Although dehorned rhino may escape a poacher attack, why some don’t, came as a real surprise.
While sitting round the campfire in the Waterburg, John, a former law enforcement officer with Nature Conservation, enthralled us with stories. One in particular stands out.
Why poachers kill dehorned rhino
For the most part dehorning a rhino can keep the poachers away. However, there are times when a dehorned rhino is found dead with horn stub still intact. Some theorize that poachers kill dehorned rhino to get back at the farmer, but the response John got during this interview will probably surprise you as it did me.
It was one of those good days when a rhino poacher was apprehended. To understand what happens next you need to know a bit more about John Baker. John is a man who has found the balance between justice and mercy. You might say, does a poacher deserve mercy? Well to get inside the mind of a poacher you have to step into his moccasins for just a moment. This is what John is expert at.
On this occasion John was puzzled why this lone poacher had killed the dehorned rhino. So he sat down next to him, asked about his family and after a bit of chit-chat ventured the question, “Why did you kill the dehorned rhino?” The poacher gave John this quizzical look, wondering why anyone didn’t find it completely obvious. John repeated the question.
The poacher explained.
Look at it like this. I leave my village with a handful of pap (maize made into a porridge) and a bottle of water. It is very hot.
I carefully climb through the fence into the game reserve. After much walking I find the spoor (track) of a rhino. I follow it. I follow it all day. When the night comes I want to make a fire to keep lions away. To stay warm But I cannot, someone will see it and find me. I climb up into a tree. It is a dark night. Sleeping in a tree with the hyena laughing close by is not easy.
When the birds begin their song I climb down. Stretch my stiff body and follow the rhino spoor. It is another hot day. Finally, before the sunsets again, I find the rhino by the waterhole.
He stands there drinking, alone. I move closer very quietly. Then I see it! It is a dehorned rhino!
I am tired. I am angry. I have no horn, no money.
I move forward quickly. I kill the rhino.
I kill the rhino so next time I do not track this same dehorned rhino again.
From the poacher’s perspective this makes perfect sense. Eliminate the duds. Improve the odds for finding a rhino with a horn.
Before you go ranting and raving. This does in no way condone the poacher’s action to kill the dehorned rhino. It simply sheds some light on his reasoning.
Every day in Africa rhino are poached for their horn. It has gotten so bad that some say we have reached the tipping point where more are being killed than being born. Nevertheless, the war is not over and those with ‘boots on the ground’ continue to need our support to save one rhino at a time. It makes a difference for every life they save.
Helping is easy.
We make tax deductible donations simple.