Professional game catcher and conservationist Les Carlisle describes his decades-long struggle to protect the rhino from extinction from poachers with one simple but frightening word: war.
Just a few hours before Daily Mail Australia goes out to electronically tag a rhino and pick up its horn in South Africa's Phinda Game Reserve, he doesn't mind how horrible and violent the battle for the species has become save.
& # 39; Farmers take rifles out of their vault and put on flak jackets with a head lamp and go out to protect their rhinos, & # 39; he said.
& # 39; Women don't know if their husband will be back. It is war. & # 39;
Despite the efforts of Carlisle and others like him, it is a struggle that the animals lose – and lose badly. Since 2008, more than 7,000 rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone in South Africa with two deaths per day.
There are now only around 5,000 left.
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Les Carlisle (right) holds a rhino in the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa when a ranger finishes the horns with a chainsaw in a procedure that ensures that the animal is not in pain
Rhinoceros horn is worth almost three times as much as gold – and poachers like to kill to lay hands on what is removed in this photo
Other African animals are also under firearm, but rhinos suffer in the extreme because of the towering value of their horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and sold for $ 130,000 per kilogram.
& # 39; That is more than just gold, more than cocaine. It is one of the most valuable goods in the world, "said Carlisle, who is the manager of the En Beyond tourism group that runs a large number of game reserves on three continents.
That incredible value is the reason why he is on a mission to make as many rhinos as possible as hornless as possible – and it can be very dangerous work.
HOW IS THE SIX TONS OF ANIMALS USED
Rhinos feel no pain when their horns are removed, but the procedure can still kill the animal if it is not done properly.
The six-tonne animals are immobilized by using a dart rifle to deliver a powerful drug that causes them to lose control of their muscles but not lose consciousness.
& # 39; We use a helicopter to guide them, because once the animal is shot, it loses the ability to control where it is going and if it hits a dam it will drown & # 39 ;, Carlisle explained .
The arrow that brings down the rhino (the white object on the tail of the animal) contains an opiate that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine. The catch team that takes care of the drain must be extremely careful because if they get one drop of it on the skin, they will be killed immediately
Fortunately, there is no dam in sight, because Daily Mail is witness to a large man who walks through the undergrowth while the medicine has an effect.
A well-trained team of rangers that Carlisle & # 39; the best rhino catcher in the world & # 39; calls, wait for it to fall slowly on its stomach before it blindfolds and inserts earplugs to reduce its stress.
Les Carlisle has fought for decades to prevent rhinos from extinction and says that the men who kill them are supported by powerful criminal cartels that have enough influence to free them after they are arrested
Following the rhino is the key to keeping them alive and today the crew is trying something new: a radio frequency transmitter that is attached to the animal like an earring and tracks and transmits its position with the help of GPS.
It is only the second time they have used one and the first attempt fails if they misunderstand the size of the hole they need to hit the skin. However, the second attempt is a success – and the rhino shows no signs of discomfort.
CHAINSAWS AND GOLD BULLION VAULTS
The park rangers then place a plastic parachute under the rhino's head before the vet who fires the drugged arrow sets up ear protectors and a visor and produces a chainsaw to start the slow down.
It is a confrontational sight that becomes even more disturbing as the tool roars to life and is handled with skill, scraping plates off the horn before the rest is washed away with careful strokes that do not hit the growth disk.
Rhino horns are like human fingernails in the sense that they do not hurt, and they grow back at a speed of about 10 centimeters per year.
The drop sheet catches most curls, but many of them fall to the floor – and the substance is so valuable that the rangers cannot leave anything behind.
They also cannot leave their guard once it is in their possession.
& # 39; You become a target once your rhino horn is with you everywhere, & # 39; Carlisle said. & # 39; If you have it, they (poachers) will knock you off to steal it.
A forest ranger holds a black rhino horn from an animal shot by poachers. The criminals even shoot polled rhinos so that they don't waste their time following them through the forest just to get no reward for their work
& # 39; Once rhino horns are removed, they are tagged, chipped and shipped to the underground gold bunker vaults in Johannesburg, because we are not willing to keep them here.
& # 39; Farms have been hit, houses have been burned down, families have been murdered to steal the rhino horn cannon burner. & # 39;
PEACEFUL CRIMINAL RIGHTS ARE NOT LIMITS
With the horn safely removed, all attendees back away and wait for the rhino to recover from the medication.
It is an opiate that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine – so powerful that we are all warned that if we get a drop of it on our skin, we will kill ourselves immediately – and yet the beast rises quickly.
The rhino's priority is to find & # 39; his friends & # 39 ;, as Carlisle says, and he quickly trotting the female and the calf he was with before the rangers intervened.
But despite the fact that his horn has disappeared and he is within the safe boundaries of the fenced reserve, it would be a mistake to think he is safe.
Poachers who only follow the rhino to discover that they have been stripped of horn will shoot them anyway, so they don't make the mistake of following them if there is no reward.
And although Phinda is exceptionally well controlled, it is not invulnerable.
& # 39; Incursions by poachers are regular & # 39 ;, said Carlisle. & # 39; Arrests before they arrive at the park are more regular. & # 39;
A veterinarian places an electronic label in the rhino's ear so that movements can be followed. This is only the second time that one of the new devices has been used on one of the animals
Despite these arrests, poachers can continue to kill because they are directed and supported by powerful criminal cartels.
& # 39; The same guys who pay the drug dealer to get rid of his burden to get the poacher off his attack, & # 39; Carlisle said.
& # 39; The world's police forces have never been able to take on criminal syndicates – how do you expect wildlife to take over them? & # 39;
A RADICAL SOLUTION FOR THE BURNING PROBLEM
Carlisle is in favor of a different way to deal with rhino killers, although he quickly points out that it is his personal opinion and not that of And Beyond: legalizing and regulating the trade in horn instead of trying it out to row.
& # 39; We must break the cycle – there are only 5,000 rhinos left, & # 39; he said. & # 39; There is no point in not fighting the illegal market. & # 39;
The idea is to harvest the horn without killing the animals and use the supplies in those gold-ridge vaults to control the price and make the rhinos more vivid than they are dead – the opposite of the current situation.
A park ranger with black rhino horns from poachers shot by park security. Farmers with rhinos on their land also risk their lives to prevent them from being killed and maimed for profit
Ten years ago, South Africa lost 10 to 15 rhinos a year, but that grew rapidly and the country lost 1275 in 12 months.
Carlisle believes the huge peak can be explained by the state of the horns of Asia; it was huge after a wave of poaching in the 1980s, but fell into disrepair and he believes that the killers & # 39; are willing to pay anything & & # 39; to rebuild it.
But if the country were allowed to use its own reserves – and constantly supplement them with non-lethal harvests – the poaching business model could be ruined.
That is expensive. The revealing and tagged Daily Mail cost $ 45,000, under the cover of Chinese mobile phone producer Huwawei, which also provides continuous support to Les and his team.
But the catch-and-release method is only one weapon in the arsenal of conservationists.
According to Les, the most effective method to make poaching a thing of the past is to support local communities that in turn warn Rangers as soon as they see someone suspicious.
& # 39; We use the iron fist in the white glove, & # 39; Les explained. & # 39; If someone crosses the fence of the reserve, iron with fists as hard as you can, but use the white glove to prevent them from ending up in the first place. & # 39;
Daily Mail Australia traveled to Phinda Game Reserve as a guest of Huawei Australia.
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