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Tourists – Please Don’t Help the Poachers

Did you know that pictures taken with your smart phone can actually help poachers find endangered rhinos, elephants, even tigers?

When you post your smart phone pictures you could be enabling poachers to access the coordinates of where the animals are located. Geotags are attached to these photos and anyone can get data from your pictures via the Internet.

Simply by entering the latitude and longitude into, say Google Maps, you can find out exactly where a photo was taken and since rhinos, in particular tend to stay in the same area for a while, poachers can quickly get to that location and kill the animals. The poachers often have better equipment such as helicopters and rifles than the conservation rangers.

Another way poachers use the photos you take and post on social media is to look carefully at detarhino-206293_1280ils that could give away the location such as a mountain range, rock formations or a distinctive group of trees.

Combine that with having the GPS coordinates and poachers could soon kill the animals you’ve just photographed! So please turn off the geotagging option on your phone and camera.

Poaching is such a lucrative business – one rhino horn could bring in as much as $250,000 when sold for “medicine” on the black market in China or Vietnam. Ground-up rhino horn is thought to cure everything from hallucinations to strokes. But as Dr Arne Schiotz of WWF said recently, “Chewing your own fingernails will give you the same results” as using rhino horn for these ailments.

Unfortunately people’s superstitions and misinformation are responsible for the illegal killing of 1004 rhinos in 2013.

Drones & Fake Tourists

Besides getting the locations of rhinos and elephants from pictures posted on social media, poachers are using the same technology that governments have to track them, namely drones.

Drones are cheap to buy and can flying inconspicuously not far off the ground. And, if a drone falls into the hands of those charged with the conservation of the rhinos, the poachers are far away and free to continue plying their obnoxious trade.

Fake tourists are another tactic poachers are now using. A couple goes out on safari with other tourists and the guides take them to where they’ll see the most animals. The fake tourists then take lots of pictures with no one being aware of the real reason for their interest. They could then send the photos to other poachers or to a buyer in China, saying, “What will you pay for this rhino or information about its location?” An answer is likely to quickly come back that will doom the animals.

Making a Differenceelephant-720838_1280

Many tourist associations and government authorities no longer talk about their successes with their breeding programs or the relocation of rhino populations or how they track them because they do not want to encourage poachers into those particular areas.

Some tour operators are making their clients more aware of how poachers operate, and some no longer allow cell phones to be taken out on their vehicles.

Although visitors can inadvertently help the poachers, they can also help to prevent more animals being killed.
• Be vigilant and tell park rangers about anyone who shows an inordinate interest in the rhinos such as where they are and how long they’re likely to remain there.
• Don’t share information about where you saw rhinos with people who again seem to be too interested, people such as staff at the hotel or cab drivers. Be vague instead.
• On all the equipment you use to take photographs, disable the geotagging function. Strip out the geo tags from any pictures that were taken before you changed the setting.
• Crop your photos to reduce potential location details.

Think about the information you may be passing along when you upload your photos within minutes of taking them – think about how you can avoid helping poachers find their victims!

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