Giraffe Poachers Arrested by Big Life Rangers, Rombo, May 2011
There is nothing new about ''bushmeat'' in Africa. Tribes have been hunter-gathering for centuries. Hunting traditionally, they revere the animals they take and only kill what they need to feed their families.
Sadly, that’s all changed. Bushmeat has become a commercial industry. And after loss-of-habitat, the bushmeat industry is the single greatest reason for the decline of wildlife in Africa today.
Here in the Amboseli ecosystem, we have been fortunate in as much the Maasai culturally look at those who eat bushmeat with disdain. As a result of this, some of the strongest and most viable wildlife populations are still found in Maasailand.
Again sadly, we have witnessed a change. The tribes who live on the borders of the Maasai-dominated Amboseli ecosystem have demolished their wildlife. This, combined with an influx of migrant labor to farm on the shoulders of Kilimanjaro, has brought in the bushmeat cancer with a vengeance, making subsistence poaching fade into insignificance.
Poaching gangs can and have killed up to 15 animals in one night. No animal is safe, from dik dik, the smallest antelope in Africa, weighing only a few pounds, to the giraffe.
They are hunted in a multiple of ways: snares, bow and arrows, machetes, rifles. Poaching at night, poachers will blind the animals with bright spotlights, and use the opportunity to approach the frozen animals and hack through their legs with machetes. Prior to Big Life's intervention in the West Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania, rifles were used so effectively that trucks were being filled with Zebra and Wildebeest for sale in the butcheries of Arusha and Moshi.
In 2011, the Big Life Rangers caught and prosecuted 627 poachers and recovered 1300 poaching tools/weapins. We are keeping the lid on this industry within the ecosystem - poaching in the Big Life patroled areas has become a much more risky proposition these days, with a much greater chance of being arrested.
But we still lose animals to this trade. The poachers are becoming more professional, using cars, motor bikes, and mobile phones to out-maneuver us. As a result, we still have areas that are not covered with informer networks and ranger outposts, areas that urgently need protection.
Bushmeat Poacher Arrested by Big Life Rangers, Kimana, Oct. 2011