Africa’s final battle to save its wildlife and its national parks

This series of very important articles will, of necessity, cover the whole gambit concerning what is right and what is wrong with the world today vis-à-vis its attitude towards wildlife management; and how this is impacting with the management of Africa’s wildlife and its national parks; and how it is likely to adversely affect our wildlife later this century. These articles may become a bit disjointed because the component parts of this huge jigsaw puzzle, although integral to the greater whole, are not necessarily joined together in easy sequence.


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was created in 1948 when it was originally called, The International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN). Initially, the IUPN was ineffective because governments were unwilling to commit themselves to a seemingly totally protectionist organisation that was badly financed. During its first decade of existence, its operations were almost exclusively grounded in what it called conservation ecology. Gradually, however, it widened its scope and now incorporates even aspects of poverty alleviation and sustainable business activities. To incorporate its early vision, the IUPN changed its name to the IUCN in 1956 – which worked miracles for the organisation’s international acceptance.

In the late 1950s, as a teenager, I watched the IUCN grow in stature and influence. I was working for the Rhodesian Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was created in 1961, and when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) came into being in 1975. I was excited and proud to a part of these important historical events.

The mission statements of these organisations are:-

  • IUCN: To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable;
  • WWF: To stop the degeneration of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature; and
  • CITES: to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, does not threaten their survival.

When everything was new, those were halcyon days. Anything and everything seemed possible.

I draw your attention now, however, to a continuum of events that were to have a great and negative impact on Africa’s species diversity; on the management of our wildlife; and on the integrity of our protected areas. These events began in 1956 when the IUCN replaced the word ‘protection’ in its original title, with ‘conservation’. The need for that change focussed on the fact that the IUCN not only promotes the ‘protection’ of nature, it also promotes the ‘sustainable utilisation of living resources’. THAT, in fact, is what the word ‘conservation’ really means. So, in my opinion, this title change was a good one.

This is not a game of semantics, however, as you will come to realise as each article reaches its climax. There are still some tough changes to make if we want to save Africa’s wildlife, and we will have to gird our loins and find the courage to make them.

The IUCN’s name change was an attempt to clarify the meaning of an important wildlife management concept – ‘conservation’ – but that is where the attempt to create a new wildlife dictionary stopped. Since then nowhere has anybody tried to establish a common sense vocabulary out of all the words describing the science of wildlife management; and the word ‘conservation’ is now used by everybody to mean whatever they individually want it to mean.   Consequently, today, nobody speaks the same language.

The animal rightists call themselves ‘conservationists’; so do hunters, and trappers and commercial harvesters; so does the nature-loving man in the street – who hasn’t a clue what the word really means. So what is a ‘conservationist?’

To this day, the meanings of the words ‘conservation’ and ‘preservation’ (or ‘protection’) remain confused. Many dictionaries use them as synonyms. Some link them to ‘management’ – but they do not explain HOW. It is high time, therefore, that clarity be brought into this, as yet, unexplained yet quite simple puzzle.

We will return to this conundrum in a later article.

1980 was, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the IUCN/WWF/CITES coterie’s existence. That was the year the IUCN published its vision and mission statement. They called it the World Conservation Strategy (WCS). The third objective of what the WCS calls ‘living resource conservation’ states;

To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems

(notably fish and other wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which

support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.

This concept supports the utilisation of any kind of wild animal or wild plant for the benefit of mankind provided the harvest is sustainable – AND for both subsistence and commercial purposes.

In essence, the WCS looked upon wild plants and wild animals as being WILD ‘products of the land’ (although they never said as much) just as cattle, sheep and goats are TAME ‘products of the land’ – and it insisted that both can, and should, be used wisely and sustainably for the benefit of mankind.

This makes complete sense because man, as a part of the animal kingdom – as an integral part of nature – HAS to eat (or to use) plants and/or animals to survive. And whether he eats (or uses) TAME products of the land or WILD ones, makes no difference. Man’s utilisation of BOTH should be acceptable and permissible provided their respective harvests are sustainable.

It is no wonder, therefore, the WCS was, in 1980, declared to be the blueprint for the survival of both man and nature on planet earth.


