Monday, May 2, 2011

2010 will be remembered as a year in which endangered rhinos were more threatened than ever, as rhino poaching took on a new level of sophistication.” (Colman 2010) This essay shall investigate one of the most brutal and devastating environmental issues in South Africa today - the recent dramatic increase in the poaching of one of the country’s most endangered animals, the Rhino. The essay shall continue to investigate global thoughts around the issue as well as explore how this issue affects the immediate Cape Town society. The issue will then be linked to an advertising campaign that relates to the theme of the problem and lastly, it will be discussed and related to past and current theories and concepts.

Due to much poaching over the years, there are only 5 kinds of Rhinos left two of which, the black Rhino and the white Rhino, can be found in Africa. Whilst South Africa is home to 80% of Africa’s Rhino population, Rhinos can also be seen in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya. (Zijlma n.d.) According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the African white Rhino can be classified as near-threatened whereas the black Rhino is classified as endangered with only 4200 left on the planet. (Our Amazing Planet, 2011)

According to du Plessis, the CEO of WWF South Africa, in the late 19th century there were less than 100 white Rhinos left in the country. (Our Amazing Planet, 2011) Today, due to “a phenomenal conservation success story that can largely be attributed to the combined efforts of South Africa’s state and private conservation authorities,"(Our Amazing Planet, 2011) the white Rhino population has risen to over 20000. Due to the tremendous increase in poaching however, these efforts are going to waist. As can be seen in the graph in Appendix A, Rhino poaching in the last ten years has risen from just 7 Rhinos being killed in 2000 to 335 in 2010. When analysing more recently however, we see that from 2009 to 2010 the number of poached Rhinos nearly tripled. (See Appendix B)

The majority of these Rhino horns are being exported to Asia and in particular Vietnam and China. The Chinese population, throughout time, has believed that the Rhino horn can cure many illnesses such as vomiting, snake poisoning, fevers and devil possession. (Blouin, 1997) Recently, however, the Chinese population has claimed the Rhino horn to “possess cancer-curing properties.” (WWF, 2011) Although there is no scientific evidence to support this statement, there has been an increase in demand for Rhino horns. This, along with an appealing price (60000 dollars per kilo) is a possible reason for this drastic increase in poaching. (Zijlma n.d.)

Hundreds of South Africans are taking part in the many initiatives to deter Rhino poaching. With these numerous projects, such as fund raising, social media campaigns and increased policing, it is hard to believe that this crisis is still on the rise. (We Are Wilderness, n.d.) This does, however, show the level of professionalism in the poachers themselves. According to Joseph Okori, “This is not typical poaching. The Criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organised and very well coordinated.” (Our Amazing Planet, 2011) Due to their sophisticated equipment such as helicopters, night-vision equipment, tranquilizers and silencers, the poachers are able to hide from law enforcement officials. (Our Amazing Planet, 2011)

These numerous projects fighting against Rhino poaching are not only taking place in South Africa. These initiatives are happening worldwide and the WWF – World Wildlife Fund is assisting in creating awareness. The “WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations.” (WWF n.d.) Whilst the WWF is a global organisation, it acts locally by having over 90 offices in 40 different countries. The WWF started in 1961 and today manages conservation projects in more than 100 countries worldwide. (WWF n.d.) Through “conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustained and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption,” the WWF aims to stop the damage done to the world’s natural environment as well as create a future where humans and nature live in harmony. (WWF n.d.)

In order to stop an environmental crisis of this size, the world needs to get involved. The WWF has assisted in gaining worldwide attention by declaring the 22nd of September as world Rhino day. (See Appendix C) They urged all concerned citizens to make a noise, “dust off their vuvuzelas, toot their horns, blow their didgeridoos and make as much noise as possible at 1:00 PM Central Africa Time.” (Larson, 2010) This initiative aimed at creating awareness as well as shouting out to leaders informing them on the fact that serious action needs to be taken in order to stop Rhino poaching. Due to time zone difference, world Rhino day could also be celebrated on Facebook by joining certain pages and events. (Larson, 2010)

Another campaign that is raising awareness globally is the one being implemented by Africam. “Africam is the first organization that sends live streaming images from the African bush all day, every day.” (The Organic View, 2010) In the ten years that Africam has been running, the African wildlife, in their natural habitat, has been viewed by millions of people in over 220 countries. Africam aims to use “live images to raise awareness about Rhino poaching to the rest of the world.” (The Organic View, 2010)

Due to the fact that Rhinos are one of earth’s oldest animals, having been here for more than 50 million years, there are many foundations set up around the world that work to protect Rhinos. One of these is the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). This foundation, once known as the International black Rhino foundation, expanded in 1993 to encompass all five Rhino species - changing its name to the international Rhino Foundation. The IRF aims to provide intensive protection and management for the animals most in need and “works where conservation will have its most significant impact, and when possible, is a catalyst and facilitator, working with like-minded partners.” (International Rhino Foundation, n.d.) The IRF, whilst based in Florida, introduces programmes into Africa and Asia.

