n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Conservation crime and rhinoceros poaching : from ancient custom to modern dilemma

Volume 29 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



It is common cause that the poaching of South Africa's natural resources, particularly high profile species, such as rhino, is inexorably lubricated by the demand ebb and flow for the yield to be derived from these organisms. The appetite for rhino horn, specifically by Asian countries, fuels and perpetuates the illegal trade in this commodity despite rhinos being in jeopardy worldwide. The use of rhino horn for cultural and traditional reasons, as well as medicinal purposes present as significant factors contributing to the exigency for such products. Since conservation crime/criminology takes the damage to nature as its core focus it appears to ignore, partly, the ontological relations between some cultural groupings and nature that do not necessarily view nature as a natural resource per se. In other words, some cultural identities might view flora and fauna as totemic/ethnic symbols of a particular group of avatars or ancestors. Can the natural resource(s) being harvested to serve these cultural, traditional and/or medicinal purposes be deemed criminal or criminogenic because the natural resource being utilised is in some way vulnerable? Is the conservation crime/criminology logic viable in a context where nature is regarded as more of an object than a subject of social justice? It is equally important to ask the question whether these beliefs, customs and/or practices are still valid in a post-modern society, and whether trying to modify them amounts to conservation praxis or disrespect. This article critically examines, from a metaphysical standpoint, some of the cultural, traditional and medicinal tensions that exist in relation to the rhino poaching phenomenon. It, furthermore, seeks to determine whether judiciously marginalising alternate views regarding the use of natural resource products is not merely reproducing injustices by proposing solutions presented within the same logocentric paragon of traditional philosophical thought?

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