May 21, 2016

Poaching: the illegal taking of wildlife; killing an animal out of season, without a license, while trespassing, with a prohibited weapon, or in a prohibited manner such as jack lighting.

I can’t seem to get over the fact that in this day and age, with all the knowledge and resources we have, staggering amounts of poaching is still happening. I would like to believe that it would be less now, but it’s not. The black market is just as strong today as it was 20 years ago, if not more. The poaching has become more professional and sophisticated with organized crime and corrupt officials at play, its barbaric.

elephantElephants and rhinos suffer the misfortune of having an external protrusion that humans arbitrarily place a high value upon. Some people believe that consuming rhino horn will cure everything from cancer to hangovers, and that ivory makes for many good functions such as furnishings/carvings, piano keys (by the way, Steinbeck piano only recently stopped using ivory for piano keys).

The past decade has been such a brutal one for African elephant and rhino populations. There’s an extremely high demand for ivory and Rhino horn and it’s skyrocketed!  These gentle giants have seen their habitats and numbers dwindle. Elephants and rhinos are on the verge of extinction. At this rate, all wild elephants will be extinct in 7 years. The western black rhinoceros went extinct in 2011, and the rest of Africa’s rhinos could follow within the next 20 years.

After decades of decimation of elephant populations for their ivory, people have continued persistence and willingness to hand over bigger and bigger sums of money for dead elephant tusk and rhino horn, and China has made it more tempting than ever for profit seekers to kill illegally. Impoverished locals are continuously bribed and offered ‘lots’ of money that will enable them to clothe and feed their families for long periods of time, if they simply show the poachers/hunters where the big game is. These locals risk their lives of getting caught, and if they are caught, they now go to jail for 30 years. It seems that few poachers are caught or punished, but with the growing number of sophisticated technology on the field that’s shielding these animals, I’m hoping that more criminals will be caught.

When poachers attack elephants, the entire herd suffers. They say every 15 minutes an elephant is riddled with bullets, poisoned by tainted arrows, and darted with veterinary drugs that knocks them out, or, are gunned down from a helicopter, or felled by other savage tactics. Its beautiful tusks are then hacked off and passed into an obscene smuggling operation that sends ivory overseas for profit. Rhinos suffer the same scenario/same type of kill for their horn that’s also sent overseas. There are less rhinos in the world than there are elephants so the numbers differ, but the demand for both are staggering/equally strong. For instance, a shocking 749 rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone so far this year.

Poachers are the single biggest thread to elephant and rhinos survival. Wildlife officials say that legal hunters kill tens of millions of animals every year. For each of those animals, another is killed illegally without a license, with a prohibited weapon, and perhaps on closed land or out of season, leaving orphaned young to starve.

Conservationists consider poaching to have a detrimental effect on biodiversity within and outside-protected areas as wildlife populations and species are depleted locally, and the functionality of ecosystems is disturbed.


Donate to non- profit organizations that are fighting to project these magnificent animals.
There are lots of non-profit organizations that are doing really good work and need to rely on the generosity of donations. Often the money you donate goes to recruiting, training, and equipping the scouts and park rangers with state of the art surveillance, tracking devises, satellite phones, GPS, protection equipment, and all terrain vehicles so they can track, shield, and project the animals.

Educate the public.
There needs to be more of a public awareness about the detrimental effect of poaching through education. What’s great is that a lot of non- profit and conservation groups work with governments and celebrities to raise more global awareness by creating campaigns about it. China is the largest market for ivory, and Vietnam’s the largest consuming country of rhino horn, so a lot of campaigns are focused directly within the Asian countries which is great, and It would also be really beneficial to have these campaigns running here in the states, and billboards too to bring awareness even closer (not sure what’s happening with the campaigns in Europe).

More feet on the ground in larger sections of the land and parks.
We need to support the work of local rangers and community scouts in the field (also increasing more rangers and scouts) and even bring in military services to guard the grounds. I also think that everyone working in this field needs to be regulated on a regular basis only to ensure that they too, are not being persuaded or corrupted in any way by money.

Stop the trafficking.
We can continue to stop the trafficking by improving interception of illegally trafficked wildlife products at critical hubs and ports, by bringing in more canine detection units that places trained sniffer dogs that are positioned at key trafficking hot spots in Africa. Then authorities will be able to prosecute wildlife criminals on the spot; “Catch the poachers and expose the smugglers”.

Change global policy by banning ivory and rhino horn.
Impose new rules that will ban the import and export of ivory and rhino horn, and make it harder to sell.

I wrote this article, as it’s a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about. I absolutely love all wildlife and my heart bleeds for these magnificent, gentle giants that are being destroyed. The goal is to stop the buying; the need for human consumption, “when the buying stops, the killing stops”. There are so many good and affluent people in the world that are doing amazing work and bringing much needed awareness on a global level to this important issue. So we continue to fight the battle against the poaching. The animals deserve to live and thrive in their natural habitat, unharmed and uninterrupted by humans. The universe needs to be a more peaceful and compassionate place to live in.

Please check out a few of the videos posted here. I was able to get a lot of footage of the elephants that I shot in Tarangire National Park and the Northern Serengeti National Park. The footage of the rhino was shot in the Eastern Serengeti. It was much harder to get the Rhino shot as they were quite far away, but my handy camera lenses helped!