A Letter to the IUCN

The staff of the IUCN needs to attend some kind of preparatory school that teaches its pupils about the principles and practices of wildlife management.  And they should take the CITES Secretariat along with them to learn these lessons, too. How the hell is mankind going to manage its wild living resources in a sustainable and ‘best practice’ manner when the world’s wildlife management leadership (The IUCN and CITES) clearly doesn’t understand even the basic fundamentals about the practice of wildlife management?

I have just received (26/03/2021) a whole tome of IUCN information (dated yesterday) about the numerical declines of Africa’s two elephant species due to “poaching and loss of habitat” – AND also information that tells us the IUCN has, at last, acknowledged that the Forest Elephant and the Savannah elephant are two distinct species.  I am now 81 years old and have worked in and around Africa’s national parks systems all my life, and I learned over 60 years ago that these two animals were recognised (in the 1950s) as being “distinct species”. So I have to ask, what spurred the IUCN into acknowledging this general knowledge at this late stage in our wildlife history.

The most important matter that I wish to comment upon, however, is the fact that the IUCN (inside this document) refers to these species of Africa’s elephants as being “CRITICALLY ENDANGERED”.

I have to ask the IUCN, therefore, what good does it do ANY species to be listed as “ENDANGERED” let alone “CRITICALLY ENDANGERED”? It is not possible to manage ANY species at the “SPECIES” level – let alone at the “CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES” level – whatever that means.  As an experienced wildlife manager in Africa I can tell the IUCN in total confidence that you can ONLY “MANAGE” an animal species at the “POPULATION LEVEL”.

Species can ONLY be managed population by population – and THAT is a scientific fact.  And they can only be managed when the carrying capacity of each specific population’s habitat is known. And the management criteria for any animal species’ population can only be ascertained in terms of the population’s ‘safety status’.   If the population is numerically way below its habitat carrying capacity then the  population must be managed according to the principles of PRESERVATION management (total protection from all harm).  If the population number is AT (or ‘about’) the carrying capacity of its habitat then it must be managed according to the principles of  CONSERVATION management (which must include an annual culling programme to keep the population at a sustainable number). And if the number of animals in the population greatly exceeds the carrying capacity of its habitat (which means the population is grossly excessive) then massive population reduction is necessary (Up to a 50 percent reduction in numbers to begin with!).

How can a wildlife manager apply ANY KIND OF wildlife management strategy to a “SPECIES” which has been labeled either “ENDANGERED” or “CRITICALLY ENDANGERED”? I ask the IUCN to think about the explanation I have offered them, and I invite them to come back to me and to tell me why THEY are ‘right’  – i.e. that there IS such a thing as an ‘endangered species’ – and that I am wrong. And if they have any idea HOW a wildlife manager can ‘manage’ an animal species that has been declared “ENDANGERED”.

I define ‘wildlife management’ as being the action that man takes to achieve a man-desired wildlife objective (such as: “maintaining species diversity in a national park”).

And I would ask the IUCN if they KNOW that it was the political elites in KENYA, TANZANIA, MOZAMBIQUE, ZIMBABWE and ZAMBIA who orchestrated the massive poaching pandemics that rocked these countries in the post colonial era (between 1970 and 2000)?  The so-called Chinese mafia (the poaching mafia) does not exist!  If they don’t know these facts, I can supply them.  Indeed, the facts have been in the public domain (inside my published book “ELEPHANT CONSERVATION – The Facts and the Fiction”) for the last three years.

Let’s get the truth about these matters into the public domain!

Ron Thomson.  CEO – The True Green Alliance (South Africa).


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