Due to the successful increase in the White Rhino population, the IRF now mainly focuses on the conservation of black Rhinos and in particular, the conservation of black Rhinos in Zimambwe. “Zimbabwe’s National Parks and private conservancies are under great assault at a time when they are severely understaffed and under-equipped.” (International Rhino Foundation n.d.) The IRF is assisting in protecting the black Rhino population by collaborating with the local community and working together to keep their animals safe through monitoring and anti-poaching patrols. On top of this, the “Rhino operations teams regularly remove snares and bullets, provide veterinary treatment, and rescue at-risk rhinos, moving them to safer areas.” (International Rhino Foundation, n.d.)

Another foundation working to save the black rhino population in Zimbabwe is the international anti Poaching Foundation. This foundation is focusing on a specific area called Sinamatella which is situated in Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve, Hwanga National Park. Once the foundation gains the correct approvals, they aim at gathering wildlife management authorities and rangers from various parks within Zimbabwe who will then attend a three month training course in order to “become a reactionary unit re-deployed to the front line in Sinamatella to resist hard-line rhino poachers.” (International anti poaching foundation, 2010) The full process will be filmed and distributed for the entire world to see.

Now that we have looked at the global thoughts on this gruesome environmental crisis, we shall investigate incidents within the Western Cape and analyse how this crisis is affecting our direct society. Although there has been an increase in Rhino poaching all over South Africa and other African countries, the Western Cape experienced their first Rhino poaching scare on the 29th of December 2010. (Admin, 2010) The scare happened at Aquila Private Game Reserve which is a 4 star resort situated less than 2 hours away from Cape Town city. Due to the fact that the Big 5 was shot out of Cape Town 250 years ago, Aquila is the first Game Reserve, in this area, to hold the Big 5 and offer the African safari experience. (Admin, 2010) Luckily, due to the quick reaction times of the Aquila staff, they were able to deter the poachers and the potential tragedy remained a scare.

Whilst the Aquila Game Reserve is yet to experience Rhino poaching, the scare was enough to affect the direct social environment. The Game Reserve is now in need of greater security to keep their Rhinos safe. With a 7500 hectare plot the task will not be easy, however the animals “will now be under 24 hour surveillance and protection.” (Admin, 2010) This will also have an effect on the social environment for the staff of the resort as they will now feel more threatened when doing routine checkups on the animals.

Whilst this incident made many Western Cape game farm owners increase their security to protect their animals, it was not enough. On the 28th of January 2011 the Western Cape lost their first rhino to poachers. The adult male white rhino was drugged then its horns were removed and it was left to bleed to death. This terrible act took place on “Botlierskop Private Game Reserve near little Brak river between George and Mossel Bay.” (Yeld, 2011)

This is an even bigger wakeup call for rhino owners in the Western Cape and influences directly involved societies as they now have to take every precautionary measure in order to protect their animals. In many cases this will be a costly process that some rhino owners may not be able to afford. Also, the surveillance procedures could get dangerous as with a crime syndicate of that size and ruthless nature one never knows how they may react if interfered.

Due to the unbelievable recent increase in Rhino poaching, there are numerous campaigns, online and offline, that aim at raising public awareness for rhino poaching nationally and internationally. I have chosen to focus on two campaigns in particular, one being the biggest online campaign and the other a truly Capetonian offline campaign that addresses the environmental issue of Rhino poaching as well as a worldwide social issue.

The online campaign,, has been established to fulfil the following 6 objectives:

· “To encourage continued public awareness and support.”

· “To act as an online reporting system for rhino poaching-related activities.”

· “To register public supporters who take a no tolerance approach to poaching, especially the poaching of Endangered Species in South Africa.”

· “To offer an online communications platform to all stakeholders.”

· “To act as an online information gathering system that supplements existing databases.”

· “To rally financial backing from both corporate and private donors.”

