Julian Rademeyer, investigative journalist and author of Killing for Profit, said that rhino poaching should not just be looked as destruction to the environment but also as a branch of organised crime in the country.
“It touches on our ability to combat organised crime,” said Rademeyer, who was speaking at this year’s Think!Fest programme.
He said that numbers of rhinos that are poached in South Africa continue to rise as the kingpins of the trade live a life of luxury in Vietman and China. South Africa has lost more rhinos in the past four and a half years than it did in 27 years.
The most notorious of these kingpins, Vixay Keosavang, has been described as the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking. Rademeyer said that all evidence of smuggling lead to him but he is not arrested since Lao denies its involvement in the trade.
Rademeyer said that the killings began after the country gave away hunting licenses to Vietnamese who killed rhinos as their trophies. These rhinos are killed for their horn which is said to be worth about US$60 000.
What the horn is used for is just as controversial as the trade itself. Rademeyer said that there are myths that it cures cancer and that it works as an aphrodisiac. “It is also used as a hangover cure and more people are using it for that reason,” he said.
Rademeyer explained that some of the people who bankroll poaching operations are rhino horn collectors who are banking on the extinction of the rhino species.
As for the solution to rhino poaching, Rademeyer said that legalising the trade in rhino horns might be a late call at this stage. To get the law passed that will legalise the trade will take a few years which the rhinos could be extinct by then.
He explained that until poverty is dealt with in the corridor between South Africa and Mozambique, poaching will continue because the people who live in these areas will always be willing recruits as the only source of income.
Listen to Rademeyer’s presentation here: Julian Rademeyer