Dear Barbara Creecy, Dark Lord of All Beasts, Forests and Fishes

I hear you have decreed that 10 leopards, 10 black rhino and 150 elephants shall be gunned down by trophy hunters this year. Good for you. There is no place in this country for freeloaders who contribute nothing to the national democratic revolution.

Besides, it’s not as if South Africa has a shortage of these violent brutes. Some people have reported seeing as many as two leopards in their lifetimes. That’s more than enough. It’s better for all concerned that nobody sees any leopards whatsoever. Give them half a chance and they’ll be in the suburbs. Then it’s, “Babe, there’s another mutilated impala under the bed!” As if birds and lizards aren’t enough.

As for the rhino, they’ve had this coming for a long time.

Short-sighted and cantankerous, more so even than Gwede Mantashe, they often prevent interesting species from being photographed. My view of a warthog has more than once been spoiled by a dirty great ungulate standing there like a lump of concrete. How about if we painted them? I don’t mean with targets to make it easier for the shunters, although it’s something you might want to consider, but rather use them as mobile billboards. I bet Shell would pay good money to have its logo sprayed on the side of one of these ridiculous animals. No, you’re right. They are still worth more dead than alive.

I’m surprised you chose black rhino, though. What kind of comrade are you? It’s the white rhinos lumbering about complaining of congestion at the waterhole because too many black ones have moved into the neighbourhood.

So, 150 elephants, eh? I bet the young ones are excited. What kid doesn’t enjoy time without adult supervision? And by the time they are big enough to make it onto your hit list, they will have had a fabulous few years and won’t ever have to worry about growing old. What’s more, they stand a chance of having their head mounted on a wall in some or other redneck’s ranch in Texas. Bonus!

Are you sure 150 is enough, though? Apparently elephants never forget. That could be dangerous, especially if they ever start running for public office. That would show up your colleagues in the Cabinet, most of whom who have serious memory retention issues, especially when it comes to making promises and not learning from history.

I see most of the condemned leopards are from the North West and Limpopo. If word gets out, these murderous felines are liable to sneak into Gauteng under cover of darkness and take jobs away from non-South African leopards, and then you’ll have an entirely different problem on your hands.

Also, unlike the endangered and critically endangered elephants and rhinos, leopards are only vulnerable. Cats, hey. Such drama queens. We’re all vulnerable. They need to get over it.

You’ve sentenced just one leopard from KwaZulu-Natal to death? I attended one of King Zwelithini’s topless extravaganzas showcasing the latest in a range of buxom teenage virgins and, judging by the attire of the amabutho and the royals, leopards must be in very short supply in those parts. Still, there’s always one, isn’t there. I just hope it’s not a British trophy hunter who kills him. Rorke’s Drift still rankles.

Barbs, I have to say I loved that bit where you said “income generated by trophy hunting is critical for impoverished rural communities”. I don’t know who laughed more – you when you wrote it or me when I read it. That’s the beauty of issuing statements instead of holding press conferences. You can come up with any number of easily discredited narratives without having to answer awkward questions from journalists armed with real facts.

You also said trophy hunting “provides a useful wildlife management tool … as a means to remove excess males from a population”. Yes! If there is anything this country needs, it’s the removal of excess males. I have a list of my own and I’m happy to share it with your best hunters.

You proudly announced that in 2019, “approximately R208m was derived from the trophy hunting of threatened or endangered species”. This sounds like a weird admission for someone in your position to make. Did somebody slip a little sodium thiopental into your gin and tonic? You do understand the meaning of “endangered”, right?

Ambling towards the moral high ground, you claimed that “the biodiversity sector employed more than 418,000 people in 2019, which is comparable to mining”. I don’t want to sound like a tree-hugging, lentil-eating snowflake here, but I imagine most of them weren’t involved in the business of encouraging foreigners to shoot our natural assets in the face. I expect you’d find more of that sort of thing in the mining industry itself.

Finally, you said “hunting is a part of SA heritage and culture”. You’re right there, Babsy. Many of us spend our time hunting for jobs, quick cash or the fucker who stole our car.