(Stop Rhino Poaching,2010)

In order to succeed in their objectives, an interactive, engaging and easy to navigate website has been designed. (See appendix D) The website contains links to scientific articles explaining, for example, the structural material of a rhino horn or what gives the horn its shape. Also included are links to articles that display what is fact and what is fiction in terms of what rhino horns are used for in China and Vietnam. The Website shows the other projects that Stop Rhino Poaching is involved in, for example, their collaboration with Jacaranda radio station. With this collaboration they managed to raise money that went towards “providing training - in the form of a conclusive training program - and equipment - everything they need in the bush - to the anti-poaching personnel protecting these important rhino populations.” (Stop Rhino Poaching, 2010)

Through a gallery of devastating images, live updates on the amount of rhinos poached in 2011 and an indication on the funds raised to date, the website succeeds in appealing to ones emotions which in turn urges them to donate. The visible “donate now” tab that, when clicked on, immediately displays a form to transfer money, assists in gaining more donors due to the ease of the process. Another way that the electronic campaign raises money is through the selling of rhino bands, stickers and key rings. (See Appendix E) All proceeds “go directly to purchasing of equipment for rhino guards, field rangers, security and anti-poaching personnel.”

In order to continue gaining public awareness, Stop Rhino Poaching has designed a banner that is placed at the top of the ‘home’ web page. (See Appendix F) They then ask for members of the public to attach the banner to their email signature. This would assist in gaining extensive awareness as the banner would be viewed with each email sent.

Lastly, the website is interactive in that it is a space for the public to communicate how they feel, any suspicious activity seen can be reported and rhino owners can log in and communicate. The login in process requires “important documentation specific to rhino owners” (Stop Rhino Poaching, 2010) therefore creating a safe communication space where owners can discuss the crisis and give tips on protection.

The next media campaign that speaks to this issue is the Save the Rhino March that took place at gay pride in Cape Town on the 5th of March 2011. “The theme of Gay Pride this year was “Love Our Diversity,” therefore, as a symbolic act to raise awareness several hundred people were there to show their support for Gay Pride and encourage serious and effective action against rhino poaching by “Loving Our Biodiversity”.” (Getaway, 2011) (See appendix G) The campaign was run by Rhino Africa who led a two hour procession during Gay Pride. They handed out banners, gave away T-shirts and taught some chants before the march began. (Getaway, 2011)

In the article Society, Nature and Enlightenment, we analyse the age of Enlightenment and the relevant themes that show humanities relationship to nature. “Enlightenment is a philosophical and social movement which started developing in the eighteenth century.” (Dickens, 2004) Enlightenment is “committed to reason and science and the freedom of the individual” (Dickens, 2004) and consists of a few ideas which are considered to be progressive.

When looking at the poaching of Rhinos in South Africa for Chinese and Vietnamese medicine, we see how it can relate to past views of nature as a resource. At the beginning of the age of enlightenment, it was believed that nature was designed for human purposes. Whilst it was viewed as self sustainable, if managed correctly by man, it could be used more effectively and efficiently. This is where the idea of privately owned property originated. It was decided that “private property was a way of ensuring that a balanced earth could be passed on to future generations.” (Dickens, 2004)

With this view of nature, it was believed that through the management of land, a new type of improved, rational ‘enlightened’ person was created. “Enlightenment, in addition to developing a science of nature, was developing a science of ‘Man’, a science of internal nature.” (Dickens, 2004) This human nature however, could not be assumed and was later thought to be as a result of the environment in which people live and work. Humans are therefore thought to be born with no predetermined ideas and values as to what is right. These are rather shaped through education and the specific environment in which one lives. If this is true, one could say that different cultures, due to different environments, have different human nature. This can create some kind of understanding for the current rhino poaching crisis. In South Africa we are brought up in a culture where the rhino is a sacred animal. Through education we are taught about the history of this ancient animal and by being part of the Big 5, the Rhino is thought of as a symbol of South Africa. In China or Vietnam, due to a different environment and lack of education, their human nature is different and they therefore see nothing wrong with poaching Rhinos.

As said above, due to a different human nature, this culture views the Rhino and, in particular, its horn as a medicinal benefit rather than a beautiful part of nature that needs to be conserved for future generations to view and enjoy. The Chinese and Vietnamese false view on the use of a Rhino horn can greatly be attributed to a lack of education. The online campaign has recognised this problem and attempted to provide education through their history and uses tab. In this section of the Website, links to other academic articles have been created. These articles include discussions on the history of Rhinos, Rhino horn facts and myths and other educational information on the history of Rhino horn trade. Through the Enlightenment theory we see how education plays a role in shaping human nature. These educational campaigns would therefore aim to slightly alter the Chinese and Vietnamese human nature in order to decrease Rhino poaching in Southern Africa.

