SABC: A voice for rhinos

Rhino poaching in Southern Africa is out of control, but there are people who work tirelessly in the field to try and fight what they call the war against poachers.

Two women have made it their life’s mission to inform the public about all aspects of the poaching crisis which is currently throwing the rhinos population into one of the worst declines in history.

In ten years time, we may never see a rhino in the wild again. Since 2010, South Africa has lost a staggering 5 600 rhinoceros to transnational organised crime.

South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s population of rhino but they are rapidly disappearing due to the Asian demand for their horn, fuelling poaching of the animals

Bonné de Bod and Susan Scott have been studying every aspect of the multiple layer crises facing the animal for over two and a half years and expect to release their ground-breaking documentary on the rhino crises, ‘Stroop’, meaning ‘Poached’ in early 2017.

de Bod says that it is their hope to be a voice and help educate the public before the species is completely lost.

“I want South Africans to be more involved and to take ownership. Rhinos are our heritage and they are desperately at stake. If we look back 10 years from now, this will be the turning point. Either we would have saved the species or we would have failed them and just have our memories of them in the wild.”

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Bonné de Bod explains that wildlife trafficking, inclusive of rhino poaching, has become one of the world’s largest transnational organised crime activities alongside the trafficking of humans, drugs and arms. Photo by Susan Scott / Stroop die film

She further explains that addressing the crises starts with changing the mindset of millions of people who are hundreds of miles across the ocean.

The Asian demand is fueled by superstition as people believe that consuming rhino horn can cure diseases and uplift status. There is no scientific or physical evidence to back this belief system up.

“I’ve seen it first hand when filming for Stroop in Asia. From a woman showing me first-hand how she consumes rhino horn to dingy little back rooms where illegal dealers trade with it, as well as interviewing oncologists, telling me that even though they do not believe that rhino horn can cure cancer, a lot of their patients do, and use a combination of chemotherapy and rhino horn.”

Back in South Africa, de Bod emphasises that a lot of poachers come from communities adjacent to the national parks.

Poachers from these communities are desperate for an easy buck due to tough economic times and the increasing Asian demand provides a source of funds through the illegal black market.

“In SA, it starts with poverty. At any given stage there are 15 gangs of poachers active in the Kruger Park. That’s quite a scary thought. The Kruger also borders Mozambique. So, you also have diplomatic issues between countries and then of course we have highly organized, very efficient syndicates operating between all these international borders taking advantage of these conditions.”

Stroop die film is a crowd funded project supported financially by the public.

According to de Bod, it is a film by the public, for the public.

“South Africans will go watch the film and know that they were part of creating this necessary awareness about a species facing extinction. We will release it in the cinema, but we are also aware that not everyone will be able to get to a cinema. So, it will also be released digitally and we will have outdoor screenings around the country.”

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In 2007, 13 rhinos were butchered for their horns, fast-forward to 2014 and over 1200 were slaughtered in one year alone.  South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s population with less than 19 000 left in the country. Photo by Susan Scott / Stroop die film

Most importantly, the film will be subtitled in Shangaan and Zulu and then taken to communities adjacent to the national parks.

de Bod emphasises that what makes this documentary different is that it takes a look at all aspects of rhino poaching.

“We look at the rangers, the men and women fighting on the battleground. We look at vets, researchers, scientists to understand how the forensic investigations process works. We work with the police, government to understand what is being done and what is not being done. We visit private rhino owners, the farmers; we look at orphan rehabilitation centres and then we take you straight to the world of the demand, Asia.”

For more information on how to help complete this documentary click here.

This article first appeared on SABC NEWS.