Director’s Note | Jamie Joseph
The past 12 months has seen Saving the Wild expand our mandate of supporting wildlife investigators, pursuing high level targets and eradicating corruption enabling wildlife poaching. In the race against extinction, we feel it is our duty to contribute towards the protection of the diminishing gene pool of the black rhino and the last great tuskers, and enable safe havens for these iconic species.
South Africa, Zululand
The trial of the alleged kingpin of Zululand, Dumisani Gwala, finally began in April after more than 30 delays and seven attorney changes. Frustratingly, the defense of co-accused Makeba is claiming that she does not have any full week blocks available in her calendar until October, and so the Court is having to squeeze out two or three days at a time. Trial continued on 20 and 21 June and will continue in August.
TimesLive court reporting by Tony Carnie, 25 April 2019
Gwala, currently represented by attorney Zwelonke Ngwenya who was sporting a neck-tie bearing the pattern of a US$100 bank note, pleaded not guilty to 12 charges relating to attempted murder; resisting arrest and either buying, possessing or attempting to trade rhino horns illegally.
Zululand Observer court reporting by Muzi Zincume, 24 June 2019
“…the best way to tackle the scourge of rhino poaching was through the use of undercover operations because it was difficult to depend on police road blocks owing to the corruption of some police officers within the system.”
“…undercover agents made two successful transactions with the accused, Dumisani Gwala, between November and December 2014.”
South Africa, Greater Kruger
In the case of alleged Kruger rhino poaching kingpin Mabuza aka “Mr Big”, arrested on 12 June 2018, where Saving the Wild was involved in the take down, the case has been postponed to 28 June 2019 in order for the State to furnish the defense with copies of the docket, indictment and High Court date.
In the case of Mabuza aka “Mr Big” and rival alleged kingpin Nyalunga aka “Big Joe”, both arrested in September 2018, alongside other alleged syndicate members, the case has been postponed to 28 June so that the National Director of Public Prosecutions can issue a certificate authorizing that the accused be charged with racketeering.
South Africa, Zululand
One of the many horrific effects of poaching are the rhino calves left behind after their mothers have been savagely killed.
Saving the Wild is supporting the wellbeing of four black rhino orphans under the care of African Wildlife Vets, with Dr Dave Cooper at the helm. We have donated enough funds to keep them well fed for the next few months. The ultimate goal is to see these precious babies relocated to safe havens and contribute towards the long-term protection of the black rhino gene pool.
South Africa, Kruger
Through funds donated to Saving the Survivors founded by Dr Johan Marais, Saving the Wild is supporting the rehabilitation of a Kruger female black rhino affectionately known as Goose. Based on her severe injury, she may have been shot in the foot by poachers. At best, we would like to see Goose walk back into the wild, and with less than 4000 black rhinos left in Africa, we are hoping for a healthy offspring.
Thomas D. Mangelsen is committed to this cause and has created a 16 image Saving the Wild Collection – donating half of all proceeds to Saving the Wild. This is Tom’s rarest collection ever – with only five prints per image – and it is from this collection and from using ‘art as a force for good’ that the Mangelsen Black Rhino Fund was born.
Saving the Wild is teaming up with Saving the Survivors – the vets behind some of the most daring rescues of injured rhinos – and together we have identified key projects, and individual rhinos who will benefit from the Mangelsen Black Rhino Fund. This includes the next black rhino to be saved from butchering poachers and the next baby rhino orphan who has two years of rehabilitation and growing up to go through before being released back into the wild.
Mozambique: Wildlife investigations near the Kruger border
Saving the Wild has recently started supporting wildlife investigations in Mozambique. This is a multi-faceted approach where we are also funding legal watching briefs on upcoming high profile rhino poaching cases – because arrests mean very little without convictions! Due to the sensitivity of this work, and the intimidation inflicted by syndicates, we are not in a position yet to discuss this project.
Zimbabwe: Wildlife investigations in the Zambezi Valley / Northern Region
Saving the Wild is one of the supporters of a joint venture committed to law enforcement in the fight against wildlife trafficking in the Zambezi Valley / Northern Region of Zimbabwe.
The highlights given below are the result of collaboration between a consortium of conservation organizations and organs of The State.
There has been a sharp decline in arrests this year compared to last year. One reason is that a number of the seasoned poachers are now either behind bars or going through the legal processes that will hopefully result in them being locked up. Another reason is that those still out there operating, both poachers and dealers, are now a lot more cautious about how they operate and who they deal with.
Given the successes we had last year, this was bound to be the case. The aim is to make it as difficult as possible for both the poachers and dealers to operate, and while there is always room for improvement, the risk factor for poachers has increased substantially.
Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Northern Region Overview 2018/19
There were 68 cases across a range of wildlife crimes, 51 of which have been concluded. 139 individuals were arrested in connection with these cases, 25 of whom, to date, have received the maximum nine year sentence for offences involving specially protected species.
2019 Overview to date
There have been three ivory cases so far this year involving seven individuals, with two receiving nine year prison sentences. There have been three other “protected species” cases (pangolin/python) in 2019 involving five individuals. Of the five, two have been sentenced to nine years. Persistent follow up on a 2016 ivory incident has resulted in a nine year conviction of an individual.
Nearly all of these cases have come about as a result of intelligence work of a few dedicated people. Members of the police, Minerals Flora and Fauna unit, and elements of Parks investigations are to be commended for their courageous work. There is no doubt that this initiative has been a major contributing factor to the sharp decline in elephant poaching across the Northern region.
Kenya: Wildlife investigations and protection of the tusker gene pool
Saving the Wild first started working with Big Life Foundation in 2015 when our focus was purely advocacy, writing stories from the field, and sharing solutions to the poaching crisis. We saw this pioneering Kenyan non-profit as a blueprint for conservation. Big Life makes sure that wildlife is generating revenue streams for the community, recognizing as far back as three decades ago that solving poverty saves wildlife.
The environmental organization has gone from strength to strength over the years, expanding their anti-poaching frontline with highly successful wildlife investigations in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service.
The year 2019 is the year Saving the Wild comes full circle. We are financially supporting wildlife investigations in four countries now, joining the dots, and funding the kind of work that is often the least funded yet makes a huge difference in tackling the illegal wildlife trafficking networks.
And with Big Life Foundation the scope is much wider than wildlife investigations and the protection of the tusker gene pool. We’re so blown away by all the work they do, we could write a book about it!
We need to get back to writing stories that shine a light at the end of the tunnel, and share solutions that can scale and replicate right across Africa.
Saving the Wild is back in the field from 28 June working in a remote area with very limited access to wifi. We won’t have the bandwidth for Facebook, but we might be able to post a few updates to Instagram. We will be back online from August with in depth reporting from the field.