Monday, August 7, 2017

Protecting Rhinos in South Africa

This is genuinely sad.

This piece wants to turn you into a nature-protector-enviro-radical, at LAT, "Armed only with her grandmother's shotgun, a South African woman fights to save her rhinos":
Lynne MacTavish lives in a small wooden house on her South African game reserve with a fierce pet emu, a juvenile ostrich, a flock of geese, two Jack Russell terriers and her grandma’s double-barreled shotgun to protect her rhinos.

She keeps an ugly statue at her gate: a tokoloshe, or evil spirit in the local traditional belief, installed by a witch doctor to ward off superstitious rhino poachers.

Every night MacTavish gets up after midnight, grabs her shotgun, clambers into her SUV and patrols for poachers.

She still gets flashbacks of the scene she found one windy October morning in 2014 and still cries telling the story. Poachers had killed two rhinos, including a pregnant cow she had known since the day it was born. Two more died as an indirect result of the attack and a calf, days from being born, was lost.

MacTavish, as tough as the spiky bush on her animal reserve in South Africa’s northwest, struggles to cover the cost of security guards. One local poacher has threatened to kill her.

South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s 25,000 rhinos. Hamstrung by corruption and security lapses, it loses three rhinos a day to poaching, 85% of them in state reserves. Private owners such as MacTavish have become important to the species’ survival, nurturing more than 6,500 rhinos on an estimated 330 private game reserves, spanning 5 million acres, that provide a relative degree of safety.

But security is costly — so much so that many reserves are closing their doors. To help generate revenue, private reserve operators have successfully sued to resume South Africa’s limited trade in rhino horns, which had been banned since 2009. The government is finalizing new regulations that will allow foreigners to export up to two horns apiece for personal use.

The measure has rocked the wildlife preservation world. Most wildlife advocates say opening the door even to “farmed” rhino horn sales could threaten an international effort to wipe out the trade across the globe. About 2,200 horns a year flow into the illegal trade, mostly poached, and opponents of the new trade rules argue that criminals will find ways to funnel poached horns into the new legal market.

“Reopening a domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa would make it even harder for already overstretched law enforcement agents to tackle rhino crimes,” World Wildlife Fund policy manager Colman O’Criodain said in a statement...