Common Sense – Managing Elephants & Rhino

A report by AFP on 1 June 2016, entitled “elephants in Tanzanian reserve could be wiped out by 2022” provides a distorted and hysterical interpretation of some very inaccurate animal rights propaganda.  Africa’s elephants, its rhinos and its people, deserve better service than this!

  • Between 2008 and 2012 Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve suffered a major poaching event – when the elephant population was said to have been reduced from an estimated 70 000 animals to 13 000. By 2015, however, this elephant population had exceeded 15 000 – so it was already in a state of recovery.
  • All the indications are that the four year long Selous poaching event was orchestrated – not on their own by rural village hunters – but by Tanzania’s ‘political and social elite’ who employed (among others) the village hunters to do much of the killing for them. The military, the police and ‘big business’ were also seemingly implicated.
  • This elephant massacre followed an earlier (much bigger) poaching event (1977 – 1993) when it was alleged that Tanzania’s elephants, as a whole, were reduced from an estimated 365 000 to 53 000. Again ‘people in the know’ at that time, reported, openly, that this event was also orchestrated by Tanzania’s ‘political and social elite’.
  • A similar event took place in Kenya (1970 – 1989) when Kenya’s elephants were reduced in number from an estimated 270 000 (some say only 165 000) to 20 000. And in the 1970s it is said that 10 000 black rhinos were killed in this poaching spree, too. It was widely reported at the time – in newspapers all over the world – that it was Kenya’s “political and social elite” who were behind the poaching.
  • If the world wishes to stop the poaching of Africa’s elephants, therefore, the involvement of the continent’s ‘political and social elite’ needs investigating and being reported upon. Ramping up yet more Draconian trade prohibitions by CITES – and the wasteful burning of ivory and rhino horn in giant bonfires – is not going to stop THIS kind of poaching.  THIS kind of poaching will only come to an end when first world politicians start putting the screws on the real criminals.
  • Elephants are capable of doubling their numbers every 10 years if nutritional levels in the habitats are good. That means the Selous Game Reserve elephant population will return to its pre 2008 population level (70 000) within about 25 years if the poaching stops.  And, since the responsible politicians are no longer operating, it seems that the level of elephant poaching in the Selous is now minuscule by comparison.
  • The common sense long term solution to Africa’s elephant and rhino poaching pandemic is to integrate the needs of Africa’s rural people (the poacher communities) with the continent’s wildlife conservation  needs (no poaching and properly controlled, sustained yield management).
  • What Africa needs to do, therefore, is to legalise the current illegal harvesting of its wildlife resources. It needs to place the harvest into a controlled management environment where the annual take-off will be controllable and sustainable. It needs to create situations in which the proceeds from this legal harvest can be used to reduce the rural people’s poverty.  Only then will the poaching stop!
  • When you take corrupt politicians out of the equation, it is only their poverty that drives the village hunters to poach. Nobody kills elephants and rhinos purely “to satisfy the Far Eastern Ivory and Rhino Horn” markets!
  • Africa’s village hunters poach in order to survive. They poach because they are denied the right to harvest “their own” wild animals legally.  This is the REAL problem that has to be addressed.

Ron Thomson


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