Passing legislation, which is not backed up by competent law enforcement on the ground, will not save Africa’s wildlife from the scourge of poaching, an expert said on Thursday.
Speaking at ENACT’s World Rhino Day seminar of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Interpol, panellist Tapuwa O’bren Nhachi, a research coordinator for the Centre for Natural Resource Governance in Zimbabwe, said that sometimes the custodians are to blame for the onslaught on Africa’s game.
“Poachers don’t go where they can be easily caught, they go where they can easily get the animals without challenges. In Zimbabwe it is a bit difficult to access arms that is why you see these guys (poachers) using cyanide,” Nhachi said at the ISS in Pretoria.
“That has however not stopped poaching. They have actually come up with more innovative, more destructive and gruesome ways of killing. Whenever you curtail a certain way they actually come up with another way which can be very destructive.”
He said legislation, on paper, cannot combat poaching.
“It’s not about standardising policies or laws. It is about enforcement. As long as we have laws that are standardised and are being enforced by all nations, it is easier,” said Nhachi.
The ENACT programme (enhancing Africa’s capacity to respond to transnational organised crime) is aimed at mitigating the impact of transnational organised crime in Africa on development, governance, security and the rule of law.
ENACT researcher, Ciara Aucoin said the impact of illicit trade in wildlife is far-reaching on the continent.
“The illicit trade in wildlife is a very serious conservation issue, but has important social impacts too. Syndicates operate in more than one sector. The trade in wildlife products like rhino, pangolin and lion bones supports a supply of guns and drugs, and contributes to challenges of corruption at multiple levels,” said Aucoin.
Research shows that most poaching occurs in South Africa, followed by Namibia and Zimbabwe. The top non-African destinations for wildlife products are China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Khristopher Carlson a senior researcher at Small Arms Survey said the AK47 assault rifle remains the favourite accessory for the poachers on the continent.