The rhino-poaching crisis in South Africa poses a question about whether it should be tackled through judicial processes or by the application of more hard power methods? From the earliest ages, the poaching of wildlife has been met with a harsh response to send a clear message of punitive deterrence.
While the reaction of the South African authorities has been no different, the contemporary threat posed by poaching intersects with, and is complicated by, wider concerns such as border security and immigration. In many respects, this has led to what might be termed the ‘rhinofication’ of South African security. South Africa has a long political tradition that relies on force rather than dialogue, negotiation and reform.
Yet, the hard-power response to protect the rhino and other large fauna, though necessary at one level, often runs up against the economic frustrations and temptations of a large, predominantly black, under-class who for generations have been excluded from wildlife management and conservation by ‘white exceptionalism’.
Poachers are thus transformed through their counter-cultural actions into what Eric Hobsbawm termed ‘social bandits’. While this social chasm lies at the heart of the ‘rhino wars’, it is clear that in practical terms the lack of a political/poaching settlement in the form of a racially inclusive conservation strategy almost certainly guarantees the continuation of the ‘rhino wars’. Jasper Humphreys
For the full article you can download from the Chatham House web-site here: http://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/%E2%80%98rhinofication%E2%80%99-south-african-security