Drastic new measures are being taken at Kenya’s Borana nature reserve to protect vulnerable rhinos from poachers.
The reserve’s brought on a number of SAS-trained snipers who are there to protect the critically endangered rhino from hunters, who would slaughter the beasts for their valuable horns, reports Chris Haslam for the BBC.
When one of the soldiers was asked what he’d do if he saw a poacher threatening a rhino his answer was unequivocal.
If he comes to kill rhinos he is robbing the entire community. And I will shoot him dead.
The Lewa and Borana conservancies are two of a number of sanctuaries where vulnerable rhinos, both white and black, were relocated in 1984 in the hopes of repopulating the species. Unfortunately poachers have now found them.
Michael Dyer, a member of Borana’s advisory board, said: “We lost 17 from a population of 90… We were outgunned and outwitted, so we had to up our game.”
To that end Dyer recruited a former Special Forces instructor from the British army to train a hand-picked militia of local men, who were then given the right to use lethal force by enrolling them as ‘Kenya police reservists’. The men operate in small teams comprising of a sniper, two riflemen, and a signaller.
The teams monitor 102 rhinos, and have a brutal approach when they spot poachers. They don’t arrest them, they don’t even invite them to surrender, instead, they kill them in split-second ambushes. So far 19 would-be poachers have met their end this way.
Dyer claims this bloodthirsty approach is the safest way to deal with desperate men facing 25 years in prison if convicted, adding: “Technically we do have to offer them the opportunity to surrender… But this tends to happen after they’ve been, er, incapacitated.”
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This surprisingly vicious method seems to be working though. Last year not a single rhino was poached on the Lewa conservancy while Borana lost just one, shot in July.
Unfortunately the poachers now seem to be learning and have reportedly begun to use poison arrows and bows.
While you might think this would make it easier for the soldiers to arrest the men, without murdering them, the soldiers say: “We will still kill them.”