Rhino crisis – Declaration of WAR – letter to President Zuma

13 January 2012

WAR declared in South Africa –

A new, emergency civic coalition of several organizations with more than 20 000 members in total has been launched today to fight the massive scourge of rhino poaching facing our country: 

WARRIORS for AFRICAN RHINO (W.A.R.) – Media Statement – 13 January 2012:

Link to copy of official media statement in South Africa: 


 W.A.R. calls on President J.G. Zuma to declare the Kruger National Park and two adjoining provinces “disaster areas” to enable more state resources to urgently be mobilized.

Link to copy of official letter sent electronically to the President’s office at 16h45 on 13 January 2012:


LATE ADDITION to BLOG posted at 14h10 CAT – 14 January 2012:

WAR has formally written to The Hon. Edna Molewa, MP, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, ahead of her rather hurriedly-convened media briefing in Pretoria tomorrow (Sunday 15 Jan) centred around the rhino poaching crisis.

Our letter is self-explanatory and was sent electronically earlier via her head of departmental communications.

Herewith the link to the PDF file: 


Brian Sandberg

Durban. South Africa. 


23 Responses to “Rhino crisis – Declaration of WAR – letter to President Zuma”

  1. 1 Matthew Wallis
    January 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I’m so mad at these poachers, they’re worse than polluters, at least pollution can be helped……or dissipate over a long period. but the wondrous rhino, he and she also have the right to life and living, it should be a constitutional edict of animal rights in general……..we, humans might be quantitative but protected animals need to have a quality and guarantee bill of rights, otherwise it proves we are an uncaring and unfeeling nation simply cos they have 4 legs and we have 2.

    • January 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for your input, Matthew. I understand your anger.
      Tragically, we learned a couple of hours ago that another FOUR rhino have been found dead in Kruger National Park today.
      The Minister has a press conference on Sunday morning. We’ll be pushing for statements of real action.
      Enough JAW-JAW – it’s WAR-WAR !

  2. January 13, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Action on behalf of the rhino. Thank you W.A.R. – warriors for the african rhino.

    • January 14, 2012 at 6:01 am

      Thanks for the support, Chantelle.

  3. January 14, 2012 at 12:29 am

    28 Rhinos dead in 13 days its like the gates of hell has opened. I say shoot to kill these poachers 1 ranger was killed today on patrol poachers had AK47s they showed no mercy we must do the same to save Rhino Species ….

    • 6 beverley lippi
      January 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      Kill the poachers..its the only language they understand. WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR. Shame on this government ..the extinction of the rhino will be their legacy.

  4. January 14, 2012 at 12:43 am

    28 Rhinos dead in 13 days not a good way to start the new year , a decloration of war to save the Rhinoceros Species is a must we must be vigilant and proactive to win this war .

  5. 8 Sharon Dreyer
    January 14, 2012 at 8:21 am

    The situation is drastic, please step in as show the people of SA that our president is 100% behind protecting our wildlife resources for future generations. Please make us proud President Zuma

  6. 9 sue
    January 14, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Kill the bastards

  7. 10 Tessa Barlin
    January 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    This looks like a brilliant organization. Best of luck and I, along with so many others, support you fully and 100 percent. Without the committment of our government and the Chinese government, we can achieve nothing. I strongly feel the only way to put an end to this mass murder is to get the rhino poaching situation to the UN who can put an international ban on trade in rhino horn just like they did when the elephant poaching was getting bad.

  8. 11 Stella
    January 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    The meeting tomorrow is ONLY for the Media so we need to have all our Media friends there:
    You are invited to a briefing where the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs,
    Edna Molewa will address the media on measures aimed at addressing the scourge of rhino poaching and the way forward.
    She will take questions.
    When: Sunday, 15 January 2012 @ 10:00
    Where: Sheraton Hotel
    Corner Church and Wessels Street,
    RSVP essential:
    Secretariat – tel 012 804 5199 / 083 447 4864

  9. January 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Before we shoot the basterds lets cut ther horns and hands off, tie them to an ant hill for a week and if still alive Then Shoot them. They deserve sane treatment as they dish out!

  10. January 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    DON’T TRADE THE HORN, By Dr Bool Smuts

    I find the debate and clamour of those advocating the legalised trade of rhino horn in an attempt to protect the species rather concerning, whether advocated by Condon, Emslie, Player, Eustice, Fourie, Friedman, Muir, Jones, Mkhize or whoever.

    Attempts at personality cult worship or name calling play no part in the debate.

