Rhino Fridays – Where are Donations to Save Rhino Going?

Nigel Morgan, chairman of Focus Africa Foundation speaks out during interview with Tamara LePine-Williams of Classic FM about SANParks and donations to save rhino.

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Rhino Friday – Where are Donations to Save Rhino Going?

Tamara LePine-Williams of Classic FM interviews Nigel Morgan

Nigel Morgan is the chairman of Focus Africa Foundation his job – to stop the killing of rhinos in the Kruger National Park and to this end he has been operating an intelligence team on the ground since March 2013.

In early June his operation was summarily terminated by the board of SANparks following his company’s bust of a Chinese triad syndicate on the 23 of May 2014 which was conducted by the hawks after his intelligence team provided them with the relevant information.

No reason was given for Nigel’s company’s termination, it was rumoured that they got too close to the people operating the trade at the top

Q. Why are we losing the war so roundly?

A.  I think fundamentally it’s a lack of political will, they’re not applying their minds to this problem

- there’s a lack of strategy

- there’s a lack of resources which is strange given the amount of international organisations that  are contributing to this, to try to save the rhinos

Q.  So where is the money going to?

A. I’ve got to tell you, the guys on the ground we don’t see much of it.

When we started on our three year contract at KNP,  they ran out of money after three months – and we carried on – and we were able to find money from a philanthropic American.

It’s not that there is a lack of resources at KNP to fight this war, it’s a mystery where the money is going.

Q. Is there somebody who has been getting quite a wad of a salary?

A. The fundraiser appointed by the board of SANParks earns a salary of R95,000 a month, approx ten times what a senior ranger who is risking his life out there every day gets.

This fellow also got merit awards over a period of June of last year to April this year.

Over a period of 11 months this gentleman received a salary of 1.3 million with merits awards added up it comes to 2.8 million rand.

Q. What is his actual job?

A. His job is fundraising from donors and philanthropists.

The month that the Warren Buffet Foundation donated R225 MILLION this guy, coincidentally perhaps, (March this year) gets 1million into his account, some would say this is vomiting on the feet of the donors.

Q.  Are the poachers tactics changing, what’s happening now?

A. Yes the tactics change, the groups, infiltrating groups will be normally be three to four, there will be a PH, often ex-military, and he’ll have support of two probably young Mozambicans, one carrying water or food and the other one carrying an axe and increasing as the battle gets more bitter we’re seeing a fourth with an AK47, that is not a hunting rifle, that is for killing people!

Huge credit needs to be paid to General Johan Jooste who directs special operations at Kruger National Park and his team of just under 400 rangers.

Those rangers are risking their lives every day to try and keep casualty rates of the rhinos down and they should be the ones getting the money and not the fat cats sitting in the Pretoria head office of SANParks

Q. Who is benefiting from rhino poaching?

A. The syndicates who are involved, the politicians who are being paid off, the corrupt officials who are also getting their share – but it is not going to go on for long because, unlike the drug war which is infinite, the rhino war is finite

Q. Is a legal trade governable?

A. I don’t see it happening in Africa.

I was involved in the Congo DRC with the Kimberley Process –it  ends up as a fig leaf for bad behaviour in the diamond industry and it originates around certificates of origin and these are easily obtained through bribery of government officials so what it does is legalising the grey and black .

With rhino horn there is such a limited amount of it.

How are you going to meet demand with rhino horn with just this finite supply?

What are they really up to?

Q. There must be some sort of way that people can be uplifted, educated have a life without feeling that they are not as important as these animals?

A. The government’s just spent R1billion buying Mala Mala worth R97,000 per hectare, I  hope that will go back to the community ownership and not into the pockets of fat-cats at the top of the govt. someone certainly made enough money out of the deal.

Environmental tourism is a great producer of jobs.

When it comes to the poverty aspect its really over on the Mozambican side.

Focus Africa Foundation will help to raise funds to support President Joaquim Chissano’s foundation in Mozambique which is orientating itself towards socially uplifting those areas as a solution.

You got to get the communities to believe that the preservation of wild life is something that is good for them and not something that is only good for rich American or British tourists

Q. Why has Swaziland little or no poaching?

A. Fifty years ago there was hardly any game left in Swaziland. A Ted Reilly decided that he was going to start conservation off in Swaziland, he had the support of the King and now they have five or six parks .

Its remarkable that in the last ten years they have only lost 3 rhinos and  there is an explanation for it .

At the end of the eighties, there was  an outbreak of poaching of rhinos, Ted got so upset that he got one of these slaughtered rhinos and took it up to the King’s palace and dumped it on the doorstep. He was inevitably summoned by the King for an explanation and what emerged from that was a meeting of minds and legislation was introduced, draconian legislation some may say, but anybody caught with a firearm in a royal park in Swaziland who doesn’t surrender immediately will be shot.

That’s quite a message

Legislation is the key…

- there are long sentences,

- there is no parole and

- there is an extra sentence for not replacing the value of the animal that was killed.

Police who loose dockets, which is very common here in South Africa, go to jail for one year.

Prosecutors who fail to prosecute properly, also common here in South Africa, go to jail for up to a year and the same for magistrates who don’t deliver what is considered to be an appropriate sentence.

And this is overseen from the Kings office – there’s an officer there who oversees this whole process.

That is the secret.

South Africa could do it – if it wanted to -  but it doesn’t want to.

Q. What of the people on the receiving end of the rhino horn, Vietnam and China?

A.  I think it can be changed.

I think the SA government should get the Vietnamese ambassador in by the diplomatic scruff of the neck and tell him unless his country gets the message that, about the outrage in this country and globally over the killing of the rhinos they’re going to find themselves at the end of international sanctions

Q. Where are we heading?

A. The picture looks grim.

Unless the SA government starts waking up to this disaster which is approaching and if it goes down the road of advocating as a solution an international trade in rhino horn it’s going to be seriously out of step with the international community.

Thanks to Annlyn Tyro for transcribing the entire interview of which this is just an excerpt.

Should you like a copy of the transcription, kindly request same by emailing Ayesha Cantor.

Alternatively, you can listen to the PODCAST here.

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