Influencing the science of Wildlife Management, are three kinds of people:-

(1). Those who understand and believe-in the need to manage the earth’s living resources.   These include responsible nature-lovers; hunters; fur-trappers; wildlife harvesters of one kind or another; fishermen and anglers; foresters; livestock farmers; and suchlike people. It also includes those who may not be practitioners but who understand and believe-in the wisdom of responsible and common sense wildlife management. (15%)

(2). Those urban people who have no interest at all in wildlife affairs. Their alternative passions involve urban social activities like drag and motorcycle racing; Formula 1 racing; baseball, basketball, cricket, football, rugby, shooting pool, or drinking at the bar with their buddies. (80%)

(3). Animal rights activists whose fanatical purpose is to ABOLISH all man’s ‘use of animals’ – in every dimension: no farming of domesticated stock – cattle, sheep and goats; no abattoirs; no eating of animal products; no chickens; no pets; no horse-riding; no angling or commercial fishing; no trade in wildlife or wildlife products; and the prohibition of a whole lot more animal ‘uses’ by man. (5%)


Several long standing members of the IUCN were animal rightist in orientation before 1980 – and they did not approve the sustainable-use ideology contained in the WCS. So, after 1980, they invited several other animal rightist NGOs to become members of the IUCN. Many applied. Collectively, they saw their membership of the IUCN as representing an opportunity to invalidate the WCS from within.

The IUCN became nervous about this state of affairs. So, in 1986, it introduced a new application-for-membership criterion.   This protocol stated that new applicants had to endorse their support for the WCS. This was not acceptable to many, like Greenpeace and Beauty-without-Cruelty, who immediately retracted their applications. That ruling should have been made retrospective, but it was not!


A principle of good business management states that everybody who belongs to an organisation should strive to achieve its vision and its mission. People who are ambivalent about applying themselves to that task are ‘passengers’; and those that actively work against it are ‘saboteurs’. And it is a well known (and practised) pillar of business administration to expel the passengers and the saboteurs just as quickly as they can be identified. Business managers KNOW that if they don’t remove such people their businesses will fail.

The vision and the mission of the IUCN is very clearly articulated in the WCS, so the organisation’s decision to introduce that new membership criterion in 1986 was very well conceived.

Thereafter, however, the IUCN appears to have unravelled.


On the 11th November 2014, I received an email from John Jackson III – Founder and President of Conservation Force, the most influential international organisation working on behalf of hunters everywhere. As a member, he was at an official IUCN function when he happened to remark: “One cannot, of course, be a member of the IUCN if he does not believe in sustainable use”. He was immediately and loudly called-down (by an IUCN official) who told him (and everybody else within earshot) that “that is not a requirement.”

My… My… How the mighty have fallen!!!! All I want to say about this state of affairs is that – because it has now opened its membership doors to people who do not support the WCS – the IUCN is on the road to self-destruction. By wavering in its purpose, the IUCN has completely lost its rudder. It cannot now steer the world in a proper and responsible direction – and it will fail. My fear is: How much damage can the IUCN do to Africa’s wildlife before its membership becomes totally antagonistic to the concept of sustainable use? It has already, in recent years, grossly overstated its new and virulent antagonism towards hunters and hunting!


WWF offices all over the world are suffering a similar fate. They are no longer pure-as-the-driven-snow because they have also allowed themselves to be insidiously infiltrated by animal rightist influences.

A few years ago – Dr Sue Lieberman, a died-in-the-wool and rabid animal rights activist – functioned (I believe – for a time) as the CEO for the WWF-UK office. That being the case WWF-UK must now be totally animal rightist in orientation!

I first met Sue Lieberman when my late good friend (and then recently retired Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service – c. late 1980s) John Gottschalk took me into the offices of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in downtown Washington D.C. HSUS is the second biggest animal rights organization in the world – with an annual income of US$ 125 million!

John had arranged that I should meet with the president of HSUS – but he wasn’t available. Dr Sue Lieberman (a senior executive of HSUS) was standing in for him that day, so she, John and I had a meeting. When Ms. Lieberman learnt that I was a game warden from Africa and that I had conducted elephant culling operations in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), she went berserk and flew at me in a direct physical assault. I don’t know what would have happened had not (big) John Gottshawk stood between us and held her off.

At about that time, I had the privilege of being one of four international guest speakers at Game-Coin (Game Conservation) International’s Silver Jubilee in San Antonio; and at that function I was informed that Sue Lieberman had been appointed, inter alia, to the post of CITES Advisor to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. I was flabbergasted. I could not understand how any responsible wildlife service could appoint a fervent animal rightist to ANY position at all – let alone to such an important one.

The Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service was also celebrating with us at the jubilee; and he made an impromptu address. That gave me the opportunity to publicly broach my subject.