    The facts are:
    1. Since 1997 Southern African countries clamoured for ivory trade legalising and selling of stock piles (which they achieved in 2007). It is common cause that the outright ban on trade in ivory in 1989 resulted in a marked increase in the elephant populations, and yet when the clamour to allow stockpiles of ivory to be sold (and subsequently allowed – supposedly as once offs) since 1997 we have seen a massive concurrent rise in poaching and trade of ivory (- even poachers and ivory uncovered in Cape Town syndicates in Dec 2011). Thus not only did the stockpile sales not result in flooding the market as suggested by its promoters, it did not result in ivory prices coming down, they in fact went up ($200/kg in 1997 to over $800 in 2007!) and continue to skyrocket. This proves the point that should you create a market in endangered species products, you actually stimulate it both in demand and price, AND stimulate illegal trade with this opportunity created in the market. Besides, it is hard for consumers to know what is legal and what is not, particularly for ground up “penis enlarging” rhino horn dust. We all remember the 2007 sale of SA ivory (to Japan and China) that was complicit in this fuelling of the market and price, and now we see the Tanzanian government wanting approval to sell their stockpiles while their population of elephants are being decimated. (Selous and Mikumi have seen their populations almost halved in the space of only 3 years. It is common cause that the poaching of elephant is now again on the increase.) Is it really a coincidence that following immediately on the stockpile sales that the elephant population concurrently and especially immediately after the sale resulted in Tanzanian elephant population being decimated (this is also suspected elsewhere but the veracity of the elephant census data is not clear in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique for example.) I contend that the illegal poachers seized the moment to profit from the market activity and exploited the window of opportunity and with it the animals. The clamour to have rhino horn trade allowed flies in the face of the reality experienced with ivory. Wanting to appease or patronisingly help a specific community to “advance”, through the slaughter of a rhino for R960 000 fuels this trade, it fuels the demand (which seems insatiable) and is complicit in the upsurge of rhino poaching.

    2. There is some notion that attempts at a “Kimberly Process” stopped blood or corrupt diamonds. Did the Kimberley process do anything for Congolese, Ivorian Coast, Zimbabwean diamond controls? This will be another green washing exercise that support the trade in these species and some woolly notion would be created in the general public perception that all is now sorted out, “controlled” and well with rhino trade, and that “sustainability” has been achieved.

    3. Harping on about what happened in the late 1800s or the 1960s with conservation efforts of species and transposing it on the realities of today is farfetched to say the least. These romantic concepts when conservation was done by the rugged horseback riders that wrestled down rhino as they were darted with experimental drugs and thinking that you could flood a market is indeed ill conceived. The facts are that in the late 1800’s the world population was less than 2 billion, in the 1960s 3 billion and now 7 billion. To have a notion that you can flood this market, when the Asian human populations (reportedly making up the market for this species’ keratin) that is now more than the population of the world was in the 1960s, is indeed ill conceived.

    4. What is even more insulting is that when voices are raised to speak against this rabid trade now promoted they are somehow consigned to animal rightist views, which I guess is meant to be derogatory criticism. While animals have no rights in our constitution, we human have a right to a healthy environment and an obligation to act in a civilised fashion towards our natural world. There are many that believe animals should have rights, and certainly many that would agree that the “rhino (has) a particularly plaintive cry, which once heard is never forgotten”. Be that as it may, the debate here is not about animal rights, sentience of animals or even their welfare (although I believe it has merits to consider such), I believe it is about supply and demand, market opportunists, and the value of ecological integrity and how best to manage the resource. With humans being higher functioning beings (and it is doubtful and worryingly absent often) we should strive to be part of an ethical society. Trading in these animals and shooting them for some perverse joy has, in my opinion, no part in such an ethical society striving towards ecological sustainability. The rabid profit that a few white game farmers, the poachers and the parastatals now seek, is epitomised by the recent Dutch auction lottery of KZN Wildlife for a rhino (R960 000). This greed is ethically reprehensible in the light of the plight of the species globally.

    5. The latest assertion that rhino hunting should be allowed but “controlled” smacks of the rich and powerful and their hanger-ons (even in the conservation organisations) trying to get their hands on this lucrative trade and attempts to exclude the dispossessed. This is wholly unacceptable. So it is “all right” for rich landowners to shoot (or have shot) and kill a rhino to trade in it, but a poor poacher may not. This smacks of elitist control of a market. In my estimation a dead rhino is a dead rhino, whether shot by a poacher or a white and rich hunter. It is besides rather academic to suggest that this market can be controlled – no other market has effectively been controlled especially if run along a “legalised” trade route as is being suggested.