Down with the Big Five! Or, by the time you’ve finished, the Big Two.

Horny? Dial 1-800-RHINO

I got an email today from my old friend John Hume. We’ve never met, but I like to think of him as a friend. I don’t know if he feels the same. Probably not, since the email came from one Elizabeth van Niekerk, B.Com.(Econ & Law), LLB (Potchefstroom NWU), Legal & Compliance Officer, Buffalo Dream Ranch, Platinum Rhino CBO.

She did, however, specify that she was sending the mail on behalf of her client. Never underestimate the power of plausible deniability.

John has been in the news latelyish. Here’s a story from three months ago:

‘I want my horns back’ says SA rhino baron after trade deal goes pear-shaped


I received today’s email “because you expressed interest in the online rhino horn auction previously held by us in 2017”. I did? I really have to be more careful about the things I express an interest in.

Basically, he’s trying to sell off his rhino horns. Again.

“Our once-off, offer of a limited addition (sick) of selected horns (approximately 250 kg) with issued DNA certificates and in accordance with all existing permits and trade regulations is open at an extra special low price for each of the three classes: Class A – 10,000 USD per kg (17 horns at 24.584kg); Class B – 7,500 USD per kg (138 horns at 212.659kg); Class C – 3,000 USD per kg (42 horns at 17.236kg), listed on this link:

The link lists A, B and C graded horns. I clicked on it but didn’t hang around. It’s like Tinder for rhinos and it made me feel queasy.

So keen is John to get rid of his horns that he is foregoing his usual 30% deposit. “All you have to do is pick your horns off the link and send us your FICA documents … the same as you would need to buy a cell phone …” Rhino horn, cellphone, whatever.

The email jolted something in my banged-up memory. I wrote to John in … well, 2017. There’s probably a connection there somewhere. Here it is again. Bit of date, but then again, isn’t everything?


Dear John,

Congratulations on being the world’s largest rhino breeder. How big are you? Are you the size of a rhino? It doesn’t matter. For all I know, rhino breeders are tiny and you are simply the largest of these small people.

Most people keep dogs and cats, but not you, John. You’re a rhino person. It makes sense. Rhinos don’t sit on your keyboard while you’re trying to work. They don’t hog the couch or take up half the bed. You don’t wake up in the morning to a blast of rhino breath and have to get up and take him for a walk.

Of course, nobody collects rhinos purely for their ornamental value. So it must have been terribly frustrating for you when trade in rhino horn was banned in South Africa in 2009. It would have driven me insane, seeing my rhinos standing about all day doing absolutely nothing to earn their keep.

What good are their horns if they’re not even being used to stab German tourists? At the best of times, rhinos don’t even know what to do with their horns. They just stand there staring at them all day. That’s why so many rhinos are crosseyed. A lot of them are also just plain cross. I suppose it’s because they’re not living at your place, the Playboy mansion of the rhino world, even if it is in Klerksdorp.

Rhinos can’t tell that the place is a dump. Even if they did, I doubt they’d care. They’re just happy not to get shot in the face by a gentleman from Mozambique.

So it must’ve been a tremendous relief when the court forced the environmental affairs department to give you a permit to hold your three-day online auction this week. It’s a good thing we have an independent judiciary that knows the true value of one of our big five.

I tried to register for the auction but the R100 000 deposit was a bit steep. Pity. I was so looking forward to bagging a couple of the 264 horns for my own personal use. To be honest, I would have preferred a whole rhino so that I could cut his horn off at my leisure. If you buy a gram of coke, the dealer doesn’t expect you to schnarf it the moment money changes hands. You can take it home and shove it up your nose when the mood takes you. It should be the same with rhinos. Not that I’d schnarf rhino horn. I’m not from Hanoi, you know.

I understand you have 1 500 rhinos in your garden. I bet you’ve never been burgled. It just occurred to me that rhinos could solve both our poverty and crime problems. Not literally. They’re not awfully bright. Although stick a couple of them in cheap suits and put them around the table at a cabinet meeting and I bet nobody would even notice their lack of input.

