By Jamie Joseph
Saving the Wild is the only environmental organization based in South Africa whose mandate is to pursue high level targets and expose the corruption enabling rhino poaching.
Our intelligence driven operations are funded by just a handful of philanthropists and organizations, and we cannot thank our donors enough for believing in us these past three years – for believing that we can take on the most powerful and corrupt, and we can win. Corruption is the number one factor enabling this decade long bloody crisis, and corruption can be beaten.
Our proudest achievement so far, and a historic victory for South Africa’s natural heritage and human rights, was the fall of the ‘Blood Rhino Blacklist’, an “alleged” KwaZulu Natal syndicate of magistrates and lawyers who had for many years been taking bribes on rhino poaching cases predominantly, but also rape and murder.
We share this milestone with the unsung heroes in this crisis; the men and women who have risked both their jobs and their lives by providing us with sensitive information in the pursuit of justice. High risk yields high reward, as we will see in 2019 with the law now providing a deterrent to poachers in KZN. But the true test of justice will be the trials of the rhino poaching kingpins, who up until recently remained untouchable.
Saving the Wild will be actively involved in all three kingpin trials in 2019. It is critical that the chord is cut between the African syndicate bosses and the Asian illegal trafficking networks. We all have to hold the line until the demand is stopped in China and Vietnam, so that when the battle is won, there are still rhinos roaming wild in Africa.
Police corruption enabling rhino poaching: 2018 and beyond…
The crooked cabal of justice officials Saving the Wild exposed no longer have the power to stuff their pockets with fists full of cash and celebrate bribes with bottles of Hennessey. But it’s not enough. Criminal charges must follow, and a concern right now is that those who pursue justice will be targeted, as ex Hawks hero rhino cop JP Roux was targeted for being so effective in arresting poachers and high level criminals in Zululand.
“This needs to be known. This man – JP Van Zyl-Roux – is my friend and trusted colleague with whom I am proud to have worked on many occasions. His dedication to bringing down poachers is beyond question. He has put away a lot of bad people in his time, and saved countless rhinos in the process. A few years ago he was honoured by the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation for an “Outstanding contribution and unwavering commitment towards Wildlife Conservation”. One can only wonder why a top cop like this has been taken off duty? Just how high does the corruption go? JP, you have my full support and trust. Strength to you and may justice prevail.”
– Dr Dave Cooper, Wild Vet
“Deeply entrenched corruption eliminates a threat. JP Roux is a man of integrity, who’s efforts went far beyond the call of duty, and who’s hard work with an excellent team brought RESULTS. A damn fine policeman taken on a witch hunt to get him out of the system.”
- Stop Rhino Poaching
There is a direct correlation between the 2016 suspension of ex Hawks Police Detective JP Roux and the horrific spike in rhino poaching in Zululand.
Saving the Wild’s legal fund continues to support JP through his appeal after he was dismissed from the police on trumped up charges in November 2017, but our lawyers continue to hit walls as the bargaining council is indefinitely obstructive in providing us with a set down date for arbitration. Until we fill the void left by JP, until the police in the KwaZulu Natal province start tackling organized crime making millions from poaching, a lot more rhinos will die.
For example, at the start of this year, Saving the Wild tried to motivate undercover operations that would have led to the arrest of a Zululand syndicate boss, but the operation was blocked. On a few occasions since we have passed on valuable information regarding internal corruption, and no action has been taken against these individuals.
JP Roux was the mastermind behind the 2014 takedown of Dumisani Gwala, arrested for dealing in rhino horn and attempted murder of a police officer. And under the helm of Saving the Wild, for the first half of 2018, JP was free to concentrate most of his efforts on the takedown of the alleged kingpin of Kruger, Petros Sydney Mabuza, aka “Mr Big”. Saving the Wild played a critical role in the 12 June arrest of Mabuza, headed up by Hawks Police Colonel Johan Jooste. In short, the bad cops in the Hawks were able to push JP out, but the good cops brought him back in for the ground breaking arrest of Mabuza.
Immediately following the High Court decision to grant Mabuza bail (transcripts have since mysteriously gone missing), Saving the Wild published an explosive story, Rhino mafia, dirty cops, garnering the attention of members of Parliament.
In Kruger and surrounding areas, the police corruption is at an unprecedented level, thus why the special operations team selected for the Mabuza take down came from outside of the Mpumalanga province/Kruger area.
Our patience has now worn out, and we are preparing for phase two. A key focus area for Saving the Wild in 2019 is to further expose the police corruption enabling rhino poaching and motivate the South African government to tackle this endemic.
WATCH VIDEO: Hawks Police take down of Kruger kingpin “Mr Big” supported by Saving the Wild
And if any of our allies in the police or justice department are targeted for exposing corruption, we will do everything in our power to support them in this uphill battle, and ensure we ALL finish what we started.
“The Colonel wants to catch a really big fish. A godfather, who alone, controls two thirds of the poaching in Kruger.”
