From a Bush Warrior’s diary…

Michele du Plessis

Jaco Klopper, the owner of the South African Bush Warrior Association, is passionate about what he does for a living. This is what he had to say…

Post: “We spend loads of time in the Nelspruit Nature Reserve. We responded to a call and started sweeping the area. We found 41 snaring spots prepared and ready to be used. We found 5 porcupines slaughtered.”

“I am concerned about the extinction of species and the demise of ecosystems; actually, I am concerned about the future of all our fauna and flora. The involvement of organised criminal networks in illegal wildlife supply chains are recruiting the local people to do the dirty work for them.  These illegal activities are also damaging due to increased stress and pressure placed on rangers and their families, for the local people know where they live. It is a very dangerous position to be in. So many rangers have died in this line of work, leaving their families without a breadwinner,” Jaco said.

Post: “My brother always joked around when we spoke of some crazy rescues. What we can expect and what will be the method of rescuing a wild animal in a snare. Stressed out, scared as hell and in tremendous pain. So one rainy day we headed out for a day in the office. Some poachers just have no limits on how far they go. So this is a well-known spot used by poachers – the perfect spot for a spring snare. We do spot checks and keep a close eye on movement. So we found this massive porcupine caught in three snares. We managed to save the poor animal with just a small cut on the shoulder. Sometimes we can save one animal, but is that enough?”

“Wildlife trafficking is a major crime issue. The problem does not lie with the rules, regulations and schedules. The problem lies with the enforcement of these laws. The local people need to be included in protecting our wildlife. Often the only benefits to the local communities are from poaching, as they struggle to make a living. This makes them vulnerable to organised crime networks. These syndicates are also responsible for creating or supporting trafficking networks and may also distribute weapons as well as bribe officials and police.

Combine these problems with corrupt government officials and members of the wildlife and conservation industries who facilitate the flow of illicit wildlife and plant contraband and see what you get…  We, the independent people and companies that provide nature conservation services, would be able to make a bigger impact if we had the back-up of the government conservation agencies. We report cases, send photos and videos, go to the offices and ask for help. But to no avail. Sometimes it feels that we are fighting a losing battle.”

Post: “We get called out to track down snares in some cases. In seven years you learn a great deal about the bush, animals and the owners. We stay focused on illegal poaching by snare and fish poaching. We find some shocking poaching in some areas. This specific area has been hit hard. Tons of meat wasted, left to decay and never collected. Cruelty like you won’t believe.”

“How do we stop the slaughter and greed? I believe that we need to build partnerships between government agencies, independent conservation concerns, communities and NGO’S. We need to formulate strategies, plans and initiatives that can address these problems. This way we may make a difference to poaching, illegal wildlife trade and we can improve the quality of life for the communities that surround the protected areas. Hopefully, we can protect our fauna and flora for future generations…”

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