiting and enjoying the wildlife withinSwaziland’s parks.

In this instance, Big Game Parks offered a R10, 000 reward for any information leading to the arrest or conviction of those involved in the rhino poaching incident. Aware of the very real threat of the eruption of a second rhino war in Swaziland, Big Game Parks is also offering a R20, 000 reward for information which is proven to prevent a rhino poaching incident from occurring and which successfully brings the perpetrators to book. In light of these recent incidences, it is vital to remain vigilant and prevent future human and wildlife casualties by sending any information on suspected future poaching practices to The Royal Swaziland Police or to Big Game Parks via email: poachingalerts@biggameparks.org or by phoning +268 76043867.

More than Gold: The Rhino Rescue Project

Swaziland’s proud 20 year rhino record was recently shattered with the loss of a young female rhino and her calf at Hlane Royal National Park. Big Game Parks was touched by the level of support from local, regional and international supporters who greatly lamented this loss. One such supporter, Melinda MacInnis, stepped up and, along with her highly-respected team, is currently making a documentary showing how the Rhino Wars have been brought back to Africa, and how the fate of Swaziland’s (and the world’s) rhino population hangs in the balance.

These truly majestic animals represent some of our planet’s last great megafauna and stand as a symbol of what our species is doing to every other. Rhinos have existed on this planet for millions of years and have always  been a part of the human experience, sparking our imagination and wonder. And now because some have decided that their horns are worth more than gold, we are about to wipe them out.

Through education, legislation, and the development of a global voice, we aspire to bring rhinos back from the brink of extinction. Melinda has already finished filming in Swaziland and is now in the post-production phase. Because everyone has so far worked for free (most especially John Mans, the Emmy-nominated, veteran nature and adventure cinematographer) or for drastically reduced rates, Melinda’s been able to capture something really remarkable and worthy of reaching as large an audience as possible, and now they just need that final push!

Please help spread the word of this project to turn the tide for the world’s rhinos!

How you can help

A 20yr Rhino Record Shattered

The Rhino: One of Swaziland's Key Tourist Attractions

As the Rhino poaching crisis in South Africa reaches new heights with a Rhino now lost every day, on Friday 3rd June Swaziland fell victim to her first Rhino loss in over 20 years. An impressive record now consigned to history as the Rhino War threatens one of the few remaining stabilised breeding environments in the world.

The young two-ton White Rhino cow, mother to a calf and instrumental to Swaziland’s future generations of Rhinos, was found de-horned at Big Game Parks’ Hlane Royal National Park on National Environment Day, and now serves as a sad symbol of the encroaching threat to this endangered species. The Rhino’s calf, suffering from the absence of its mother’s milk and stress, was also found dead two weeks later.

While South African Rhinos are protected by the South African Constitution – one of the most lenient in the world, which has prompted much debate over poachers being granted bail, low bail conditions, lengthy investigation time and poor convictions. In Swaziland, poachers undertake a massive risk by crossing one of the strictest and most respected poaching laws in the conservation world; The Game Act – a risk which has to date never reaped any rewards for Swazis who have participated. Indeed, during Swaziland’s Rhino War of 1988-92 when the Kingdom lost almost 80% of its Rhino to poaching, not a single poacher was paid the promised reward.

Poaching has many guises; Subsistence Poaching, where people often from poor communities surrounding a reserve snare wildlife for food, Structured/Commercial Poaching, in which skilled hunters, ex-military men or local impoverished people with a knowledge of the animals’ habitat are used as middlemen for an end buyer, and Professional Poaching, conducted by a cross-section ranging from the rural poor to townsfolk who provide the illegal commercial bush meat or Rhino horn market, and may involve the use of a helicopter.

This incident falls under the Structured Poaching category, in which local men, one of whom was an ex-Cadet Ranger at Hlane Royal National Park with knowledge of the Rhino’s habitat, were being used as middlemen for an end-buyer of the Rhino’s two horns. Not a single scrap of meat was removed from the animal for consumption yet the unemployed ex-Cadet Ranger, having chosen a life of illegal poaching over legal protecting, may still pull at the heartstrings of some who’d mistakenly class him as one of the ‘hungry rural poor’.

The eco-tourism industry provides a vital source of employment opportunities within Swaziland. The multiplier effect of a single Big Game Parks wage, for example, results in the sustenance of over fifteen people and with over three hundred Swazis employed by the park, this represents approximately 4,500 Swazis who rely directly on the parks for sustenance. In fact, when one of Big Game Parks’ Conservation Wardens was asked how he puts his wages to use, Mr Mbuso Shiba stated ‘Big Game Parks not only provides for my immediate family and I. The wages I earn directly support over 30 people’ demonstrating the figure of fifteen-to-one to be a conservative estimate.

Ironically, the brutalised Rhino carcass was discovered on Saturday 4th June; World Environment Day and the date of Big Game Parks’ annual Imvelo Mountain Bike Competition held at Hlane’s sister reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This event was organised by Big Game Parks in order to support local businesses and raise money to provide a reservoir and clean drinking water for local community school, Hlabazonke Primary school.

As a law enforcement entity mandated to safeguard the Kingdom’s animals, Big Game Parks continues to follow its mission of preserving the biodiversity of Swaziland’s rich natural heritage for the future enjoyment of its people. It strives to build sustainable relationships with local communities through the provision of subsidised meat during culling season, local events such as Imvelo where all profits are fed back into the community, and subsidised entry fees for all Swazis. With no state funding, Big Game Parks relies on its kind sponsors and the support of the Swazi public to stay in operation.

In South Africa Rhino poaching has been hitting the headlines on a such a regular basis, that the general public have become accustomed to gory pictures of yet another dead rhino. This desensitization, coupled with the fact that there are so many organisations now collecting funds for Rhinos, means that the majority of people feel that they have already done their bit.

Swaziland may have lost her proud record of Rhino protection but Big Game Parks is determined to break that record again. Big Game Parks would like to wholeheartly thank everybody who has already conveyed their kind words, letters of support and condolence.