Newsweek

Why Are Black Poachers Hunted as Much as Their Prey?

Should we be saving the rhinos or the poachers driving them to extinction? The answer is not as easy as you might think.
Rangers Rob Thompson and Don English with suspected rhino poachers at Kruger National Park in South Africa, on November 7, 2014.
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Updated | Scene 1: Dawn, a private lodge in South Africa. Ten guys from New York’s Long Island, expensively armed and outfitted, head out into the bush to hunt the king of beasts. Over nine days, 10 captive-bred and drugged lions are transported to a private reserve and then released to stumble around in habitat they’ve never seen before.

The hunters head out in jeeps, then climb trees, so they can aim down with high-powered automatic weapons at the disoriented animals. Terrified by the flying bullets, the lions—still doped-up and accustomed to being fed by humans since birth—panic. They cower against fences or squeeze into warthog burrows, but there really is no place to hide. Soon, each of these white Americans will have a trophy lion head to bring back to the USA. And the worst injuries they will have suffered for their efforts are sunburn and a hangover.

Scene 2: Moonlit night, outside Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest public game reserve. Two black men slink through tall buffalo grass on the trail of a rhino. One shoots, the massive beast falls, and the shooter’s partner rapidly slices off its horn. The two men then flee on foot, leaving behind a grotesquely mutilated but possibly still living rhino. That horn will net enough money to buy a car and TV, as well as send their children to high school. And so they run, racing through grasslands where hippos and elephants frequently kill foraging humans, as lion and leopard prowl behind rocks. Their goal: getting over one of the great fences that delineate public and private land before white mercenary soldiers with night-vision goggles hunt them down and kill them.

$3,000 per Pound

The billboards start appearing miles from Kruger park: “Poachers will be poached.” For illiterate poachers, another sign announces, “Dehorned zone,” with a picture of a living rhino without its horn. (Some private game owners remove rhino horns to deter poaching.)

The iconic Big Five animals trophy hunters covet are lion, rhino, elephant, Cape buffalo and leopard, but it is the endangered rhino that has

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