Today we heard about the death of the last male Northern White Rhino in “captivity”. Sudan reached the age of 45, but lived in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya conservancy where he was being treated for age-related complications and guarded against horn poachers by caretakers. It is unknown if any Northern White Rhinos are alive in the rest of Africa.
Due to demand for rhino horn a rhino’s horn is now worth more than a rhino! I want to start drawings and artwork that focus on Wildlife Crime with regards to the growing demand for rhino horn in countries such as China and Vietnam, being created by international criminal syndicates. According to a recent report on underground investigative work done by Elephant Action League in China, the black market for rhino horn and rhino products are alive and strong; smuggling on border towns between Vietnam and China are also rife. Local populations use the smuggling business as a means to support themselves and their families. Reminds me so much of poachers living in poverty on the borders of our national parks and being used by criminal syndicates for their dirty work. The disconnect between conservation and humans living in nature is so much part of my exploration.
Local communities living in rural areas as pastoralist come into conflict with wild animals and are increasingly feeling animals have a hogher value than their onw lives. In my readings it is also argued that where governments are committed to tackling poaching and trafficking, their strategies are “fragmented” and often led by environmental agencies with little political power and no mandate to investigate organised crime networks fuelling poaching. “The potential for huge profits and comparatively low risk of punishment has attracted highly sophisticated criminal networks to this lucrative transnational black market.”
Wildlife Crime needs investigators, forensics and documentary work. Crime syndicates are very efficient and adaptive networks. The following information is from a report by EAL: ‘The magnitude of the illegal rhino horn trade is further highlighted when reviewing the quantity of horns hitting the market. According to a CITES report for CoP17, “illegal sourcing of horns from poaching, natural mortality, stockpile thefts, pseudo-hunting, and private sector sales suggests that an estimated 8,691 (2,674/year) rhino horns were obtained from October 2012 through 2015. This represents approximately 20 tons of rhino horn moving out of Africa and into illegal trade in a mere three-year time span” The EAL investigators found that wildlife contraband, including extensive amounts of rhino horn, flows easily through the China-Vietnam border into Guangxi, through both legitimate ports of entry and illicit land and water routes.
The Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime recently released a report written by South African investigative journalist, Julian Rademeyer, and according to the report, North Korean diplomats became involved in state-sanctioned rhino horn and ivory smuggling. Rademeyer found that 18 out of 31 cases of diplomats caught smuggling rhino horn and ivory in Africa since 1986 has been linked to North Korean diplomatic passport holders.
There are many international treaties, a majority of countries have strict wildlife crime laws and there are enough prosecutors and justice systems in place. Yet governments and national authorities are failing to enforce these laws, as corruption becomes systemic in a country.
Hunting during colonial times has also taken its toll on the rhinos and hunting practises of today of these animals can be seen as cruel and unsustainable. It is also a very elitist market with strong opinions about sustainable conservation methods. ( I think I need to learn more about conservation methods, its history as well as the environmental narrative.
A few days ago I came upon above shown news about a rhino hunting expedition of Pres Rooseveld that made the New York Times. At the time of this hunt, the Northern White Rino was on the brink of extinction. The Smithsonian-Rooseveld Expedition or 1909 -10 has a popular exhibit of these animals in the National Museum of Natural History.