What I’m suggesting is that everyone gets a rhino farm. Or at least their own state-subsidised rhino. They make wonderful pets and even better guard dogs. Guard rhinos. I know I wouldn’t rob a house if there was a rhino curled up at the front door. And if you fall on hard times, you can chop his horn off and sell it. That’s R2-million right there. Keep the family in KFC for years.

Your job sounds like a lot of fun. Every couple of years, you grab your tranquiliser gun and run about shooting your fleet of ungulates in the bum. I’m sure they get a big kick out of the chase, too. It’s something to break the tedium. They fall over, have a little nap and wake up a kilogram or two lighter. We could all be so lucky.

And when the horns grow back, you do it all over again. No wonder you have six tons of the stuff lying about the place. Must drive your wife crazy. There’s not much you can do with them either. Doorstoppers. Wind chimes. Something to hang your coat on. That’s about it. Then again, your stash is worth at least R500-million. That’s the kind of language any wife would understand.

The ban on international trade is still in place and your permit stipulates that any horns sold have to stay in South Africa. Of course they will. Our environmental affairs minister says systems are in place to prevent horns from reaching the black market. In fact, so secure are our borders that the only way to smuggle a horn out would be to take it to the Saxonwold shebeen, have it cling-wrapped in R200 notes and couriered to the Waterkloof air force base.

I noticed that your auction website was translated into Mandarin and Vietnamese. This is nothing more than a happy coincidence, I’m sure. You are a man who embraces many cultures and not, as the vegetarians would have it, a man sending out a dog-whistle to the epicentre of the illicit trade in rhino horn.

An average of three rhinos are poached in this country every day. But, as you so rightly point out, flooding the ‘domestic’ market with hundreds of your horns will reduce demand and poachers will be out of a job in no time at all. It’s the same with marijuana. Legalise it and nobody would want it any more. Dagga farmers would have to start growing mielies and stoners would take up golf.

I read that a group called the National Frog Agency hacked your website, claiming that “your lack of common compassion for animals is outrageous”. Ignore them. What is more outrageous is that they can’t tell the difference between a frog and a rhino. This is what happens when you spend your afternoons licking hallucinogenic toads.

You were reported as saying that the proceeds of the auction – which could easily be R200-million – would be spent on protecting your herd. It’s an odd way to describe your family, but then I haven’t met them. Try to keep a bit of money aside for yourself. Buy something nice. Not another rhino. Something you don’t have to keep darting and sawing its nose off.

Listen, John. I have an idea for a movie. It’s called Saving Private Rhino. State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, would be perfect for the villain. I think we can get him. Throw in a free Thai massage and he’s ours. I would want to avoid getting into the whole black rhino, white rhino thing. This isn’t a movie about race. It’s about exploitation and getting as rich as possible off the backs of these dumb brutes. I’m talking about the actors, not the rhinos.

Let’s do lunch.

Poaching Private Rhino

“Reports received that SA #rhino poaching kingpin Hugo Ras has been sentenced to 29 years in jail today for fraud, theft & illegal possession of firearms.” – Oxpeckers Center, 18 May 2021.

If true, this is, of course, brilliant news. The Oxpeckers’ tweet reminded me that I wrote to this delightful man nearly seven years ago.


An open letter to Hugo Ras

Unknown Unknown-5

Dear Hugo,

Maybe I should call you Huge Ou because it looks like you could be a big oke. I’ve only seen pictures of your face, though. Speaking of which, did you have a terrible accident or were you born that way? It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you win your case and carry on ridding our country of these abominable creatures.

When I first heard that ten members of a rhino-poaching syndicate were appearing in court, the first image that came to mind was of nine skinny Mozambicans and a white man in charge. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that only one of your group is black.

Was Mandla Magagula a BEE appointment or did you just need someone to do the heavy lifting? Chopping a horn off a rhino’s face must be devilishly hard work, especially in the humidity of the Kruger Park, and it would make sense to hire someone who knows his way around a panga and doesn’t feel the heat.

