South Africa, a “preferred” hunting area for rhino poachers, today (Monday) hosted the launch of the first part of a major investigation into poaching of this Big Five species with the second part to be released in Switzerland on Wednesday.
Titled “The Tipping Point – Transnational Organised Crime and the War on Rhino Poaching”, part one was compiled by Julian Rademeyer, author of “Killing for Profit – Exposing the illegal rhino horn trade”. The South African launch was hosted by the Norwegian Embassy, which is also a funder for the Swiss headquartered Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, the body behind the investigation and reports.
“Tipping Point” and the second part of the report “Beyond Borders – Crime, Conservation and Criminal Networks in the Illicit Rhino Horn Trade” highlight the need for a radical rethink of global efforts to disrupt and counter the sophisticated criminal networks involved in poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Among others, the first part of the report shows the links between hunters from eastern Europe and sham rhino hunts to obtain rhino horn for Asian criminal networks; the involvement of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in rhino poaching; what the author terms “institutional lapses” and corruption in Mozambique allowing Chinese rhino horn smugglers to escape; “dodgy diplomats” who abuse diplomatic privilege to smuggle rhino horn and the role on North Korean diplomatic missions in the illicit rhino horn trade.
Estimates are that over six thousand rhinos have been killed by poachers in Africa over the past 10 years and indications are only about 25 000 remain.
“Driven by insatiable demand in south-east Asia and China, rhino horn has become a black market commodity rivalling gold and platinum,” the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime said.
“Borders, bureaucracy and a tangle of vastly different laws and legal jurisdictions are a boon to virulent and versatile transnational criminal networks and a bane to the law enforcement agencies rallied against them. Again and again efforts to target syndicates are hamstrung by corruption, governments unwilling or incapable of acting, a lack of information-sharing and approaches to tackling crime that wrongly emphasise arrests and seizures over targeted investigations and convictions as a barometer of success,” the Initiative said in a statement.