Now let’s have a look at elephant poaching. It is something that we should not allow – but how are we going to stop it? The first step is to identify its causes.
When elephant poaching is carried out by Africa’s village hunters the causes are two-fold:
(1) poverty and
So – first things first – we have to remove these two motivating factors. And when we enable rural communities to benefit from the sustainable utilisation of ‘their’ elephants, the elephants themselves provide their own salvation.
Fortunately, that solution is not too difficult to bring into effect. All it needs is political understanding and political will – and I think that Botswana now has both those prerequisites in abundance.
What most people don’t understand, however, is that since 1970, MOST of the really big commercial elephant poaching events, throughout Africa, were NOT conducted by the so-called and mythical Chinese mafia.
They were orchestrated by corrupt elements of Africa’s own political elite. And THAT has not been an easy problem to solve. But that does not apply to Botswana.
The game reserve sanctuaries of all the countries of southern Africa are each carrying between 10 and 20 times too many elephants – and they will all benefit extensively by having those populations reduced by several tens of thousands.
These excessive elephant populations, therefore, have the enormous potential of eliminating long term poverty – and providing sustainable employment – in the villages in those remote regions where the people are living cheek by jowl with masses of these highly dangerous and crop-destructive animals.
And – remember what I said previously – it is poverty and unemployment that are the drivers of commercial elephant poaching by village hunters. By creating realistic symbiotic partnerships between Botswana’s elephants, and Botswana’s rural people, poaching in Botswana by Botswana’s own rural people, can be stopped.
There is nothing I can prescribe to eliminate poaching by Africa’s political elite – except by revealing this reality to the world at large – but relieving poverty in the rural villages – by enabling the rural people to gain substantially from the ‘consumptive use’ of “their” excessive elephants – will turn our village hunters into our game reserves’ greatest-ever custodians. So, we are slowly creeping back to the involvement of our people!