In 2008, the Massingir region was practically void of young men between the age of 18 and 40. In 2016, however, the bars were overflowing with youth awaiting their turn to be called to poach. Young men in the region around the Limpopo National Park have rapidly acquired enormous wealth from poaching. This wealth has drastically changed the cultural and social landscape of the rural villages. Where before there were no more than four vehicles in the town of Massingir, now young men with no drivers’ license stir the dust on the dirt roads in their new 4x4s. There are traffic jams in the single roundabout, new houses are being built in the villages, and men are taking up new wives. There is also an undercurrent of secrecy and suspicion, and women wearing mourning clothing-- wives of young poachers caught and killed in South Africa-- can be seen readily around the district.
The rhinos of Kruger National Park, just the other side of the boarder from the Limpopo National Park, are the target of the poaching. Rising wealth in Asia has led to an increased demand for the rhino horn in a number of Asian countries, and in particular, Vietnam. The rhino horn has been used for medicinal purposes, and now represents a symbol of wealth, power and social status.
An organised network of poachers has now managed to kill more than 4000 rhinos in the Kruger National Park since 2010 (see graph below). This has dramatically changed the economy and culture of the region of Massingir. Furthermore, many people speculate about the role of the Limpopo National Park in enabling this massacre of rhinos across the border.