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Poaching The Poachers: Strategies From The War On Animals

The latest development from Kruger National Park is the possibility of moving approximately 500 rhino in an effort to stop the slaughter. Although no details are confirmed with this massive relocation, there is speculation that Botswana may be one of the destinations.

A previously translocated rhino, now in Oktavango Delta, Botswana. (via: floorhoorc.blogspot)

Botswana is one of a few countries who have adopted the controversial shoot-to-kill policy in answer to relentless poaching. There will always be arguments about whether or not it is an ethical solution. But does it work?

In Swaziland game rangers have permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on the monarch's land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances. Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Big Game Parks (BGP), which runs the major national parks in Swaziland on behalf of the King, holds a Royal Warrant to allow him to shoot-to-kill.

Reilly has said "Our guys aren't to be messed with. If they [poachers] come after rhino they're going to get hurt, and if he gets killed or maimed, well, you know, who's to blame for that?"

In the last 20 years, Swaziland has only lost 3 rhino to poaching.

Warning to poachers. (via Steve Toon)

In Kaziranga National Park, India, forest guards actually receive a cash bonus to their salary if they successfully wound and kill a poacher. Furthermore, the forest guards will not be prosecuted for the shooting, whether in self-defense or as a pro-active ambush or attack. As a result, Kaziranga has lost 20 rhino so far this year, and a total of 20-40 have been poached every year since 2005.

The issue of indemnity for armed wildlife guards is an important one for many field programs, whose staff risk being caught up in lengthy court cases and even prison, while acting in the line of duty.

Indian Rhino in Kaziranga National Park. (via: thehindu.com)

Zimbabwe has enacted shoot to kill. Their results? There were 20 rhino poached in 2013 and 60 in 2012. This was a drop since their record high of 84 in 2008.

Tanzania had a shoot-to-kill policy for a short time. It was proving to be extremely effective.

Soldiers, police, game rangers and forestry officers had been involved in a month-long crackdown on poachers, code-named Operation Terminate, in October. But the operation was suspended after an inquiry by MPs uncovered a litany of arbitrary murder, rape, torture and extortion of innocent people. Still, officials admit, elephant deaths have risen dramatically since the government abandoned the policy against poachers.

The deputy minister of natural resources and tourism in Tanzania, Lazaro Nyalandu said 60 elephants were butchered in November and December, compared with just two in October.

Although shoot-to-kill is not fool-proof, as the most greedy of poachers will poach; it does convey the strongest stance possible in a countries' willingness to stop the slaughter of our wildlife. If Botswana is indeed the recipient of Kruger's rhino, maybe their shoot-to-kill hardline stance on poachers will finally stem the blood flow.