This is an interesting report that gives insights into the operation of wildlife crime within South Africa. The study involved interviewing offenders convicted for their involvement in wildlife crimes including the poaching/ trade of rhino horn, abalone and cycads. The insights of the study suggest that targeting, arresting and prosecuting individuals further along the supply chain would be more impactful than simply arresting and prosecuting those at the lower levels of the chains i.e. poachers.
Discussions with offenders included the modus operandi, as seen here when talking to rhino poachers:
“The majority of offenders claimed to have entered into the park or reserve at night (between 6pm and 9pm). Offenders stated that they encountered and shot a rhino early in the morning close to sunrise (between 4am and 6am) when visibility improved. Offenders claimed not to spend more than one day in the park or reserve due to fears of detection by law enforcement. Offenders claimed that if they did not encounter a rhino by the next day, they would exit the park and try again on a different day. Offenders were very aware of the increased enforcement efforts, particularly in Kruger National Park.”
It is not surprising that the main motivators for those involved in the illegal wildlife trade were financial concerns. The report noted that almost all of the offenders were from marginalized communities and had limited economic opportunities.
“Some first-time poachers who claimed to be responsible for cutting off the horn or carrying food and water claimed to be promised between ZAR28,000 and ZAR60,000 (~USD1,637–3,508) for their efforts, while other poachers and drivers who shared equally in the profits with their accomplices earned between ZAR62,000 and ZAR124,000 (~USD3,625–7,251). The value paid to the intermediary or “poaching boss” differed between ZAR81,000 and ZAR135,000 (~USD4,736–7,894) per kilogramme.”
Globally, the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be more than USD72 billion annually. It is a trade that involves a complex network of individuals that move commodities from the source to the consumer.