Rhino wars: part 2

After Nelson Mandela became president one of his early instructions was to order Judge Mark Kumleben to investigate rumours that the South African Defence Force (SADF) had been heavily involved in poaching, whether it was during the heavily-armed incursions into Namibia and Angola or ‘hot pursuit’ raids into Botswana and Zimbabwe during the ‘apartheid wars’ of the 70’s and 80’s.

Kumleben’s investigation uncovered evidence of wide-spread and well-organised networks of ivory and rhino-horn hunting by the defence forces; the contents were considered so explosive in terms of who it named that it was suppressed. Additionally the report discovered a curious intervention by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) president at the time, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a move which was code-named ‘Operation Lock’.

So alarmed was Prince Bernhard by the levels of poaching following a field trip through Africa in 1989 that he made contact with a security firm, KAS International, to set up a counter-force strategy.

KAS was based in London and was controlled by the founder of the Special Air Services (SAS), Sir David Stirling, as well as being largely staffed by former members of the regiment.

‘Operation Lock’ was covert in that Prince Bernhard initially paid for it out of his private funds which were then clandestinely reimbursed from WWF funds.

The whole operation was carried out with the full knowledge of the South African secret services and in 1989 KAS operatives arrived from London and set up a base in Johannesburg; initially it started with mere intelligence-gathering but then initiated armed patrols against smugglers in , Zambia and Namibia. At this point the South African authorities felt that their sovereignty and security was being undermined and the whole operation was aborted. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre

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