Africa’s battle to save its wildlife and national parks
THE WEST’S UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDE TOWARDS SOUTHERN AFRICA’S CONSERVATION ETHOS WILL BE THE DEATH KNELL FOR THE CONTINENT’S WILDLIFE.
This is an open address to the European Union.
Southern Africa continues the battle to impress upon Western governments that their misunderstanding of, and lack of support for, this region’s wildlife management ethos will destroy the continent’s unique wildlife; and that the unquestioning credibility they afford animal rightist propaganda is deadly poison for Africa.
For a brief moment, therefore, let us forget about commercial poachers; the poaching mafia; and the ivory trade. Instead, let us examine, with open minds, some basic facts about elephants and their management needs. The truth is far more interesting than the fabrications being disseminated in the animal rightists’ propaganda!
PROPAGANDA is defined as: “The spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of promoting an ideal – or injuring an institution, cause, or person – by any means, true or false.” Propaganda, therefore, has no connection with the truth.
I was prompted to write this article after reading internet communications between an organisation named Avaaz, and the European Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Karmenu Vella.
NB: The European Commission: is the executive body of the European Union and it promotes and reflects the EU’s general interests. I have accepted, therefore, that Mr. Vella’s response to Avaaz indicates the consensus opinion of the European parliament.
NB: Avaaz: is a global civic organisation that promotes activism on various issues – including animal rights – and it incites mass public outrage on the internet through online petitions and email campaigns.
Recently Avaaz amassed over one million signatures from all over Europe in support of the animal rightists’ goal to outlaw elephant ivory sales forever. It then appealed to the European Commission to subscribe to this seemingly popular objective at the upcoming CITES meeting in Johannesburg (CoP17) in September 2016.
I must point out, however, that the Avaaz signatures were obtained from urbanised Western folk – undoubtedly well-intentioned – but who are totally ignorant of the complexities of science-based wildlife management; and who do not understand the term ‘best practice’ wildlife management.
This followed on the heels of a barrage of animal rights propaganda that informed a highly and emotionally pre-sensitized Western World public, that the African elephant is facing extinction due to uncontrolled and uncontrollable poaching.
None of this is true.
Mr. Vella’s response to the Avaaz petition is revealing. He states that: “It is extremely positive that over 1,000 000 people have signed the petition. But what is also very positive is the role of the European Commission in the fight to save the African elephant.” He goes on to say: “The European Commission strongly supports a continuation of this (ivory trade) ban”; AND “It is precisely for this reason that the European Commission is opposed to the proposals tabled by some Parties at the next meeting in September 2016 (CITES CoP17) to resume international ivory trade.” He concluded with: “I hope this information will clarify that the EU is leading the fight for the survival of the African elephant, is proud of this fact, and will strongly resist any attempts that give any other impression.”
NB: Whew!!! How on earth are we going to get our message out to the Western World when the deck is so heavily stacked against us? The answer is: “We continue to spread the truth”; and “We persevere.” If we don’t, Africa will lose all its wildlife before the end of this century.
I wish, now, to provide Commissioner Vella with some factual information about Africa’s elephants. And I ask him to give this report the same level of attention as that which he has already afforded the animal rightists’ agenda (via the Avaaz petition).
First of all, I must debunk the notion that Africa’s elephants are facing extinction.
It is also important to understand that the “endangered species” concept is a fallacy. This is so because it is based on a false premise; and because it has no application whatsoever in the scientific practice of wildlife management.
Animal species organise themselves – not at the species level – but at the population level. Animal “home-ranges”, “territories” and “rank structures”, for example, can be defined only within population groups. The status and fitness of an animal species as a whole, therefore, can be determined ONLY by collectively assessing the relative health conditions and vigour of its many different populations.
The physical condition of an animal population is entirely influenced by the excellence, or otherwise, of the habitat that supports it. And the relative health of individual animals is determined by the quality and abundance of their habitat resources: Lebensraum; air; food; water; and shelter.
The term “endangered species” implies that the species as a whole is declining; that the reason for its decline cannot be halted; and that it consequently faces ultimate extinction. Specifically, it infers that every single one of the species’ populations is being similarly threatened with extinction. So they must all be “UNSAFE”.
When a population is truly UNSAFE – in terms of good management practice – it should be afforded nothing less than total preservation (protection from all harm). Are there any species whose every population is UNSAFE? Yes! The Northern White Rhino is one – with only one old male and three females remaining. Regrettably they are all beyond breeding. The African elephant is very definitely not in this category.
