The poachers’ have an almost inexhaustible supply of money. Because rhino horn fetches $65,000 on the black market and a kilo of ivory is worth over $1 800, the smugglers and tradesman have very little problem funding these poachers and poaching operations.
The burning embers fizz and crackle as the elderly man squats on his haunches, his tired bones creaking their resistance. The flames from the cheerful fire throws deep shadows onto his cheeks which are wrinkled and corroded by time. He stills his thoughts seeking renewal of his restless spirit. A symphony of night life brings him back into the web of existence and he absently throws another long onto the fire, pulling away as a myriad of embers explode showering down in a spectacular display. With a stomach turning weightlessness he allows his thoughts to crawl through the cracks of his mind. Dead elephants and a fallen comrade. He sees the desperate look in the eyes of the young man’s mother on hearing the news of her son’s death. He sees the bloodied and broken face of the young man who had only begun to taste life, and he shudders, his shoulders sinking into his sides. A sadness comes upon him all silent and menacing as it flanks him, and he tries to close out the images of the mutilated elephants as they lie sprawled into the parched earth…mothers, babies and a couple of pregnant cows. He looks stricken, shrunken and immensely old as he stares with weary bloodshot eyes into the forbidding shadows of the dark African bush.
Rangers are exposed to deeply disturbing scenes, with each poached carcass a frustrating and grisly reminder of failure, and they operate in the bush under harsh physical conditions, often with inadequate equipment, pay, and support.
Wildlife rangers endure similar ordeals to soldiers in combat. They routinely face death, injury, or torture from poachers, and the wild animals they protect can kill them too. In the DRC, which has been driven by almost two decades of civil war and political instability, about 150 rangers have been killed in Virunga alone since 2004.
Nightmares set like reels of grisly film in his mind will again sneak up on him under the dark cloak of midnight, claustrophobic and warm. It is a life changing experience for these rangers who are witness to the ‘desolation’ long after the poached animal has unburdened its enormous wrinkled body into a spiritual updraft of lightness. Sadly for these animals death does not always come in a single violent stroke.
With dawn’s slow promise of a golden day, he will once again disappear into the early shadows of the African bush to join his fellow rangers. With the fundamental energy of the human spirit, they will leave behind a night full of restless ghosts, hovering moths and a galaxy of mosquitoes to concentrate on the day ahead. The nightmares will once again wait for the sun to say good night before pouncing on his restless mind once again.
WHAT CAN WE ALL DO TO HELP IN THIS FIGHT AGAINST POACHING (PLEASE WATCH THIS SHORT VIDEO CLIP…CHENGETA WILDLIFE)
I often think back to the day when I was told that there was absolutely nothing that I as an individual could do to help in this continual fight against the evils of poaching. All to often we close our minds to the blood red streaks that mar our African landscape. While the world watches, the images of butchered animals, bodies bloated and legs suspended up in the air leap out of the computer or television, eyes staring unseeingly: pleading for somebody to take notice. This is not a violent storm that has bullied its way into the African bush. This is a dark menacing chaos of greed, corruption and destruction. These ruthless killers are turning the African bush into a wild sweltering inferno, flames devouring any animal with tusks or horns.
Rory Young is a passionate and committed activist who has been fighting the evils of poaching all his life. He is a dedicated man who has decided to make it his life’s mission to ensure that the rangers fighting in this war against poaching have the best possible training. Rory has been in the field for well over 20 years now and has honed his skills in the bush as a pro-safari guide and a top class tracking consultant.
‘These animals are not dying of natural causes. We are not saving them from nature. They would not be on the verge of extinction it it wasn’t for us’
‘They are being killed for greed. This is a human offense, a human crime against these creatures and humans must make amends.’
‘I found that the very people who had knocked back the poaching in the 90’s are now old, or have been replaced with younger, less experienced people who had grown up after the liberation wars and counter insurgency operations of my generation and who had had no training or experience in the very skills needed to win. Very few could track properly and almost none knew how to follow-up poacher spoor as an effective team. Furthermore, the will to win was gone and there was no money because there was also no publicity about what was happening.’
Young said that by the end of 2014 he will have trained more than 150 team members on anti-poaching procedures. “Both the African elephant and the more endangered Forest elephant can both be saved and their numbers increased again, but only if we move immediately and decisively,” he said.
‘This war against poachers can be won. To win it it needs both a will to succeed and funding. We are losing elephants every single day. With your financial support we can put a stop to this senseless loss.’
Across Africa the scourge that is poaching is removing natural resources at an unprecedented rate. The southern African nation of Malawi is no exception to the hugely negative impacts of poaching on biodiversity and the natural ecosystem processes that sustain both people and wildlife.
“The ivory trade must be disrupted at all levels of criminality, the entire prosecution chain needs to be systemically restructured, corruption rooted out and all stakeholders, including communities exploited by the criminal syndicates and those on the front lines of enforcement, given unequivocal support.”