One would be forgiven for thinking that the Edenvale and Bedfordview areas are the hub for poaching syndicates and related activities.
But the syndicates that profit from poaching activities are rife in all communities.
A former game ranger and head of Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group, South Africa has said that he is not surprised by the recent arrests relating to the trade of rhino horns, ivory and abalone.
The man, who cannot be named due to his involvement in sensitive cases, said that intelligence is the key to apprehending poaching syndicates.
“The carnage of our rhinos can only be stopped with the help of community members,” he said.
In 2010, 333 rhinos were poached in South Africa, in 2011 that number increased to 448.
“At the current daily poaching rate we are looking at the loss of over 600 rhinos by the end of the year,” he said.
“Experts have warned that if we cannot stop this, we will soon have a negative growth rate in our rhino populations. We do not have another five years to try and sort this out,” he added.
The shady underworld of rhino horn, ivory and abalone syndicates runs deep in the veins of all communities.
“Intelligence from ground level is the key. People will say that they do not know a poacher.
“We are aware of that but residents are the ones who know their streets and suburbs better than anyone else.
“The residents are the ones who can provide us with details and information on suspicious activities. The housewife, the retired couple, the man who works from home, the domestic worker and the man who tends to the garden, everyone can play a part in ending the slaughter of our rhinos,” he said. This type of information gathering is called human-int, or human intelligence gathering.
“Our South African Police Service and various intelligence groups cannot win this battle on their own, they need public participation. Let us look at the recent case where an elephant tusk was found in Edenvale. A member of the community reported that there was something suspicious about the activities at the property where the tusk was found. That information was passed on and an arrest was made. It was the perfect example of how human intelligence can be used in this fight,” he said.
He added that the same credit can be given to recent busts in Bedfordview, Bruma and Cyrildene.
“Residents know their streets’ and neighbours’ activities better than any national intelligence force could ever hope to,” he said.
Although there are a number of theories on how the syndicates work, the man believes that poverty is the main reason people get involved in poaching.
“I can tell you horror stories of poaching incidents. Someone would approach an unemployed person and offer them a large sum of money and when you have nothing, a large sum of money is appealing. Now you have an inexperienced, desperate person going out there trying to poach a rhino. Sometimes they do not have enough bullets to kill the rhino and the animal is left to suffer in pain or die under excruciating circumstances,” the man said.
He also shed some light on myths surrounding rhino horns.
“Rhino horn has never been used as an aphrodisiac. It is ground into a powder and used in a variety of Chinese herbal medicines. Yemen is no longer a destination for rhino horn and ivory and it has not been for years,” the man said.
He also gave credit to the authorities working day and night to bust the syndicates.
“In the past there were trust issues between the authorities working to put an end to poaching but more recently these organisations are working together as a team.
“The arrest rate of poaching related cases is increasing,” the man said.
Private and non-profit organisations, such as the Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group, also play a big role in bringing down poaching syndicates using networks made of everyday people.
Members of the community, schools and organisations who want to know more about how they can join the fight can contact the Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group on firstname.lastname@example.org
Residents who want to report suspicious activities can do so by contacting their sector police vehicles.