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If You Take A Look At A Poacher's Life You Might Not Celebrate Their Death

A suspected poacher has been killed by elephants and his body was eaten by lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park late last week.

The man's remains were recovered on Thursday after park rangers ventured into the park to retrieve the body in an attempt to help the poacher's family "find closure".

According to the press release from South African National Parks, the family of the man killed were called by his four accomplices to notify them that their relative had been killed by an elephant while they were in the National Park attempting to poach a rhino on Tuesday night.

The man's remains were discovered on Thursday morning after police and rangers were provided with information by the man's accomplices, who were arrested after coming forth about the death.

The managing director of Kruger National Park, Glenn Phillips, stated that entering the park illegally and on foot is extremely dangerous and "not wise".

The deceased was a father and Phillips said that it was "very sad to see the daughters of the diseased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains."

Rangers trying to prevent poaching in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Source: Getty.

The illegal wildlife trade has been described by wildlife trade specialists TRAFFIC as "the conservation crisis of our time" and is allegedly worth up to $US 23 billion annually, according to a UN estimate.

The demand for elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, tiger bone and bear bile are causing unprecedented decline among these species.

Rhino numbers have been reduced dramatically by poaching in recent decades and it is estimated that three rhinos are poached every day across Africa.

This illegal trade has driven the western black rhino and the northern white rhino to extinction in the wild -- the northern white rhino has been declared functionally extinct because the last two individuals of the subspecies are female.

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Vietnam and China lead the consumer market for rhino horn and TRAFFIC have reported that criminal networks from these nations are currently operating in South Africa, processing rhino horn into bracelets and beads to avoid detection during export.

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The black market trade of wildlife parts is controlled primarily by organised crime syndicates and this industry is frequently exploited to financially sustain terrorist cells throughout the African continent such as the Lord's Resistance Army, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram (the jihadist terrorist organisation responsible for the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in 2014).

John Sellar, who headed the law enforcement for the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) told National Geographic that these international organisations operate in a very similar way to other criminal operations such as arms or drug networks.

Small-scale trafficking syndicates are responsible for hiring poachers and collecting the animal parts on the ground and they pay poachers and couriers a modest fee to kill animals and deliver their parts.

These syndicates exploit local communities for poaching services and in extreme circumstances they will kidnap or financially indenture individuals to coerce them into service.

Malaysian Wildlife Enforcement division Director Salman Bin Haji Saaban displays seized rhino horns and other animal parts at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on August 20, 2018. Source: Getty.

A New York Times report on the trading of rhino horn in 2018 described rhino poachers as often being "desperately poor local men living on the fringes of parks and reserves".

Wildlife cameraman Mark Thorpe wrote for the Earth Touch News Network in 2015 that his understanding of the nuances of the poaching industry has led him to stop believing in a "kill 'em all" stance when it comes to poachers.

Thorpe inspects a photo of young children clambering over the corpse of a baby elephant, butchering it for its meat.

The children had accompanied a group of Sudanese poachers to direct them to a herd of 36 forest elephants for killing. They were present at the slaughter of the animals and given meat in exchange for their help, so they fall under the legal definition of poachers.

Rhinos in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Source: Getty.

"Caught in the turmoil of unrest in the Central African Republic, all that these young children have are the clothes that hang from their tiny frames," Thorpe said.

"If you were in this same situation, with a family to feed and yet no food and no prospects, wouldn't you too be lured by a potential payday, or failing that, at least enough meat to see your family through another week?"

However, President of SAVE African Rhino Foundation Nicholas Duncan told 10 Daily that he has little sympathy for the criminals who poach rhinos.

"I have no qualms about poachers being killed by elephants or by man if they're carrying out the jobs they're carrying out.

"They are well aware of the risk, they are well aware that it's illegal," Duncan said.

One study published in the journal Conservation and Society assessed the reasons that self-admitted poachers in Tanzania chose to hunt and kill animals for these criminal networks.

Lead author of the study, Eli Knapp, told Mongabay that his study found the "vast majority [of poachers] were good people making very rational decisions and doing anything and everything they could to feed their families in the face of yearly environmental stochasticity."

Because poachers are generally impoverished locals being paid a minimal fee for dangerous criminal work, the penalties for poaching wildlife are generally less severe than those for trafficking wildlife.

Ranger holding a rhino horn. Source: Getty.

However, South Africa has recently increased its penalties for poaching and anybody convicted of killing a rhino could now be liable for a $US 120,000 fine or an equivalent prison sentence if they are unable to pay.

In an essay published in Conservation Letters,  researchers from the University of Kent argue that to address poaching effectively, conservationists and international authorities need to take a multifaceted approach, including addressing economic disparity and lowering food prices that have driven small-scale farmers to supplement their income with poaching.

The authors argue that attempting to stem poaching with law enforcement alone has proven ineffective so far.

The authors of the paper also argue that engaging the communities surrounding these threatened species to conserve the animals and providing incentives such as greater disposable income, retraining for alternative trades, payments for conservation, as well as better health and education access could markedly reduce decisions to poach.

"Such approaches would likely be affordable, efficient, and once introduced would undermine the economic incentive for poaching locally," the researchers said.