    6. Further too, KZN Wildlife sold 31 white rhinos on 31 October to the highest bidder. They averaged under R160 000 per animal but was happy about the money they now “have for conservation”. In December they got almost R1 million for a rich fella to shoot one of their rhinos for fun. They and their partners were happy about the money they “now have for conservation”. Rich, mostly fat, white game farm owners want in on this act. Lots of money can be made by selling horn on the legal trade at upto R400 000/kg (with between 5 -7 kg per horn). Do you really need to be a rocket scientist to know that it will open the flood gates to killing the rhino that you buy for between R160 000 (KZN October auction) to R960 000 (KZN December auction) to R0 if you are a poacher, and selling their dead horn the next day for between R2 million and R3 million. This is all supported by the opinion masquerading as fact that they can flood the market of over 3 billion people with a few stockpiled horns, resulting in an oversupply that will crash the price and result in a reduced demand. Even if you do crash the price and you get a paradoxical increase demand as it is now more and more affordable to a rabid small penis-ed populace of several billion, what then for this theory?

    7. I question the notion that it is only trophy hunting that resulted in the emergence of conservation areas and thus increased rhino numbers, not that you could really equate some game farms (nothing more than mono-cultured feedlot animals in many respects) with ecological units. It is indeed curious that this should be a mantra that is occupying vocal proponents of the trade, i.e. that hunting was the catalyst for the increase in rhino numbers alone. While hunting doubtlessly played some part in a previous era, the addition of non-consumptive conservation efforts probably has played a proportionately bigger role in population and range expansion than the much touted hunting obsession that is driven by greed and money, whether through “legal” or “illegal” hunting. The net effect is dead rhinos.

    8. Game farms: The advent of fences and micro reserves has way outlived their ecological shelf life for conservation. Fences were a necessary evil at a time of the romantic age of conservation in the 1960s. However today they are known to have caused many problems and are a decided hindrance to ecological processes and patterns when these reserves are based on ecologically unsustainable units. Tourism in the form of non-consumptive tourism is a far bigger asset than the ultimately consumptive hunting industry that wants to get its hands on the rhino trade and is inexplicably being promoted to some in the conservation sector. Let us not confuse thus monoculture or near monoculture harvesting operations with conservation!

    9. Comments such as “radical Animal Rights/Rhino Activists posing in many cases as bogus conservationists” is deeply troubling and alludes to cabals and old boys clubs with deep hidden knowledge and the exclusive right of existence and opinions. That cannot be correct. It stems from a high-handed arrogance from a time gone by. How the hunting of an animal that has some 14 000 – 24 000 (depending on whose figures you believe) of them left on earth by hunting them remains unexplained. The fact remains that rhinos are being hunted legally (at 220 – 250 per year with permits in SA), and another 420 – 450 without (depending whose data/opinion you look at) + add 20% undercount estimate = 750 to 800 lost per year. So legal hunting does take place already and has not stemmed the carnage. In fact, I believe it has fuelled the trade and made the upsurge in rhino killing possible as seen with elephants and the ivory trade. What is being called for by the rhino owners (now speaking with some conservation organisations!) is to throw this trade open and allow them into the trade of rhino horn. It is indeed a case of an industry wanting to financially profit from the final death tremor of a species.

    10. Those supporting the trade in rhino base it on two principle justifications:
    a. It is based on the supposed declared agenda of “raising funds for conservation efforts” and that this is achieved by creating value in the species through this trade,
    b. They justify the trade by suggesting they will flood the rhino horn market and thus stem the demand.
    These criteria appear on the face of it contradictory. The one basis is to promote increased value in the species, and the other to drive down the price and demand.
    The promoters of the rhino horn trade are less honest about the fact that it is principally about getting access to the money; particularly the private sector and it would appear some conservation partners. Their approach is a simplistic utilitarian approach of meeting their immediate need for cash to do “their” actions that they deem essential, i.e. satisfying their immediate simplistic needs, regardless of the means, or long-term and wide implications on the market and ecosystems and species communities. It hardly addresses (beyond wild theories that even goes against the experience of what happened with ivory) the greater market implications, the ethical issues and the more profound ecological implications for the system they promote. I believe the debate needs to mature and to get more sophisticated beyond the press sound bites.

    11. Name calling those opposed to legalising the trade in rhino as alternately “ego-activist; self-opinionated ego-activists blow their trumpets elsewhere; eco-ignorant non-conservation ideals; population explosion, supported by the Human Rights activists; idealists; living in a fairyland dream world; sentimentalists, monotonous, counter-productive, tirade about the “demise” of the regions plentiful white rhino; social media; lacking intelligence” leaves me cold and is rather obnoxious. The sudden disdain of the power of the social media is also interesting, is this fear or a recognition of its power, or just wanting to silence the voice of people.

