Saving the Rhino.
“Sometimes those put in charge of protecting our wildlife, are the ones causing the most damage” says wildlife activist Jamie Joseph as she stretches out on my couch, with whisky in hand.
South Africa is home to 80% of the 25,000-remaining rhino globally, yet they are being killed at a rate of 3 per day.
It was March 2016 when first head Jamie talk of the corruption in South Africa, she spoke of it being riddled through the political justice system. A former Microsoft Web Developer turned music producer, she is as unconventional as her nomadic lifestyle. Constantly on the move, her number one enemy is Dumisani Gwala, the accused rhino poaching kingpin of Zululand. He will finally serve trail in May, after a slew of delays.
“When I began exposing the Gwala syndicate, what I didn’t realise at the time, was it would lead me to another criminal network, which I dub the ‘Hennessey syndicate’. These magistrates are so drunk on power, sometimes when they win a case they go back to the deal makers house and celebrate with a bottle of Hennessey.”
Now two years on she persists with her mission to systematically expose the various levels of corruption. Working closely with lawyers to identify magistrates and prosecutors who are protecting the rhino poachers and kingpins. In October 2017, Jamie revealed years’ worth of work naming a long list of criminals caught up in this war – The Blood Rhino Blacklist.
While many may question the cause of corruption in the poaching crisis, Jamie tells me that it is fuelled by mere greed, not the need for survival. With the majority of ivory demand coming from Asia, it is a cultural battle where people believe buying these animal tusks will increase their status symbol. Ivory is the same matter has human fingernails, yet is valued at more than diamonds or cocaine.
“It’s like building a puzzle, one bad guy leads you to another”, the seemingly endless battle tests the mental strength of any animal activist. With sentiments of a crime novel, those of us reading about this crisis behind our screens rely on Jamie’s obsession. We are leaving this battle to a select group of fighters, to end the poaching crisis and save the animals admired by so many.
Jamie Joseph is an alpha female, relentless, but it comes with sacrifice. There is a pressure of always needing to be one step ahead, it was only when she returned home to New Zealand for Christmas that she stopped waking up in a cold sweat. “No matter what I do, it’s never enough. It’s not enough to arrest them, we must convict them and that can take years”, mid conversation Jamie is interrupted by a phone call from another informer. Upon return, I ask what’s next, she smiles at me warily and says, “wait two weeks”.
Read more on Jamie Joseph at savingthewild.com