This is CSI Africa!

Jasper* doesn’t know the faces of the men he hunts; he recognises them from the soles of their shoes.
He gathers shoe prints left in the dust, like other men collect stamps, or rare coins.
There is a whole database of them on his cellphone, photographed and stored alongside pictures of some of the rhinos the owners of those shoes have slaughtered.

Pelvis of a poached rhino, that lies on the other side of the Kruger fence. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Pelvis of a poached rhino, that lies on the other side of the Kruger fence. Picture: Chris Collingridge

There are the prints of the man who walks with his feet splayed like a duck. There is an assortment of footwear worn by the men who make their living killing in Kruger National Park.
It is not only their feet that tell their stories – it is also what is disregarded on the track.
He finds cigarette butts, the tins of fish they have eaten and the muti they have offered for a good hunt.
“Someone is supplying money or rations. This is organised, guys are recruited with firearms, food,” he says.
He also sees their cruelty.
“If the rhino has been wounded, they won’t use another bullet, they will use the hatchet to strike the rhino’s back to break its spine.”
The rhino will still be alive when poachers hack off the horn.
“The squealing must be horrendous.”
Often the eye of the rhino is also slashed, a superstition meant to ensure a future successful hunt.
Jasper is not alone: from Massingir in the north to close to the Lebombo border post to the south are people fighting the rhino war from the Mozambican side.
They are a thin line trying to plug a border that is over 150km long, trying to stop poachers before they reach Kruger.
Some are better equipped than others: they have anti-poaching teams that can mount patrols.
Others have to rely on the lackadaisical assistance of the Mozambican army and police.
This comes down to who has the best bush skills – trackers pitted against poachers. It is CSI Africa, the joke goes.
While there is co-operation between South Africans and the private poaching units, the complaint is with the Mozambican authorities.
“In Mozambique, poaching is usually just a misdemeanour,” says Tom Milliken of Traffic, which monitors the illegal trade.
*Not his real name

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
This entry was posted in journalism, Rhino poaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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