Pretoria - The Castle Lager Boucher Legacy NPC (non-profit company) “Our Rhino in safe hands” programme has joined forces with the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd in an effort to combat the scourge of rhino poaching.
The iconic rugby team from the north of South Africa, an area where poaching is most prevalent, is also a key partner with South African National Parks (SANParks), will be involved in a joint effort to profile the Legacy programme as well as assisting in raising funds to ensure the DNA of as many of the Kruger National Park’s Rhino as possible, are added to the RhODIS (Rhino DNA Index System) database.
The partnership will be initiating a large fundraiser with the Blue Bulls supporters, SANParks and J9, the programme under the leadership of Joost van der Westhuizen early in 2015.
The RhoDIS database is based on the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) used by the likes of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to match a suspect’s DNA to a crime scene and is based at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) of the University of Pretoria in Onderstepoort under the leadership of Dr Cindy Harper. As a high profile sportsman, Castle Lager Boucher Legacy was inspired by former record- breaking wicketkeeper and Proteas legend, Mark Boucher, who recognises the good work that prominent sportsmen and teams in the league of the Vodacom Blue Bulls can play in the fight against Rhino poaching.
Boucher is delighted at the support and camaraderie that has led to the anti-Rhino poaching partnership.
“It’s fantastic to be involved with Castle Lager and now the Vodacom Blue Bulls, in such a great programme. There's nothing more rewarding than putting hard work into something that is your passion and knowing that the people you work with and for, feel the same way,” said Boucher.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls have always been at the forefront of innovation with initiatives that touch the very heart of the community. Barend van Graan, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company (BBCo), explained during the rugby team’s partnership announcement with SANParks, “It was a ‘natural’ decision to align ourselves with conservation as many of our supporters love nature and the outdoors. Another factor that influenced our decision was the recent spate of poaching activities, and the continued destruction of habitat around us.”
Whilst the fight against Rhino poaching plays a critical role in conservation and protecting the country’s wildlife heritage, it is also an important anti-crime campaign as the syndicates involved, also engage in other criminal activities.
“Because of the value of rhino horn, syndicates will extend their power and influences to corrupt officials, obtain illegal firearms, create fraudulent documentation, launder money, transgress international agreements and exploit people to succeed in their criminal activities. Wildlife crime in general is the 3rd largest smuggling commodity in the world, which rhino poaching forms part of,” Colonel Johan Jooste, National Commander and Coordinator for Endangered Species at the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) also known as the Hawks.
Colonel Jooste says the DNA profiling of Rhino’s is critical in aiding prosecution as it provides invaluable assistance to wildlife crime investigators for tracing evidence that is collected on crime scenes: “DNA is also an important tool that is utilised during court procedures, for mutual legal assistance between countries that are affected by rhino crimes and the translocation of rhino to other countries”. The DNA data bank is a key management tool. “It is legally required that all rhino DNA are collected. This includes live rhino that are moved and serve as a preventative measure to protect the rhino as the rhino are now traceable,” said Colonel Jooste. Mark Boucher received a signed jersey from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and will address the team later this week before they take on Western Province over the weekend to explain the synergies of working with the Team and SANParks to combat the rhino atrocities recently witnessed.