Chinese zooicide in Africa

Andrew Donaldson suggests that the only way to save the rhino may be to reclassify them as pandas


I WAS in China some years back. In Xian, home of the famed Terracotta Warriors, there was a notice outlining the five golden house rules in my hotel room. 

Laundry was not to be dried on the television set. No visitors or prostitutes were permitted after 11pm. Gambling was forbidden. The storage of radioactive material was not permitted. 

Sadly, I no longer recall the fifth, which may have been about the use of open fires to prepare food. 

But the thought occurred: had management drawn up these rules out of necessity? Had the concierge, for example, grown weary of guests’ demands for condoms and casino chips at all hours of the night? Were there health and safety concerns about the plutonium rods in the closet? Was the TV on the fritz again as a wet sock had dripped on valves and shorted its wiring? 

Thinking about these regulations now, it seems that the Chinese do have a fairly rigid idea of what is expected of visitors: propriety and manners that are largely universal. There were signs to this effect everywhere. Be advised to spit in a responsible manner, the best hygiene must be observed in public lavatories, no pushing or harsh language in queues, and so on. Failure to comply is behaviour that is unacceptable to the locals. Obvs.

Why then do the Chinese persist in practices that drive the slaughter of our endangered wildlife? Do they not realise that we foreign barbarians find this unacceptable?

I am well aware that’s a gross generalisation, and that there are no doubt Chinese nationals who are mindful of conservation programmes in South Africa. 

However, The Times of London reports that rhino poaching in the country has risen for the first time in seven years — a spike in killings, the newspaper suggests, that coincides with warnings that Beijing is “ramping up” its promotion of traditional medicine on the continent. 

“Animals on private reserves,” it said, “bore the brunt of 415 illegal rhino deaths recorded last year by the [Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries], a 15 per cent rise on the year before that has dashed hopes of a reduced appetite for horn or that anti-poaching measures had turned the tide.”

A year ago, the department was fairly upbeat about the year-on-year reduction in rhino poaching. During 2020, DEFF said, 394 animals were slaughtered for their horns — a 33 per cent drop on the 594 killed in 2019. (In their reaction, the Lowvelder soberly noted that, while the killings were down, so too was the rhino population.)

For a while it seemed that trade bans and the removal of rhino horn from an official list of medicine ingredients was curbing demand, but the EIA has since warned that Beijing’s Belt and Road strategy to link Africa’s land and sea routes with Asia has reversed this trend.

“Major traditional Chinese medicine companies and countless clinics have already been established across Africa with further plans to construct full supply chains from sourcing to sales,” EIA campaigner Ceres Kam has said

“Our very real concern is that such huge expansion of traditional Chinese medicine in Africa will have the knock-on effect of drastically increasing demand for treatments containing wildlife and cause more species to become threatened or extinct.” 

According to an EIA reportLethal Remedy, an increasing number of African governments have signed deals with Beijing to support and endorse traditional Chinese “remedies”. It is true that only a small number of these “medicines” use animal ingredients, the growth in consumers has contributed drastically to the decline in species, including rhino, pangolin and tiger.

Last month, it was reported that the killing of rhino has spiked dramatically in neighbouring Botswana, long considered a “safe haven” for the species. This follows the decision by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took office in 2018, to disarm anti-poaching squads and strip them of their right to kill poachers on sight.

The country instead embarked on a dehorning programme. This has backfired spectacularly; poachers kill the animals anyway, as this saves them the trouble of tracking the “unprofitable” a second time.  

Pretoria, for reasons perhaps best known only to Pretoria, officially recognises Chinese traditional medicine, along with all its pseudoscience, as part of what The Times has generously termed “its public healthcare system”. The endorsement of such woo-woo is surely indicative of the health department’s ongoing failure to fulfil its core mandate.

According to the EIA, Chinese remedies are on sale in Johannesburg with labels saying they contain rhino skin, pangolin scales and tiger bones. Claims that these concoctions are able to cure any number of cancers as well as impotence and hangovers grow ever more shameless. They’re right up there with the hawkers of penis enlargement creams and muti to reduce debt.

The increasing scarcity of these animals has seen prices rocket on the black market, and, at a million rand a kilogram, rhino horn is now more expensive than heroin, The Times says, adding that demand is fuelled by “a new generation of millionaires on the continent”.

I’m told, though, that many of these arriviste mandarins are well aware that the animal parts have no medical properties whatsoever — but they insist in acquiring them because they’re status symbols. Rhino horn and tiger claws are fashioned into any number of expensive gewgaws and works of kitsch to show off to their peers.

Panda poaching, meanwhile, is extremely rare. This probably because there so few pandas. It could also be although this could be due to the severe penalties the Chinese impose on those who illegally hunt, kill, purchase, transport or sells pandas and their body parts: up to ten years in prison, along with a fine and confiscation of property. It’s a pity, then, that such sanctions do not apply to those Chinese nationals who trade in other wildlife.

A preposterous ideal ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Last week, EFF leader Julius Malema told the equality court that he is not afraid of death as he was already dead. He was testifying in the hate speech case AfriForum had brought against him, his party and the EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi over the singing of the controversial “kill the Boer” anthem, Dubul’ibhunu. As he put it:

“I am not scared of death. I don’t know why I am still alive, I died a long time ago. I am not scared of killing. A revolutionary is a walking killing machine. If a need arises, I will kill — especially in defence of my people.”

Malema’s comments came during what TimesLive described as a “heated exchange” with AfriForum’s legal representative, Mark Oppenheimer. It is entirely possible this had so enraged the redshirts’ commander that he instinctively defaulted to speaking crap. But, for all its idiocy, Juju’s bluster has offered some food for thought. 

No-one should fear death. It comes to us all. The manner of our dying is, however, another matter entirely. That old joke comes to mind, about wanting to go peacefully in our sleep, just as Grandpa did — unlike the passengers in the bus he was driving as it veered off the cliff. 

But being already dead, as Juju claims to be, well, this perhaps presents a solution to a situation that may bedevil sociopaths and narcissists: how is one able to enjoy the adulation that comes with martyrdom when one has paid the ultimate price in defence of a cherished ideal?

Which the man clearly has. “I’m going to be the president of this country, whether you like it or not,” Juju told Oppenheimer. “And I will preside over the affairs of this country, including presiding over you. I think you must start adjusting to that reality. The sooner you do that, the less chest pains you’ll have when that reality comes.”

Laugh? Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), we nearly died. But should it come to that, said reality may be riding a pale horse. The chest pains would then be the least of our problems. For now, though, let us just say the little fascist is talking out of his posterity.