Full Moon Villains and Heroes Race for South Africa’s Rhino and People

The Full Moon is prime time for rhino poaching for the illegal wildlife trade by crime syndicates. It is also red alert time for the ‘good guys’.

Full moon rhino poachers South Africa - Andrew Cairncross

Stop the moon! The Poacher’s Moon!

If only we could stop the waxing of the moon this month!

Once wildlife and nature lovers looked forward to the rising of the full moon. It was a time for the best night viewing on game drives, from blinds and watch towers.

However, today the rising of the full moon heralds pain and death for rhino in the reserves of South Africa. This year to date 519 rhino have been brutally killed by poachers with 321 of these in the world famous Kruger National Park.

The Poacher’s Moon, as it has been dubbed, has both the heroes and the villains on high alert, both keen on keeping rhino (or getting) rhino in their sights.

It truly is a war with the rhino as the prize.

The ‘good guys’ and heroes include (names omitted for protection):

Wildlife rangers…

Those that are highly trained and equipped with close to military type goggles and weapons, including drones (UAVs). Sadly these are few in number.

Then there are the ordinary park rangers patrolling fences with little more than courage and a big stick.

Our hat off to both, to all wildlife rangers who put their lives on the line as they face ruthless, frequently militia trained, poachers with dollar signs in their eyes.


Those that are called to investigate suspicious vehicles, people and apartments. These too are often not trained in dealing with wildlife crimes or the sophistication of crime syndicates.

Again, we applaud those who have their heart in the right place and do what they can with what they have.


Those that are called out to save a rhino with its horn and face viciously mutilated by a poacher’s chainsaw or machete. Or to save a wounded or traumatized orphaned rhino calf.

There is no way we can begin to comprehend the emotional and clinical challenge these situations must be for the vets… definitely heroes!


Those who raise their voices in behalf of the rhino. Who speak out boldly and challenge officials at all levels to take notice, to take action, to stop the poaching.

At times they stand alone, like the rhino… we thank you!

Researchers, Journalists, filmmakers…

Those who bring their expertise to the crisis so the powers that be, and ordinary folks like us, might say, “Enough is enough! This must be stopped!”

Some of these researchers, journalists and filmmakers also put themselves in harm’s way as they follow poachers and the rhino horn trail along a very organized dangerous route to Asia.

There are surely others that can be included amongst the ‘good guys’ and heroes on the side of the African rhino. Please let us know who you think should be added.

Protecting rhino is not for the faint hearted, neither is writing about or filming the poaching trail without serious hazards. Rangers face ruthless poachers on the ground, while journalists and filmmakers risk being identified by crime bosses with potentially serious consequences.

A huge THANK YOU to these HEROES!

The ‘bad guys’ and villains include:


Those who shoot the rhino and saw off its horn. These poachers are the pawns, they’re expendable and easily replaced. In impoverished communities with seemingly few opportunities to earn a living, the crime bosses find many willing recruits.

Although we might feel some empathy for the poachers, doing something morally and legally wrong does not make it right or excusable.

‘Inside men/women’…

Those officials, game ranchers, safari outfits, rangers, vets, police… the very ones who should be protecting the rhino who have turned traitor for a bribe or favor. Those that turn a blind eye, forge a document, supply drugs or rifles, or pass along information.

These are the traitorous villains that cause mistrust and make the heroes lives that much tougher not to mention dangerous at every turn.

Drivers, travelers, buyers, sellers…

Those pawns and middle men/women along the illegal trade route who transport the rhino horn to those who then process it and sell it on the streets, clinics and shops in Asia.

These too are criminals as their activities if not illegal are part of a huge illegal trade network.

Crime bosses…

Those with the power and control. Those at the very heart of the illegal wildlife (drug, guns, human) trafficking system. Those with the fancy homes and flashy cars whose hearts are cold. They do not care for the rhino or the people who work for them. Seeing them as mere commodities or pawns there to be exploited.

These are the super the villains who infiltrate communities with their strangling tentacles that impoverish people, undermine economies, eradicate wildlife and create the imbalance of entire ecosystems.

These are they who stop at nothing even involvement with terrorists and anti-government groups to threaten the security of not only the rhino but countries around the world.

Our rhino heroes are fighting for much more than the rhino,

they are fighting for our communities, environment

and bottom-line, for the very security of us all.

God bless you and may we do our part to support you as best we can.



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