-Rhino Dollars documentary
“He’s got policemen in his pocket, because he’s got money. He’s got people from Kruger National Park in his pocket, because he’s got money. He’s got people here working for him, because he’s got money. We cannot risk people driving around because something suspicious and they will phone him. Done, it’s over, it’s gone.”
-Hawks Police Briefing, 12 June 2018
Court battles: Rhino poaching kingpins in the crosshairs
Kingpins running rhino poaching syndicates have their fingers in many crime pots. This includes drug trafficking, car hijacking, cash in transit, gun running and assassinations. When we take down any of the kingpins, the win is far greater than any one police docket.
Saving the Wild has a footprint in Zululand, home to the highest density of rhino in the world, and Kruger, with the highest population of rhino.
Our legal fund coupled with our intelligence network is a unique fighting machine designed to take on organized crime and dismantle syndicates.
We have assisted in many rhino poaching arrests this year, but we very rarely share common poacher arrests with the public as it’s not a win for us unless there is a meaningful conviction. We live in a crazy world, and because rhino horn is such a valuable commodity (even though it’s nothing but keratin), unlimited poachers are willing to kill for it, and die for it. The war on rhino will only be won when we are able to disrupt the syndicates, and that is why most of our energy and funding is focused on the most difficult battle of all.
GWALA: For the first time in the battle to save the last of the rhinos, we have a real chance at seeing a poaching syndicate boss convicted. More than four years after his arrest in December 2014, and a slew of at least 25 delays, the trial of the alleged rhino poaching kingpin of Zululand, Dumisani Gwala, will take place in the first quarter of 2019. Magistrate Zungu has made it crystal clear she will not accept any more delay tactics. We are finally heading into a fair trial, and Gwala can no longer buy his way out.
MABUZA: Saving the Wild was in the frontline of the 12 June 2018 Hawks Police arrest of alleged Kruger kingpin Petros Sydney Mabuza aka “Mr Big”. He was denied bail on 6 July, and then in a greased lightning turn of events, he was granted bail in the High Court just ten days later on 16 July. And then the court transcript “mysteriously” went missing!
NYALUNGA: On 18 September 2018, Mabuza was arrested again, this time alongside “alleged” rival kingpin Joseph Nyalunga aka “Big Joe”. Both were granted bail on 2 November – even though both were already out on bail for rhino poaching related charges and are a serious threat to witnesses.
On 22 November, Saving the Wild launched a R50 000 reward campaign across Mpumalanga province newspapers for information leading to the arrest of any magistrate conspiring with rhino poaching syndicates.
The best chance we have at seeing the alleged Kruger kingpins go to trial is if the state appeals the bail judgement in the High Court next month.
If Mabuza and Nyalunga were to stay out on bail indefinitely then this court case would drag on for many years, or be thrown out under suspicious circumstances, and the blow to the remaining rhino population would be catastrophic. We have faith in the state prosecutors that they will do everything in their power to set the record straight.
Families are being destroyed
Saving the Wild receives our information direct from the source, thus why it was our informer (accompanied by an undercover Hawks Police agent) who sold one rhino horn to “Mr Big” for a sum of R280 000 (US$20 000) on 12 June 2018. (the second horn Mabuza arrogantly insisted he would just take because it was too small) Rhino poachers might start out in poverty, but soon they want the new TV, and the new car, drugs and prostitutes. They bring HIV and disease into their families, they beat their wives and their children. The circle of violence begins with one rhino, and it never ends, unless we, as a global community, put an end to it. This human cost of war will be high up on the agenda in a 2019 Rhino Summit to be initiated by Saving the Wild and driven by global icons and influencers that can bring real change.
Donations and areas Saving the Wild supports
Saving the Wild paid out NZ$27 446 in donations this financial year. This includes:
- Supporting wildlife investigators in Zimbabwe (elephants and pangolins)
- Insurance policy: Veterinary work to save the rhino gene pool
- Insurance policy: Translocation work to save the rhino gene pool
Photo credit: Saving the Wild | Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe – elephant and pangolin poachers hit with mandatory nine year jail sentences
Saving the Wild began supporting operations into Zimbabwe at the start of 2018, coinciding with the fall of the Mugabe regime, and the results have been stunning.
Just on the operations we support – and not including December which is proving to be our best month this year – there have been 32 arrests for possession of ivory, of which 12 accused have already been convicted to nine years in jail!
There have also been 16 arrests for possession of pangolin, of which six accused have already been convicted to nine years in jail!
There has been a lot less incursions and poaching in Zimbabwe this year, especially since the last week of March when former first lady Grace Mugabe was exposed for allegedly smuggling ivory.
And in stark contrast to South Africa, there is a nine year mandatory sentencing for endangered wildlife crimes. This is the game changer! It is being enforced, and court proceedings are being monitored. The law is acting as a deterrent; game changer.
