Another visit to Swaziland brings a surprise chat with George Mbatha, Chief anti-poaching ranger at Hlane National Park.
“Much trouble with poachers!” George tells us.
“Oh no!” Is my first response. More dead rhino!
However, fortunately I am wrong.
In June, three would-be poachers were shot dead by wildlife rangers in Hlane National Park in Swaziland. In August, six poachers tried to kill rhino for their valuable horn. Two were killed, one wounded and capture, and the three others apprehended. In December, two poachers after bushmeat, were shot and killed.
At first blush this shoot to kill policy may seem harsh. However, it deters poachers. Largely because of two factors: Of course the shoot to kill policy, but also the huge reward that is offered when information leads to arrest and conviction. Big Game Parks (associated with Ted Reilly) advertises the motivating E100,000 ($10,000) reward. In comparison to the $1,000 an informant for the poaching syndicates might get. According to George, this large some of money does the trick.
In June, George and his team were tipped off that poachers were planning to enter Hlane to kill a rhino for its horn. George says, sometimes they watch and wait a long time. Poachers, generally come from South Africa or Mozambique. They entice a local Swazi to provide information. Information as to the whereabouts of rhino, security measures, and best access and escape routes.
In this case, the three were caught in the park. When they raised their weapons the rangers opened fire. All three were killed.
In August, supposedly a South African police officer was among the poachers! Two vehicles were involved. One entered the park to do the killing and snatching of the rhino horn, while the other waited on the road as the getaway vehicle. With the help of the intel provided by their informant, George and his team of anti-poaching rangers were ready. With the aid of night vision binoculars they spotted the poachers. They verified that they were armed. They set an ambush.
With the shoot to kill policy the directive is clear. When the would-be poachers resisted, the rangers didn’t hesitate. Two poachers were killed and one wounded poacher fled. With the aid of sniffer dogs he was captured and taken to hospital. The three in the escape vehicle were apprehended without incidence. All four are awaiting trial at this writing. In Swaziland apparently most poachers are sentenced to at least 5 years imprisonment.
Though Swaziland’s shoot to kill policy may seem extreme, it is proactive and stops poachers before they kill. Therefor, truly saving and preserving Swaziland’s rhino.
With their numbers dwindling isn’t it time for drastic measures such as this everywhere? After all, they allow anti-poaching rangers to do their job, namely protect rhino.
[l’m writing this purely from memory as our encounter with George was spontaneous. At the entrance of Hlane the official said George would be delighted to see you again. Off she went to get him. This informative chat took place right there. Please excuse any minor discrepancies. I’m posting this with limited signal as we are enroute cross country and I’m anxious that others might learn…. Poachers can be stopped! Rhinos can be protected!.]
Please note correction by Ann Reilly in comment below…
“shoot to kill” is not quite right. We are able to shoot in self defense…only if we are under attack and Poachers resist arrest with violence…