“Why,” I asked the man, “had the US Fish & Wildlife Service seen fit to appoint Ms. Lieberman to such a position? She was anti-wildlife trade, anti-wildlife-utilization, and anti-wildlife management, so what kind of value could he attach to the advice of such a woman?”   In those days I believed the US Fish & Wildlife Service to be a respectable and honorable organisation.

My concerns centered round the fact that the purpose of CITES is to REGULATE the wildlife trade; and that the animal rightists’ purpose is to ABOLISH all animal ‘uses’ by man (including trade). And I knew, from the literature, that Sue Lieberman abhorred the wildlife trade!

He laughed (uncomfortably) and fobbed me off. “We know all about Sue’s connections with HSUS,” he told everybody in general. “We have her under control”.

How naïve! Surely he must know that NOBODY can control fanatical animal rights activists! And, anyway, his response had not answered my question – which he had adroitly side-stepped. I shook my head in disbelief and experienced an epiphany. In that moment I understood that the US Fish & Wildlife Service is not what it purports to be. It is, in fact, a staunch fellow traveller of the animal rights brigade.

Up to that moment I had believed that the US Fish & Wildlife Service was the most responsible and most respectable national wildlife authority in the United States; a sister wildlife organisation, in fact, to those that I had served with in Africa over the last 40 years. I had understood it to comprise a group of people with whom I could communicate on equal terms and with mutual understanding because I had come to believe, we shared the same wildlife management principles and we understood and supported the same wildlife management practices. What I realised at that moment, however – stunned by the realisation – was the fact that the US Fish & Wildlife Service was nothing of the kind. It had no such principles. We shared nothing at all!

Sue Lieberman has “worked in international biodiversity conservation, at the intersection between science and policy, for more than 25 years”. She worked for the US Fish & Wildlife Service (as Chief of the Scientific Authority) from 1990-2001. From 2001 to 2009, she was the Director of the Species Programme of WWF-International, based in Europe. There she led all programmatic, scientific and communications aspects of work on endangered and threatened species at the global level, as well as all international policy issues pertaining to species conservation, including international trade. She directed WWF programs on the conservation of species of international concern, including tigers, African and Asian elephants, African and Asian rhinos, giant pandas, African and Asian great apes, whales, marine turtles, and polar bears. She also directed WWF’s science-based policy and advocacy pertaining to several international treaties, including CITES. She was also the spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 1988-89, for IFAW’s CITES ivory trade ban campaign. IFAW is reputed to be the biggest animal rights organisation in the world with an annual income exceeding US$ 200 million.

Sue Lieberman is currently Vice President for International Policy at the U.S. Wildlife Conservation Society where she works to direct WCS’s conservation programs to conserve wildlife and wild places, working closely with governments, inter-government organisations, NGO partners, and others. Prior to working for WCS she worked as senior Director, International Policy, at PEW Charitable Trusts, focusing on regional fisheries management organisations, CITES, and other governmental organisations, including the UN, to provide science-based research and policy analysis to ensure the sustainability of marine species and ecosystems.

She currently serves on President Barak Obama’s advisory council on illegal wildlife trafficking.

This nefarious lady, therefore, has been an animal-rights-orientated linchpin personality interacting at the very highest levels with some of the most politically important people and most influential wildlife organisations in the world, for 25 years. It is inevitable that her fanatical animal rightist beliefs have been insinuated into her work programmes wherever she has been employed. I have included her career in this article to emphasize the very extensive manner in which the animal rightists are involved with statesmen – even to the level of the President of the United States of America – and organizations like the US Fish & Wildlife Service, WWF and CITES – and by implication the IUCN which is the parent of that whole coterie. Her story exemplifies the fact that over the years the same colour blood now flows in all these people’s and organisations’ veins. They are true blood brothers and sisters in the same conspiracy – which has nothing to do with what is best for wildlife. The senior echelons of the animal rightists NGOs are all more greatly concerned about how to make the most money out of a gullible public.

A little over 10 years ago, Director Jamie Clarke (US Fish and Wildlife Service) appeared before the US government’s Resource Committee for, among other things, funding controversial programmes through the Director’s Office Projects and Initiatives Account – expenses that were well hidden within other financial records. These funds – amounting to several hundred million US dollars a year – had been generated by taxes solely raised through the purchase of hunting and fishing equipment by America’s hunters and anglers. These monies are designed to provide revenue to individual state fish-and-wildlife agencies – for wildlife management, biological studies and habitat improvement programmes. Clarke, said he was “pressurised from the top (to use the monies) for the purpose of pushing the political agendas of animal rights activists and environmental extremists” who, with Clarke’s connivance, were planning to use large amounts of these funds to produce anti-hunting propaganda.