Discourse can be defined as” a specific ensemble of ideas, concepts and categorisations that is produced, reproduced and transformed in a particular set of practices and through which meaning is given to physical and social realities.” (Hajer cited in Hannigan, 2007) Environmental discourse, according to Brulle, can be classified into nine distinct discourses. The first of these that relates to the Rhino poaching crisis is conservation. Brulle describes conservation as “natural resources that should be technically managed from a utilitarian perspective.” (Hannigan, 2007) As discussed above, Rhino conservation has been taking place in South Africa since the early 1990’s and due to these efforts, the Rhino population has increased drastically. (Our Amazing planet, 2011) In times like these however, when Rhino poaching is on the increase, even greater conservation efforts need to be made. This is all well, however, Brulle states that “there can be no real environmental action without structural change” which is unlikely to happen unless everyone has a “coherent vision of the common environmental good.” (Hannigan, 2007)

Another two discourses described by Brulle that relate to Rhino poaching are deep ecology and ecotheology. Deep ecology maintains the view that “the diversity of life on earth must be maintained because it has intrinsic value.” (Hannigan, 2011) This discourse is effectively communicated in the anti Rhino poaching march that took place at gay pride in Cape Town this year. The theme of this campaign was “loving our biodiversity” which directly communicates the deep ecology discourse. (Getaway, 2011) Ecotheology maintains the view that “humans have an obligation to preserve and protect nature since it is divinely created.” (Hannigan, 2011) Due to the fact that the Rhino dates back to the Miocene era millions of years ago, ( n.d.) not only is it divinely created but it deserves to be protected due to its heritage on earth.

While there are numerous environmental discourses on the way in which animals are viewed and should be treated, there was not always a need for these great amounts of protection. In other words, animals were not always thought of as a resource. “Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises.” (Berger, 2009) An example of this is as simple as the ancient views of domesticated cattle. Cows were not kept for milk or meat but were rather domesticated as they were viewed as magical or sacrificial. In this time, man was more dependent on animals. Animals were needed for basic survival such as transport, work, food and clothing. (Berger, 2009) As intelligence grew and productive inventions became common, man began to depend less and less on animals. With these inventions came ever increasing cities. This urbanisation changed the animal’s countryside habitats into suburbs which in turn chased the animals away and they began to become rare. Today “Such wild life as remains is increasingly confined to national parks and game reserves.” (Berger, 2009) In these parks however, conservation can only do so much. As can be seen by the Rhino poaching crisis, these animals are never completely protected from cultures who view animals solely as a resource.

Prior to this project, I knew of Rhino poaching and the huge increase in demand for their horns as a means of Chinese medicine, however, I did not know that the Vietnamese too believe in the healing capabilities of the Rhino horn. Why is this so? In general, the Chinese culture is known for the different relationship they maintain with animals. On top of Rhino poaching, they poach sea horses, tigers for their bones, Pandas and Hammerhead sharks for shark fin soup. (One Green Planet, 2010) As a result, the Chinese population stands out when any form of poaching is done. Their different relationship with animals and the huge amount of poaching they perform reinforce the fact that a different human nature is built in different cultures. With a human nature unlike that of the Western world, the Chinese nation performs actions that are not always agreed with and are therefore often deemed as the other.

Due to the size and sophistication of the Rhino poaching syndicate in South Africa, it has become increasingly difficult to protect one of Africa’s most endangered animals. Simple conservation that was previously practiced in order to protect Rhinos is not enough anymore. In my opinion, this has come down to a legal issue where bail amounts and sentences for illegal Rhino poaching need to be revised. On the 21st of January, Dr Andre Charles Uys, who is a wild life vet, was arrested for illegally dehorning fifteen Rhinos. As a Wild life Veterinary, his job is to protect these animals yet, after the arrest for this terribly gruesome crime, he was granted bail of ten thousand rand. (Net News Publisher, 2011) When poachers are selling Rhino horns for sixty thousand Dollars per kilo, I find it hard to agree with granting bail of a measly ten thousand rand!Dr. Martin explained that the system of granting bail for rhino-related crimes is indeed a major concern. He pointed out that rhino poaching in Swaziland is a non-bailable offense.” (Rhino conservation, 2011) With at least 82 Rhinos having been poached this year already I think that it is definitely necessary to make this crime a non-bailable offense.

In conclusion one can see that the Rhino poaching stats for South Africa have, over the last two years in particular, climbed immensely. Whilst impressive conservation efforts over the last decade have successfully increased the Rhino population, due to increased poaching, this hard work is going to waste. We see how many national and international campaigns have been developed to gain awareness and educate in order to deter Rhino poaching. We looked at passed theories and discourses to try gain an understanding of the relationships different cultures have with animals as well as analyse the evolution of the way in which animals are viewed in the human mind and hence their current need for protection. Lastly we see that although South African conservation reserves are more aware of their surroundings and the government has increased security to protect the Rhinos, this is not enough. In order to look after these wonderful animals a more punitive and stringent prosecution process is in great need so that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the Rhinos as we do.

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Appendix G

Reference List

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