I think you guys are doing great work. Rhinos, in my opinion, are heavily overrated. For a start, they’re fat. There’s no excuse for that. By now everyone, rhinos included, must have heard of the Banting diet. Thin rhinos, pronking gracefully through the veld, would be far more of a tourist attraction than these shortsighted, overweight curmudgeons currently blotting our landscape.

Your group allegedly killed 22 rhinos and mutilated two others between 2008 and 2012. I hope you don’t mind me using the word ‘allegedly’. I’m not trying to diminish your accomplishments or cast doubt on the courage needed to come within 800m of a rhino and, without even spilling your beer, bring him down with nothing but a little old high-powered rifle. It’s really just to satisfy the lawyers. You know how touchy they can be.

To get away with it for so long and then suddenly get bust seems to suggest there is a mole in your group. Could it be your wife, Trudi? You can never trust wives. They will insist otherwise, but you can’t. Not really. I doubt it was her, though. You would have needed her at home to do the cooking and the books. Or maybe just cooking the books. Also, someone has to wash all that rhino blood out of your khaki shorts.

You’re probably close to your brother, Anton, so it’s unlikely he was the rat. What about your brother-in-law, Arno Smith? Probably not. Nobody in their right mind would mess with someone who has a face like yours.

Then there’s Ficksburg pilot, Bonnie Steyn. Everyone thinks they can trust pilots until something snaps and they steer the plane into a mountainside or run off with your girlfriend. But you were probably giving him steady work and in these hard times, there are worse jobs than flying around a game park looking for rhinos to kill.

When it comes to the mole, my money is on warrant officer Willie Oosthuizen from the Organised Crime Unit. Apparently, he was your right-hand man. What were you thinking? You must be the only person in the country who still trusts policemen. My bet is that after sentencing, he’ll be driven to the airport and put on a plane.

If it’s not the cop who squealed, my next best bet is lawyer Joseph Wilkinson. He sounds English, so right away you can’t trust him. Then again, next to young blondes, lawyers love nothing more than piles of easy money being thrown their way. Their profession demands the ability to lie with the utmost conviction through their capped teeth, so if he tries to tell you that he never ratted you out, then you know he probably did.

Could Mandla Magagula be the impimpi? I really hope not. It would play right into the hands of those who say darkies will double-cross you as soon as look at you. I’m sure you gave him a job because you believe affirmative action is the best way to correct the imbalances of the past. Well done, Hugo. It’s this kind of thing that will go a long way towards preventing the wholesale slaughter of white people. If you tell the judge you’re providing employment to the previously disadvantaged, you’ll probably be acquitted on the spot. President Zuma might even want to give you some sort of medal.

You guys are also facing other charges, including theft, fraud, malicious damage to property, money laundering, intimidation and illegal possession of arms and ammunition. In prosecutorial terms, this is known as the Oscar Offensive. I’m surprised they haven’t thrown in a charge of littering after you left all those unsightly rhino carcasses out in the open to rot.

The state says the rhinos you butchered were worth around R22-million. In South African terms, this isn’t an awful lot of money. Zuma paid that for a chicken coop and two banana trees. Then again, you did get your hands on dozens more horns from rhinos killed by other people, so they must be worth a bob or two.

I love the delicious irony of your syndicate making its first court appearance on World Rhino Day. I bet you’re a big fan of delicious irony, even though your face tells me that you’re a big fan of little more than delicious brandy, blood and wads of cash.

I was impressed to discover that you’re made of the same material our president is made from. You’ve had many run-ins with the law in the past, but nothing ever seems to stick. You seem confident of pulling it off again this time. Not only did you not apply for bail last week, but you didn’t even have a lawyer in court. Either you have a brilliant strategy or you really are as stupid as you look, which hardly seems feasible.

Before I forget. All that M99 anaesthetic police found on your farm – do you have any more stashed away somewhere? At three thousand times more powerful than morphine, it sounds like something one could have a bit of fun with of a weekend.

If, by some miracle, you aren’t all acquitted, please consider getting the old group back together when you get out. There probably won’t be any rhinos left by then, but you could make a start on the elephants. They stand around flapping their ears, making trunk calls, and, more often than not, blocking our view at the waterholes.

Murderously yours,

Ben Trovato