    12. It is farfetched to suggest that merely because hunting took place since 1968, and that rhino numbers increased at this same time, that this has anything to do with hunting. What of the time when hunting took place over the preceding 200 – 300 years when their numbers were decimated. The cause and effect logic is deficient here and not necessarily rational. It was also a time of unprecedented ecological expansion of many non-consumptive use areas and public support of both species and ecological process conservation efforts.

    13. Even if the rhino populations are growing at 5% accross SA (increase of between 700 – 1200 per annum based on the baseline you are calculating and breeding from), we are losing between 5.7% and 3.3% (based on the same baseline estimates) already due to the current slaughter. Again it does not take a rocket scientist to realise that we are on the wrong side of probabilities, whatever those who want to get in on this act says.

    There is thus no valid CONSERVATION REASONS to encourage and support the legal or illegal trade in endangered species, never mind the ethical or market dynamics debated here above, or for that matter the ecological debate. I find it astonishing that conservation folk are hoodwinked into this rabid natural capital exploitation.

    • January 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      Thank you, Bool – and excellent incisive opinion of yours that I read on Zululand Wildlife eForum the other day and shared with a few friends.

      Anyone who is interested in these affairs MUST take the time to read and consider many of the valid issues raised in this post.

      • 15 MJ
        January 15, 2012 at 4:21 am

        A man of reason, whose only agenda is the preservation on a species..If we allow the powers that be to make this legal what species will be next.. Stand up Warriors and be counted.. They Rhinos have no voice but yours.
        Thank you for being so informative on this issue, Bool, we need your voice and research to be heard by all..

    • June 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Hi Guys

      As I keep receiving requests from all manner of people and sectors of society on my opinion to trade or not to trade (in rhino horn), I have spent many moons applying my mind as an anthropologist and conservationist to this debate. Furthermore, the Pro-trade fraternity is very well organised and have presented many well-researched and convincing arguments to support their stance. We have sat back and evaluated every article and motivation from this arena. Herewith my opinion and that of Transfrontier Africa:

      We are talking about a typical supply-and-demand scenario when discussing trading in rhino horn. There are a few facts that must be born in mind:

      1. We already trade in rhino horn (albeit illegal and via poaching) – as much as 5 per day.
      2. New end-user markets have developed – thereby increasing the demand on a daily basis.
      3. This is not just about CTM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) as was originally thought. it has become a status symbol in Vietnam and China to have an ornamental horn on display.
      4. Experiments in 1994 to introduce the Saiga Antelope horn as an alternative to rhino horn and accepted by the CTM Council. The species was reported to number almost 2.5 million. In the ensuing years, that population dwindled by 95% due to hunting pressure for their horns. Do we have that quantity of rhino?
      5. From the above example, the market is not only vastly bigger than the early 1990’s, but new end-users have begun to develop, making the sustainable use of rhino horn an impossibility.
      6. The report published by EWT, entitled “Position Statement on Legalising the International Trade on Rhino Horn” (April 2013) makes it clear that there is a plethora of systems that will have to be put into place before this option can be considered. The enforcement and regulation of horns leaving the borders of RSA is already uncontrollable and we must rely on a failing judiciary and enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance? Our track-record in the regulation of trade in wildlife products is not a good testimony to this. We do not think that the Republic of South Africa has the capacity to regulate and enforce the legal trade in rhino horn. Our borders are porous and controls lax.
      7. Lessons learned from the ivory trade ban and subsequent ad hoc relaxing of the ban shows that the markets demands cannot be met or saturated and demands grow as a result of supply.
      8. Further to the above, the ability of Southern African states within our SADC Region to monitor and regulate the legal trade in wildlife products is under serious debate. Illegal products cannot be distinguished from legally hunted or harvested products and we do not have the capacity within our judiciary to prosecute effectively.
      9. Traditional medicinal uses of wildlife products and other naturally occurring products have a higher value if harvested in the wild. Horns that are farmed will find a place on the market, but the demand for “wild horn” will always be there.
      10. There is no evidence to suggest that legalisation of trade in horns will assist in the curbing of poaching of wild rhino. The contrary has been advocated as the demand will increase and enforcement will become more difficult with the water muddied with legal or farmed horn.
      11. It has been well established that organised crime plays a substantial role in the illegal wildlife industry, not least of all the poaching of rhino horn. These syndicates have a modus operandi that is well known to criminologists. Any attempt to “flood or saturate” the market will only result in the syndicates purchasing and stockpiling the horns to regulate the price. This is old news and has been seen over and over again.
      12. There is no correlation between Rands per hectare and enforcement success on reserves and parks. Poachers prevail despite vast sums of money being invested in some parks and reserves. The reality is that the sale of horns to raise money to stop poaching is not going to help the cause. The rhino will be under more poaching pressure than before.
      13. Th anthropologist in me also sees a trend that we are too familiar with: The social decay that has set in in the local communities that engage with poaching activities; the longer we wait and debate the trade in horns, the more the poachers develop a false economy and standard of living in their communities. With the extra buying-power that they have, the more the entire community benefits. The poachers inevitably become “heroes” in their communities and poaching is not considered an anti-social activity. It is considered acceptable and eventually value systems shift. This might have already happened in the communities of Massingir, Chokwe and even Bushbuck Ridge, etc.
      14. When this happens, the “Tragedy of Commons” takes grip on the community.
      15. We are fooling ourselves if we think that it will stop at rhinos. When this commodity becomes scarce, the catch-per-unit-effort model predicts that the poaching communities will turn to the next high-value commodity. This might be elephant ivory, lion bones or TV’s and Hi-Fis or cars! The old adage of “crime breeds crime”.
      It is therefore our opinion that the trade in rhino horn is both unethical (from a social and economic perspective) and unjustifiable. As conservationists, we must be cognisant of the flaws in the structure of our society as well as that of our government.

