Poaching © EMRSTPoached Rhino © Hagen Denker
Black Rhino - poached and brutally mutilated because of its horn

What is poaching? It can be summarised as the indiscriminate, uncontrolled and illegal killing of game animals for “commercial” use. The top photo depicts a black rhino, that unfortunately fell victim to poachers in the Erongo Mountain Nature Sanctuary (EMNS) area in 2018 (on the black market rhino horn fetches a price per kilogram of up to 50 000 US$)

Poaching has nowadays sadly become the order of the day and the protection from it is becoming more and more difficult, as also the poachers become ever more sophisticated. Anti-poaching efforts are always a costly affair (for example patrols on foot, by car or air; equipment for game rangers, trail cameras, electrification of
EMNS perimeter fence and much more) and financial support in form of donations (also material donations) are necessary and always welcome. More about this here or on the website of the EMRST Support Organisation.

LogoFörderverein © Förderverein des EMRST

Poaching can be classified into three categories:
1. Highly specialised professional syndicates with good contacts in many areas of nature conservation, who mainly focus on rhino horn (and on ivory in other parts of the country).
These Syndicates often have informants who advise where rhino are found in an area, and the poachers then target specific animals to ensure that they can leave the area again quickly. The rhino is normally followed and killed by the poachers in the afternoon so that the horns can be removed in the safety of darkness; the rest of the animal is left to rot.

Poached Rhino - Full © Hagen DenkerRhino with snare on neck © Solveigh Thude
A young black rhino cow with a snare around the neck; fortunately this was noticed in time and the snare was successfully removed

2. Groups of poachers who poach in areas close to main roads at night time, using dogs and spears/ rifles to bay and kill Oryx (Gemsbok), Hartebeest or Warthog to then sell the meat.
These groups are dropped off by a car on main roads close to the outskirts of the EMNS area at night (usually around full moon or towards the end of the month) to then chase and bait game with a pack of dogs; the animal is then killed (with a spear or rifle). The meat is carried back to the road and loaded onto the called car to be sold.
Apart from this of course being illegal, the pack of dogs cause a lot of disturbance in game populations, as well as the killing being detrimental to populations.

Investigating scene of poaching © EMRST
Investigation at a scene of poaching - an oryx was poached

Poacher with meat © EMRSTPoachers' meat and bags © EMRST
Poacher with his “quarry”

3. Poachers who put out snares in game trails in remote quiet areas; usually Mountain Zebra or Oryx step into these snares and then either die an agonising death or are killed by the poachers.
In remote inner areas of the EMNS that are not controlled by Anti-poaching units constantly, poachers placing snares (trappers) are at work. They position snares of steel or cable wire in several game trails leading to a waterhole for example. One end of the snare is tied to a strong shrub or bush, the snare itself is placed on a metal plate - star-cut in the middle - above a hole in a game trail and then covered with newspaper and sand. Game animals that move along the trails step through the snare and star-cut in the metal plate into the hole, causing the metal plate to get lodged above the hoof. This prevents the snare from slipping off; the animal now tries to get rid of the plate and thereby tightens the snare around its leg (see also the photo series below). The animal cannot escape and dies a slow death or is eventually killed by the poachers who check the snares every few days.

Photo series illustrating how snares function
How snaring works © Hagen Denker How snaring works © Hagen Denker How snaring works © Hagen Denker How snaring works © Hagen Denker How snaring works © Hagen Denker

Snaring is completely indiscriminate and often several animals are in different snares simultaneously, resulting in “too much” meat being available for the poachers and many of the tormented animals are simply left to rot. Every now and then especially Hartmann’s Zebra can free themselves by either breaking the snare or ripping their hoof off. In both cases the zebra sooner or later ends up on three legs and slowly but surely dies of hunger.

Snared Oryx left to rot © Hagen Denker Snared Hartmann's Zebra left to rot © Hagen Denker
Oryx and Hartmann’s Mountain zebra snared and left to rot by poachers

Example of the result of snaring: badly infected or severed hooves
Infected Oryx foot with snare © Hagen Denker Infected Hartmann's Zebra foot with Snare © Hagen DenkerInfected Hartmann's Zebra foot with Snare © Hagen DenkerInfected Hartmann's Zebra foot with Snare © Solveigh Thude

Cheetah in snare © Hagen Denker
Cheetah caught in snare in EMNS perimeter fence