What really drives wildlife poaching in South Africa?

Wildlife crime is becoming a security risk, exploiting communities, eradicating endangered and threatened species, yet do we acknowledge simple core issues?


New rich in Asia

Poverty in Africa

Religious customs

Healing legends

Crime syndicates


I don’t believe we, as ordinary citizens, in the Western or eastern world can wrap our brain around the forces of destruction behind the trafficking of wildlife, guns, drugs or humans. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much the tentacles of corruption ensnare entire communities, leaving them enslaved and impoverished while a select few live in luxury.

While in the Philippines we got pulled over by a traffic police officer on several occasions. Most every time we were specifically singled out because we were ‘pale faces’, which equated, money and gullibility.

It usually went something like this, with the police officer saying, “You can pay me 300 pecos right now or you can pay 500 pecos at the traffic office.” Which of course meant the traffic cop would pocket the money and we could keep driving. We quickly caught on and learned to call their bluff.

Then there were elections where ‘lobbyists’ stood outside polling places handing out 100 pecos to vote for their candidate, if you didn’t, well…

Even families fall into the bribery trap and exploit each other with the rationale, “It’s our turn.”

So what drives the wildlife poaching in South Africa? I believe it’s the same game of corruption. A paradigm that becomes a way of life on the dark side of the spectrum, no different from the familiar Protestant work ethic on the constructive end.

Unlike the familiar “honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” standard this “when opportunity knocks I grab everything I can get” embraces no fairness only selfishness. And this appears to be what really drives wildlife trafficking in South Africa all wrapped up in greed, power and control.

Around the Kruger Park, especially on the Mozambique border small simple villagers are becoming instantly rich, overnight “successes”. Reportedly more are being caught by the trafficking tentacles, sadly even the young.

“I will stop poaching when the last animal has died in Kruger National Park.” A recently apprehended poacher reportedly bragged to a ranger.

This hunger for prestige and riches cannot seem to be satiated.  It becomes like an addiction. It over rules the compassion, golden rule, or fairness edicts most of us live by. That is one irrefutable reason why peaceful or trade solutions will never work, will never be the solution to ending wildlife crime and putting a stop to the syndicates and their trafficking networks.

What will stop the merciless poaching of Africa’s rhino and other wildlife species? I don’t know the answers, except that exploitation must be addressed. Corruption must become uncool. Bribery must cease to be so lucrative. Wildlife must stop being a valuable commodity. The crime bosses must be neutralized.

But for now, until that happens, we continue to fight on the ground, via drones and education as best we can. Thanks for joining in.

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