      I further endorse the statement from Dr. Bool Smuts.

      Craig Spencer
      Director: Transfrontier Africa

  11. 17 Riette
    January 15, 2012 at 6:31 am

    Thank you Brian and all others who are involved.
    I pledge my allegiance to the group.

  12. January 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

    This is not just an African Crisis. Help is needed from IFAW, and the UN.
    However as long as we are open to trade with the east, our wildlife is at risk. Rhino and abalone poaching are priorities along with seal culling in Namibia. When the Asian tiger populations are finally extinct, lion parts will be in demand. Ivory trade has once again reared it’s hideous head. Close the Chinese, Japanese and other eastern markets down. Our own South African textile industry has already been destroyed! Our wildlife heritage is next!

  13. 19 Christa Venter
    January 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Maybe the sick individuals that de-horn the Rhino should suffer the same fate!

  14. 20 Garth Edwards
    January 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

    While I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by Dr. Smuts, attention must be drawn to his hypocritical name-calling, when he denounces such behaviour himself. The Chinese and Vietnamese do not believe that rhino horn itself leads to penis enlargement or sustained libido or increased virility. This was determined a long time ago. They do however, use the powdered substance as a component in hundreds of traditional medicines ranging from cures for the common cold to yes, there it is, sexual stamina.
    Also, he focuses his intellect(read hatred) on hunting as the only viable producer of rhino horn in a legalised market. Rhino horn, unlike elephant tusk, is a renewable `resource’ and one does not need to kill the animal to harvest it. This bears more thought from people such as him.
    He tries to pull the bleeding-heart, poor-downtrodden masses card but fails to justify how they should benefit from the profits of private enterprise if they have provided no input. Do we all expect, nay deserve, a slice of the cattle farmer’s pie?
    The people that are breeding rhinos for conservation, for hunting(I make the distinction), for eco-tourism, for personal profit and for pure pleasure are the one’s that should benefit from any financial gains made in the saving of the species. They are the one’s putting in the ground work.
    I do not refute that legalising the trade in rhino horn is unattractive because of the corruption that is inherent in man, but with the proper controls in place, it is certainly more feasible a solution than locking them away in bubble-wrap.

    • 21 Johan
      August 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Brilliant Garth Edwards! I agree with all you say. Smuts has some serious self-searching to do- the “fat, white land-owners” he refers to is exactly the kind of stock he himself comes from, and he is also now a land-owner of a farm which has now turned into lifestyle-property! I agree that the hunting of these animals must be placed on hold until poaching is under control. Trade of rhino horns harvested from live, registered animals should be legalized and controlled. Obviously, once trade is legalized, rhino prices will no longer be less than their horn value- basic economics, Smuts!

      • August 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm

        Johan – thanks for your comment.

        Clearly you have not read my recent blog –

        Nor my earlier writing …

        Nor perhaps my letter in Business Day recently, which sums up much of my thinking about trade and quotas –

        Once you’ve digested the various complex issues in play and formulated answers – or questions – I’m more than happy to chat further with you.

  15. 23 Tommy Du Preez
    January 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Hunt them down and shoot to kill they don’t deserve to live they need their horns cut out let the army do boarder patrol .we want the future generation to see the rhino.save save save

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