Science | March 21, 2020 8:30 am

Anti-Poaching Detective Murdered in South Africa

Lt.-Col. Leroy Bruwer's investigative work focused on the poaching of rhinos

A detective who worked to stop the poaching of rhinos has been killed in South Africa.
Axel Tschentscher

When we read about poaching animals, the issue is usually phrased in terms of environmental effect or governmental policy. “Poachers sometimes kill or capture animals to sell them locally or for the global trade in wildlife,” wrote Jani Actman in a 2019 National Geographic piece. And an article from that same year in The New York Times explored the increased demand for lion bones — something that has had an international impact and which has affected governmental policies in different ways.

One thing that most coverage about poachers and poaching doesn’t necessarily address, though, is that it can also be a matter of life and death for humans. At The New York Times, liana Magra and Lynsey Chutel wrote about the death of Lt.-Col. Leroy Bruwer, a South African detective whose focus was on stopping the poaching of rhinos. His work, apparently, cost him his life:

On Tuesday morning, Colonel Bruwer was driving to work when he was shot by gunmen with what appeared to be “heavy-caliber weapons” in the northeastern city of Mbombela, the South African police said. Colonel Bruwer, who was 49, died at the scene.

The group Save the Rhino offers some sobering statistics on the subject — and while the number of rhinos poached in South Africa (and in Africa in general) declined between 2018 and 2019, that number remains high. South Africa looms large in these numbers: according to Save the Rhino, the country “holds nearly 80% of the world’s rhinos and has been the country hit hardest by poaching criminals, with more than 1,000 rhinos killed each year between 2013 and 2017.”

Police are currently searching for the person or people responsible for Lt.-Col. Bruwer’s death.

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