It takes months and years to unravel a syndicate, and Zimbabwe is in many ways starting from scratch without interference from the Mugabe dictatorship. And we are right there, right at the beginning of this ‘New Zimbabwe’, and so when the new players of organized crime do raise their heads, we’ll be there, waiting for them.
Congratulations to everyone in the New Zimbabwe taking big steps forward even amidst the chaos of currency and fuel shortages. National Geographic Traveller magazine just this month listed Zimbabwe in the ‘top 10 must see destinations for 2019’, because the effort is worth it.
Zimbabwe is home to some of the last great wild places on earth, and we must protect these wild wonderlands, against all odds.
Pangolin is the most trafficked mammal on the planet. Photo by Joel Satore | Photo Ark
The total revenue raised for the year ending June 2018 was $186 158 New Zealand Dollars, with a small deficit of NZ$3300. Saving the Wild is a registered New Zealand charity with tax exemption status. (Registration no CC52014) The work speaks for itself, and we are incredibly proud of our team for punching above their weight. But it’s never enough, because the hardest part about what we do is making a conscious decision over who lives and who dies.
Do we run an intelligence operation that will save a pangolin, or do we save a rhino? In South Africa, I choose the rhino every time, and every time another piece inside of me dies.
Saving elephants in Zimbabwe is so much easier than saving rhinos in South Africa, but rhinos are much closer to extinction. Do we expand in Zimbabwe, or do we spend the largest majority of our budget saving the last of the rhinos?
I have to believe that the battle to save our vanishing wildlife won’t always be this tortuous and heart wrenching. And again, we thank our donors for their very generous, much needed and appreciated support.
STATEMENT OF ACTIVITIES IN NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS – CHARITY NUMBER CC52014 (Tax exemption status)
For year ended 30 June 2018 – Read full financial report on the New Zealand Charities website.
Less than 1% of donations received come through social media channels, and the majority of Saving the Wild’s funding is philanthropic; a handful of successful entrepreneurs who understand the gravity of losing the war on corruption. Funding the crusade against corruption was never going to be easy, and if it weren’t for a few individuals, Saving the Wild would not exist. It’s a daunting thought, but we believe if we continue to produce results our philanthropic base will continue to grow.
For donations of US$500 or more, Saving the Wild has a 501c3 US fiscal sponsor, meaning 100% of donations go to Saving the Wild. And thus for US donors, the donations are tax deductible.
We are also exploring social enterprise partnerships, and this will start to bloom in 2019.
Rhino Summit 2019:
Saving the Wild appreciates the support of global icons and some of the most influential people in the world; the likes of Helen Clark and Dr Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson and Vusi Mahlasela, ‘the voice of South Africa’. In April of this year, ten celebrity activists signed our Open Letter to the South African Government, demanding that action be taken against our ‘Blood Rhino Blacklist’. Three days later it was front page news across the country and this was the turning point in the battle for justice.
We have now proven a systematic web of corruption, that for many years rhino poachers have been getting away with murder. For 2019, we are working on a Rhino Summit with one outcome being a minimum sentence for rhino poaching crimes – this will eliminate the risk of bribery in the future and prove that South Africa’s President Ramaphosa and his government is serious about stopping the rot.
South Africa has deemed the rhino crisis a national priority, with countless jobs in the tourism sector at risk. And yet the men who run these syndicates never ever go to jail.
Top of the agenda will be to eliminate the kingpins.
Gone, but never forgotten
South Africa is home to 80% of the rhino population with less than 20 000 white rhinos left worldwide, and as little as 2500 black rhinos. Up until the point where the alleged Kruger kingpins “Mr Big” and “Big Joe” were granted bail on 2 November, we really felt in the second half of this year that we were finally turning the tide on rhino poaching, with them behind bars, and Gwala’s trial in Zululand inching closer to starting.
When the rhino poaching figures for 2018 are released it will show a decline, but it’s not enough. To save a species, we have to continue to do that which has never been accomplished before; harder, faster, better. We have to kick the hell out of the big bully corruption, and we are so incredibly grateful to every person who is supporting us through this gruelling, dangerous and draining battle.
We are just one cog in the wheel, and the wheel of justice turns slowly. Every day we borrow courage from those around us; vets racing to save the survivors bleeding to death, the orphanages raising rhino babies traumatized from seeing their mother butchered before their eyes. And conservation groups that go to great lengths to raise funds so that rangers are properly equipped and trained to fight the enemy.
And to the rangers out there, working in hellish conditions, our brave angels on the frontline and beyond, we are all so proud of you.
“A rhino is sacred to Zulus – ubhejane – it’s a praise name given to the King. I’ve realized, with most things in life, it’s about representation. I am here, and present, to speak out for the rhinos. And I hope others will join me. I am a global child, and I am Zulu. Be part of the change, interject, reflect, and be proud of your culture.”
-Toya Delazy, Zulu Princess, international recording artist