“Western” Irresponsible Interference in Africa’s Wildlife Management Affairs

My reply to Nigel Bean’s correspondence.

The circus issue in Great Britain is a true “animal welfare” issue – which is of concern to me but is not my main interest.  So I am not going to dwell on it – although that does NOT mean I am disinterested.

What IS of VERY GREAT concern to me is how the British government (and the European Parliament and the American administration) (the entire “WEST”, in fact) is interfering in Africa’s wildlife management affairs – especially its elephant and general national park management affairs.  The International animal rights movement (which I consider to be the biggest organised crime machine in the whole world) – through CITES – has convinced the world (by way of its fabricated propaganda apparatus) that the African elephant is facing extinction – when, in fact, in southern Africa there are far too many elephants.

The elephants of South Africa; Namibia; Botswana and Zimbabwe (particularly) are grossly in excess of their national park habitat elephant carrying capacities.  In all these countries the elephant population numbers are ALL “more than 10 TIMES” bigger than their habitats can sustainably support; and that state of affairs has been developing for the last 50/60 years.

The consequence is that the elephants have now totally demolished the woodland habitats in their game reserve sanctuaries – by upwards of 90 percent.  In the case of  Kruger National Park in South Africa the national park’s ‘top-canopy trees’ (in its once extensive woodland habitats – not long ago widespread across the entire 8000 square miles (20 000 sq kms) of the game reserve’s extent) – have been reduced in number by “more than” 95 percent (since 1960).

(This is a statement made by the Kruger scientists). That  means, for every tree that is still standing in Kruger National Park today, there were 20 additional trees standing next to it in 1960.  And all the complex understory habitats that once thrived in the shade cast by the high canopies of those big trees, have been destroyed in their entireties.  With that tremendous habitat change in Kruger National Park, there has been a catastrophic loss of the national park’s biological diversity (plants and animals).

In Botswana’s Chobe National Park  (since 1960) – the entire riverine forest – that once thrived along the Chobe River banks – has been destroyed; the Chobe River Bushbuck has “disappeared”; and  600 400-year-old camel thorn trees in the hinterland of the Chobe River – and many other major tree species that once thrived in the Chobe – have been rendered extinct.  In 2013 the government announced that all “other species” of game animals in the Chobe National Park, (other, that is, than elephants) had been reduced by between 60 % and 90%.

The elephants in Chobe have not only eaten themselves out of house and home, they have destroyed the environment for all the ‘lesser’ species of animals that once thrived in the original Chobe habitats.

In Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park the habitat situation is a destroyed replica of that which pertains in the Chobe. And in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park ALL the once rich riverine forests, and the sandveld deciduous woodlands, have now all ‘gone’ (reduced to regenerating root-stock that is only ankle-high above the ground).

Gone, too, are 95 percent of the once ubiquitous and ancient baobab trees  some said to have been 5000 years old.  To put this in a better time-frame perspective many of the baobabs, now dead in the Gonarezhou, were 1 700 years old when Tutankhamen was Pharoah of Egypt.  What right have we to condemn those trees that remain?  The very advanced trend – because all these game reserves have been carrying far by too many elephants for far too long – is towards turning the once rich and diverse habitats of all these game reserves into deserts.

The answers to all these situations is to reduce the elephant population numbers to levels that their habitats can sustainably carry: but the animal rightists have convinced their home governments (in the “WEST”) not to allow ANY elephants to be destroyed anywhere in Africa.  Hence the British government is now putting constraints on the way Africa wants to utilise its super-abundant elephants.

Some comparative figures:

·         BOTSWANA (disputed but accepted) elephant population number – 130 000 – carrying capacity (when the habitats were healthy) – probably 10 000;
·         HWANGE (accepted but variable) elephant population number – 35 000 – carrying capacity (when the habitats were healthy) – 2 500;
·         GONAREZHOU (accepted but variable) elephant population number  – 12 000 – carrying capacity (when the habitats were healthy) – 1000;
·         KRUGER (disputed but accepted) elephant population 32 000 – carrying capacity (when the habitats were healthy) 3 500.

As may be variably appropriate these excessive elephant populations need to be hunted, and/or culled and/or subjected to major population reduction.  But under current circumstances this is not possible. “THE WEST” will not allow Africa to carry out any kind of pro-active elephant management programme.

“The West”, therefore, is not just DIS-allowing the ‘best practice’  elephant management of ‘our own’ elephants; it is considering imposing conditions that are going to lead to the total destruction of our national parks; and the destruction of our species diversity.

And is this what worries me about “Western” irresponsible interference in Africa’s wildlife management affairs.  Denying the importation of legitimate elephant trophies into the U.K. will do nothing to ‘save’ the African elephant; but taken to its ultimate conclusion stopping hunting trophies into the U.K. could destroy everything I and my colleagues have done all our lives to properly manage our national parks.

In conclusion I used to be a ‘management’ hunter but no longer hunt.  I hunted problem animals under government instruction. I am now too old for such hi-jinks. But my instincts are still concerned with the proper management of our national parks and our elephants and our rhinos.  I would hate to think that the U.K. government has the capacity to destroy everything that I have worked all my life to ‘conserve’ – and that it has every intention of doing so.  The ‘truth’ doesn’t seem to matter.

This whole issue needs to be debated properly on British television – before the promulgation of destructive legislation takes the matter out of our hands!  I would be quite prepared to travel to the U.K. to participate in such a debate if that could be arranged.

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 159 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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