The Scourge of Complicit Officials

By Zig Mackintosh

A professional hunter friend worked in northern Mozambique a few years ago, and like most PHs, he was passionate about anti-poaching work. On one anti-poaching patrol in the hunting concession, he and his team discovered a poachers’ camp in which they found the dried meat from 15 eland and 10 zebras. There was no sign of any poachers. The team loaded the meat into a trailer and headed back to camp.

On the way to camp, they were stopped on the road by the local police chief. On seeing the meat in the trailer, the cop became infuriated, verbally abusing and threatening the PH. My friend managed to extract himself from the situation and made it back to camp.

A week or so later, the PH drove through the nearby town and was pulled over at a police roadblock; no one else was being stopped. He had to blow into a breathalyzer; the result was negative. The cops inspected his vehicle thoroughly but found nothing to pin on him. But he didn’t have his driver’s license.

He was arrested, handcuffed, and three armed policemen frog-marched him to the local jail. He was thrown into a cell with 20 other inmates, one of whom had been there for 30 years.

Against each of the three walls of the cell were stacked triple bunks, two inmates per bed, and then there was the floor under the beds for the other three. The toilet was a hole in the floor in one corner of the cell, overflowing with faeces and urine.

The inmates were locked in the cell at 5 pm and let out at 6 in the morning. The cell light was left on during the night, which my friend preferred, given the circumstances.

On day four, he was taken to court and made to stand in a room off the side with no water or ablutions for the day. The floor was covered with human excretion. His case didn’t come up that day, and he had to return the next. When his case came up, the magistrate was furious with the cops for wasting his time on such a trivial matter and threw it out.

For all the excellent work that anti-poaching teams, large and small, do across Africa, this incident highlights a significant issue, complicit officials.

In this edition of Patrol, Catherine Semcer from Oxford University outlines a survey that she is conducting to identify the extent of money, manpower, equipment, and other resources the private sector is contributing to anti-poaching efforts in Africa.

The two short documentaries feature the Isibaya Leopard Conservation Project and anti-poaching operations in the Moyowose Game Reserve in Tanzania

Dispatches from the Frontline features a rhino de-horning operation in Namibia.

As always, if you like what you read and see, please share.