In Africa there’s a war being waged. It’s not a part of the War on Terror, it’s not even a counter insurgency or police action. Nope, nothing that sexy. It is however a day to day struggle to save something that’s on the cusp of total annihilation. I’m talking about the war to save the last of Africa’s Black Rhinos.
Last year over six hundred of these majestic animals were killed by poachers and their horns sold as ground up powder in Asia. The big question is how do we stop this? How do we protect the rhinos from extinction?
Rhino Wars, a TV documentary on Animal Planet, thinks they have the answer. Insert a team of four veteran SOF operators into Africa, deck them out in multi-cams, gun them up with an arsenal of small arms, give them an armored vehicle and turn them loose on the unsuspecting poachers. Interesting idea, but is it going to work?
Former SOF guys helping protect rhinos is not a new phenomena. Last year I was lucky enough to chat with Damien Mander, a former Aussie SF operator, who’s been working to save the rhinos since 2009. Unlike the guys in Rhino Wars Damien isn’t so much about hunting poachers. He’s training and equipping park rangers, educating locals and spreading awareness. You can check out Damien’s work here. I particularly like the fact he’s looking in to using drones (UAVs) to keep watch over our lumbering friends.
Anyway this Rhino Wars show got me thinking. If I had the finance to wage a war to protect rhinos how would I go about it and what role would SOF play? Here’s what I’d do:
1. Deploy a team of operators experienced in Foreign Internal Defense (FID) to train and equip local park rangers. I’d probably run with South African Recce Commandos for this. Not because they’re any better than US SOF, more that they know the lingo and the terrain.
2. Get the FID team to develop a Human Intelligence (HUMINT) network to gather intel on the poachers. They’d have to cover off on the counter-intelligence piece as some of the poachers would have ties with the rangers.
3. Support the whole operation with logistics and intelligence. I’d like to see some UAVs up top monitoring poacher movements. Civilian technology already exists for the UAVs to download imagery from remote cameras and provide an integrated surveillance network.
4. Target the demand for rhino horn with a PSYOPS campaign. Using a comprehensive online and television media campaign convince Asian men that rhino horn products will make their dicks flaccid and their balls shrink. Maybe pay a platoon of Chinese hackers to spread the word on forums and email.
5. Lobby governments to lift the ban of rhino horn and create a legalized market. Most people don’t know it but rhino horn can be harvested. Legalize it and suddenly farmers have a valuable commodity that they need to protect and manage.
So is Rhino Wars just pseudo-documentary entertainment or do former SOF operators have a role to play in the war to protect rhinos?