Has a tipping-point been reached in the poaching ‘war’, or more specifically against the illegal ivory and rhino horn gangs ? And will last week’s announcement by Hillary Clinton that US intelligence will target these gangs prove to be a ‘red herring’ with dire consequences ?
(please see link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/08/us-intelligence-wildlife-poachers
There has been an ongoing debate about whether the ‘high end’ poaching organised by transnational gangs in fact poses a national security threat rather than an environmental catastrophe: the implication being that a ‘security threat’ tag is higher and would trigger all the national security agencies to get involved.
South Africa has created much publicity out of calling on its Army to assist with anti-poaching measures, but it does not seem to be an effective strategy because rhino poaching numbers by the end of 2012 are predicted to be the highest ever (please see link: http://www.sanparksvolunteers.org/national-hr-projects/19-honorary-rangers/about-hrs/104?start=1)
As an example of what can be done, when Botswana was faced with a similar problem back in the Eighties, ‘commando-style’ anti-poaching tactics significantly reduced the problem within months. However the initiative relied on the heavy involvement of the Botswana president, Sir Ian Khama.
In the current economic and political situation faced by countries containing ‘high end’ wildlife it would be tempting for hard-pressed local security forces to back off and wait for the US ‘cavalry’ to arrive, supposing that it does indeed arrive. In that situation the Clinton initiative would compound the problem of weak law enforcement and 2013 could prove even worse than its predecessors in terms poaching figures. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre.