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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – June 5, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Pink Katydid – a 1 in 500 mutation – photo from Nature Photos

Few of us have ever heard of the non-profit organization Vetpaw. It provides employment to post-9/11 veterans in support of anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. Vetpaw works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in South Africa’s northernmost province, Limpopo. They support local anti-poaching rangers. But, if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help US combat veterans with their PTSD. Vetpaw’s founder, Marine veteran Ryan Tate, says:

Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war…you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again… [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together…

Vetpaw’s job in a remote northern part of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos. Only 13 were poached in 2007. By 2015, the total was nearly 1,200. From the Guardian: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

A kilo [of Rhino horn] is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

And the locals are on both sides of the problem. Poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support. While some resist, it is vastly more difficult without support from local police. More from the Guardian:

One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police. Another team member says:

This is textbook counterinsurgency…Its unconventional warfare…Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out…if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?

So, maybe some of the counterinsurgency lessons paid for by US blood and treasure in Afghanistan and Iraq will save the Rhinos of South Africa. Kevin, a Vetpaw team member, says:

After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything… [But] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul…It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.

So, a cause to rally around. Something that helps a few vets and a few Rhinos. A good news story for a Monday, when there is so little to be happy about in Trumpland.

Time for a wake up tune. In honor of the Orange Tweeter, here is Linda Ronstadt performing “You’re No Good”, live in Germany in 1976. She was at the height of her powers. That’s Andrew Gold on the guitar solo:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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