Clarke’s plans were thwarted when Jim Beers (a US Fish & Wildlife biologist with 30 year’s service) refused to carry out Clarke’s instructions. Beers was ordered by Clarke to print, and to pay for, anti-hunting pamphlets which were designed to become an integral part of the propaganda apparatus of a large American animal rightist NGO. As a consequence of his insubordination, Beers was forced out of his profession by the administration. He was, however, later vindicated by the courts and received a US$ 130 000 out of court settlement.

I hope you are getting the message – that the US Fish & Wildlife Service is rotten to the core. It is positively gangrenous. So make up your own mind about just how much support for rational wildlife management programmes that African wildlife can expect from it.

So where does this leave Africa, its people, its wildlife and its national parks? It leaves us, in fact, out on a limb and all on our own. Even if we follow the very sound guidance contained in the IUCN’s mission statement (WCS 1980) we cannot implement it because we are blocked by organizations such as CITES (which is now ‘controlled’ by its animal rightist accredited NGO members); we are not supported by the IUCN (because that once pure and auspicious organization is now thoroughly contaminated by its animal rightists members – and it no longer fulfils its mandate to support sovereign member states); WWF is no longer worth the price of its paper protocols (because it has been seriously contaminated by the likes of Sue Lieberman); and the US Fish & Wildlife Service is actively working against us – as is exemplified by its unsupportable recent banning of elephant trophies to America from Zimbabwe.

Perhaps readers will now come to understand that the banning of elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe into America is not just an isolated, unfortunate and misguided incident. It is, in fact, part of a very large and still developing plan of action – to stop all trade (both legal and illegal); to stop all hunting and the lethal management of Africa’s wildlife (such as population reduction and culling); to stop all hunting in Africa; and to impose the animal rightists’ First World ideological doctrines on the people and wildlife of Africa.

Am I being cynical? NO! I am interpreting the facts honestly! And you, the reader, will come to the same conclusion when you have finished reading all these essays.

One of my conclusions: The US Fish & Wildlife Service, the IUCN, WWF and CITES have been fellow travellers of the animal rights brigade for a very long time.

And there is no point in writing to the President of the United States – to complain about any of this destructive skullduggery – because his ear has already been bent. I HAVE written to him and did not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

Tragically, the interfering animal rightist NGOs now collectively call themselves “The International Conservation Community”.   This is confusing to the public, and erroneous because their drive is NOT in support of ‘conservation’ (sustainable wise-use) ONLY for ‘preservation’ (total protection). And they are aided and abetted by senior American politicians like Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton.

God help Africa, its people and its wildlife!

Look out for the next exciting episode in this Armageddon series. There is a lot more to come!


As Publised in AFRICAN OUTFITTER magazine 2015


  1. Evelyn Ngarakana

    The only reservations I would have when it comes to “sustainable conservation” is that it is being abused right at this time. It is benefiting all sorts of the wrong people like ministers, as a result the problem of loss of wildlife is actually not being solved. But like you said if we start by ensuring that the African countries are running properly. Those who studied to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, engineers etc are working at their respective jobs., Only then can sustainable utilization work but for now in a country like Zimbabwe sustainable utilization is just a free ticket for people to poach animals, move into their habitats, reducing their niches then come back and talk about carrying capacity killing more animals and only buying themselves benzes, fortuners, building mansions etc whilst the rural community and the rest of the country are in serious poverty. As a result the local communities poach from one side whilst the governments in the name of sustainable utilization poaching from the other side…
    In short I agree totally with your line of thinking, solutions you are presenting which will work perfectly the moment the majority of people are living decent lives and those who should benefit from sustainable utilization start benefiting

    • Dear Evelyn,

      It seems I cannot teach you anything? What you say is exactly right – but we have to start somewhere. And once we have started we can add “better” things to what we have got, and delete that which is not wanted.

      It is, actually, a breath of fresh air for us in the TGA to see that we have “black” Africans (like you – I am a “white” African – although I don’t differentiate on the lines of colour) who have grasped this nettle so firmly.
      I am encouraged and will be contacting you again via email.
      All it needs is ONE person – like you – one spark – to set off a raging veld fire. So I hope you like the role of being a pyrotechnician!
      I hope those who read these posts will take note!
      Kind regards Ron Thomson

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