By Matilda Lee
WildAid's Steve Trent on why only robust anti-poaching operations, undercover investigations and high profile prosecutions can save the remaining wild rhinos, elephants, tigers and sharks
What do we need to do to stop rhino poaching?
The simple answer is to kill the demand. There is a real reason to say that. I've spent 25 years as a conservationist, and I've seen this from every angle. The reality is that with a product as valuable as rhino horn, you will have a trade. It's just like narcotics. We need to have some kind of a profound sea change in attitudes and behaviour in China, Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, which are the major destinations of much of this trade. If demand begins to build it will be hard to see how we can stop this. People are very good at coming up with one-stop solutions, but there is no one solution. What you need to have are effective intelligence operations, and demand reduction. You need to back this, particularly with enforcements in countries where rhino are still lucky enough to exist. But in China, they have an obligation to crack down on the illegal trade.
Is it OK for rangers to use lethal force?
I don't think force is ever OK. But what do you want them to do? Go out unarmed and get shot? You have to allow them to be armed. If you've ever been in a situation where someone is pointing a gun at you, you will know what I mean. You have to allow them to be armed. Rangers need to be allowed to do their job. If they are faced with a poacher trying to shoot a rhino, the poacher will point a gun at them as well. People trying to kill animals can kill you in the process. It's the real world that we live in.
In terms of reducing the demand and the market for endangered wildlife products, the key message to people should be that your purchasing decisions are fuelling a gunfight where innocent people are getting killed. More....