Rhino poachers pay a stiff price for their crime

There’s very good news out of South Africa as two poachers were sentenced to 29 years each for their roles in killing rhinos in South Africa’s world-famous Kruger National Park.

This news is important for more than just the removal of two poachers who sought to profit from the death and suffering of an animal.

First, the length of these sentences shows the judiciary in South Africa is waking up to the realisation that wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that costs lives, ruins biodiversity and undermines the law and must be punished with strong sanctions. For too long, international criminal syndicates have viewed wildlife trafficking as a high-reward, low-risk endeavour and have acted with impunity.

The length of the sentence is in shocking contrast to two men in Hong Kong SAR of China caught smuggling ivory who received a few pitiful months in prison.

IFAW works extensively with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme to bring these criminals to justice, but without stiff penalties like those seen in South Africa, there will be new poachers ready to take the place of those who were arrested. The prospect of 29 years behind bars will make people think twice before engaging in wildlife trafficking.

Check out this video on INTERPOL’s Operation Worthy, which was also featured in a BBC documentary.

The other reason this sentencing is so positive is that the men were also charged with weapons offences. This indicates at least that there is growing cooperation amongst the law enforcement agencies in South Africa. If we are going to stop poachers and traffickers it will only be through cooperation between customs officers, wildlife rangers, police forces and, in some cases, the military. That’s why IFAW funds training sessions that promote interagency cooperation. We introduce colleagues to one another to build a network capable of taking on these international criminal syndicates.

Here is a short film of a training session held in Botswana last year.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy