Towards an understanding of the social learning dynamic in the advancement of rhinoceros anti-poaching in the iMfolozi Game Reserve.
Munro, Frederick Lawrence.
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In the iMfolozi Game Reserve, illegal rhinoceros killings have increased by an order of magnitude since 2007 when only 1 rhinoceros was poached. In the years since then 6 were killed in 2008, 10 in 2009, 14 in 2010 and 9 in 2011. Law enforcement has been instituted vigorously, but has failed to stem this disastrous increase. It is therefore imperative that the conservation authority rethinks how best to conduct anti-poaching operations to minimize rhinoceros killings. The trend in killings since 2007 seems to be indicating that poaching syndicates are learning faster than the conservation authorities. A deeper understanding of this complex issue is necessary. The advancement of rhinoceros anti-poaching methodology in the iMfolozi Game Reserve is imperative because the iMfolozi Game Reserve is an important container for black and white rhinoceros meta-populations in southern Africa. Despite increased efforts by Ezemvelo Kwa-Zulu Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), the South African Police and other strategic roleplayers, various restrictions have unfortunately hampered these efforts. Poaching syndicates have turned circumstances such as delayed adjusting by the authorities and increased technological communications available to poachers, to their advantage, affecting the law enforcement efficacy in the reserve and outmatching EKZNW. There is a growing feeling amongst leading conservationists that it is imperative that the conservation and law enforcement authorities develop social learning skills that will enable them to learn faster than the rhinoceros poaching syndicates. With this in mind the aim of this research was to explore the extent to which the EKZNW authorities within the iMfolozi Game Reserve are well predisposed to healthy social learning. Three objectives of this study were: 1. To review selected literature that surrounds and supports Scharmer’s Theory U. 2. To assess the extent to which key roleplayers have been unknowingly and instinctively operating in accordance with Theory U type processes. 3. To explore whether key roleplayers have the potential to engage in dynamic social learning as framed by the Theory U paradigm. The research methods used in this study were qualitative. Interviewees were a purposive sample of EKZNW law enforcement staff in the iMfolozi Game Reserve, all of whom hold positions of leadership, at various levels. Observations of social learning related phenomena were gathered through semi-structured interviews to attempt to extricate relationships and patterns with the aim of developing impressions in the light of a theory. The semi-structured questions probed the thoughts and past actions of interviewees in terms of the primary capacities of Scharmer’s Theory U. The questions were asked in a narrative style without referring to Theory U. The research findings showed that by applying the thought lenses of Scharmer’s Theory U it was possible to discern behavior originating from the perceptions of the selected law enforcement officials. The findings indicated that there was an inherent willingness and capability for interviewees to subconsciously migrate down the reflection for deeper understanding side of Theory U. This involved positively engaging with the core capacities pertaining to suspending, re-directing, letting go and letting come. A disparity emerged when an analysis was made of the interviewees’ propensity to effectively transform their thoughts into actions in terms of the core capacities. The core capacities of crystallizing, prototyping and institutionalizing, which form the right hand side of the U in Theory U where not realized. The research also revealed a disturbing tendency towards a preference for what Scharmer refers to as the absencing cycle type thinking and behaviors. One of the outcomes of such absencing behaviors was a distinct lack of trust amongst law enforcement roleplayers and hence poor sharing of strategic and operational information so vital for successful social learning.