Traditional healers are joining the Kruger National Park’s efforts to combat rhino poaching by refusing to supply poachers with muti and reporting their activities.
This is according to Dr Sylvester Hlati, president of a traditional healers’ association. Speaking to media in the Kruger National Park earlier this month, he said sometimes poachers were found with traditional medicine on them and it was unfortunate that many of them had muti in their pockets. He explained that they used muti to protect themselves from wild animals such as lions or to make lions fall asleep or ignore them. They also believe that muti can attract rhinos.
In addition to using muti in the parks on poaching missions, poachers also acquire muti to postpone cases and make magistrates fall asleep, Hlati said.
Hlati said he decided to cooperate with the Kruger National Park and launch a campaign to work with traditional healers in Mpumalanga and other areas and educate them not to work with criminals. He described the campaign, which began in 2012, as a success. He hopes to launch another large campaign mid-2017.
A number of arrests have been made due to traditional healers reporting suspected poachers to the police, Hlati said, with around seven arrests since 2012. Part of the result of this is a drop in poachers going to traditional healers for muti.
He pointed out that it is sometimes risky for traditional healers to assist poachers because if a group of poachers goes out and some are arrested, killed or injured, the others may come back and threaten to kill the traditional healer for giving them ineffective muti. Consequently, some healers have had to flee, he said. He added that some muti is good, some bad with many traditional healers just supplying muti because they are hungry and in need of money.
“Poachers look for young boys who are not working and promise them money,” Hlati explained. “We have to educate young people not to fall for this,” otherwise it is sabotaging the park as poaching will lead to the disappearance of tourists and as a result other job opportunities in the Kruger.