The principles of wildlife management dictate that – even if we accept that the endangered species concept has some merit (which I refute) – if just ONE population of a species is abundant and expanding (that is, if it is “SAFE”) – no matter how badly its other populations may be faring, the species as a whole cannot be considered endangered or facing extinction.
There is one essential prerequisite to understanding the principles and practices of wildlife management: The difference between species and populations MUST be recognized.
NB: A SPECIES: can be defined as a group of individual animals that share the same physical and behavioural characteristics (they look and act alike) and which, when they breed, produce fertile offspring with the same physical and behavioural characteristics.
NB: A POPULATION: can be defined as a group of animals of the same species, the individuals of which interact with one another, in continuum, on a daily basis; and which breed ONLY with other animals in the same group.
This understanding will give a broader appreciation of the status of the Africa’s common bush elephant (Loxodonta africana). There are said to be 37 “African elephant range states” – that is, states in which this species of elephant occurs naturally; there is but one species; and there are 150(+) different populations.
Each one of these populations lives in a habitat that is defined by its own unique environment. Some populations occur in mixed savannahs (treed-grasslands). Some live in grasslands; others in montane forests, or in swamps, or in deserts. Some habitats have abundant water; others are very arid. Some elephants exist in harmony with the local rural people; others are heavily poached by them. Some elephant populations are SAFE whilst others are UNSAFE; and some are “excessive” – which means their numbers exceed the carrying capacities of their habitats. All these factors affect and dictate each individual population’s management needs.
The important issue to understand is that, overall, the environmental circumstances of every elephant population in Africa, is uniquely different from any other. And THAT means every population has to be managed according to the merits of its own specific situation. There is no universal elephant management programme that can be applied to them all.
The fecundity of different elephant populations is highly variable, too. Some show a negative growth – their numbers are declining! Some are dynamically stable – their numbers remain relatively static due, maybe, to the application of an appropriate management regime. Others are grossly excessive and continue to expand.
NB: The problem with maintaining excessive elephant populations in a national park is that the elephants continually and grossly over-utilise their habitat resources. This causes the habitats to progressively degrade, the end result of which can only be the creation of a desert. And the greater the habitat degradation the more does the sanctuary lose its vital biological diversity.
Under natural conditions – when nutrition levels are high – elephant populations will double their numbers every 10 years. So if we start with 1000 elephants, within 10 years there will be 2000; then 4000, then 8000, then 16 000 – and so on, until the elimination of their dry season food supply causes the ecosystem to collapse. The elephants (and all other animals) will then die in their thousands from starvation.
So the circumstances of every single one of Africa’s independent elephant populations
is changing every year. And their individual management needs are, often year by year, equally variable.
When in 1989 CITES declared the elephant to be an endangered species, therefore, all African countries were forced to apply preservation management (protection from all harm) strategies to their every elephant population (including those that were quite SAFE and/or EXCESSIVE). This one action started a ball rolling that will eventually cause the total demise of Africa’s wildlife – including its elephants – unless action is taken to reverse this undesirable state of affairs.
The application of preservation management was the correct strategy for all UNSAFE elephant populations at that time. But it also represented MIS-management for all the SAFE and excessive populations. And that state of affairs persists to this day.
NB: Declaring the elephant to be an endangered species in 1989 was tantamount to forcing the people of New York City in America to ration their water consumption because the people of Kolkata in India were suffering the consequences of a severe drought!
So the endangered species concept is not only invalid, it is decidedly dangerous to all responsible wildlife management programmes everywhere. Nevertheless, the animal rightists relish calling wild animals “endangered” – even common species – because that one word stimulates an emotional response from the public which loosens their purse strings. Intelligent and responsible governments, however, would be wise to remove the concept of endangered species entirely from their environmental vocabularies.
I am not qualified to discuss every elephant population in Africa, but I am certain of the general ecological facts concerning those that exist south of the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers in southern Africa. So – because this letter is directed at the European Commission – to dispel any ideas that they may still have about the elephant being endangered and/or facing extinction – I will now review some of these populations in detail:
Botswana. The first official elephant count was conducted in Botswana in 1990. The reported figure was 54 500. By the year 2000 this number had risen to 120 600. The latest count (2013) recorded 207 000(+). The 2013 report also revealed that all other game species had been reduced by between 60 and 90 percent! This elephant population is grossly excessive and it is still expanding. Extrapolating these figures backwards, it would appear that the current Botswana elephant population was derived from about 7 500 animals in 1960 – which, at that time, were already being accused of irreparably damaging their habitat.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe: In1960 the official elephant count was 3500 – which was deemed by the National Parks Board at that time, to be well above the game reserve’s habitat carrying capacity. I was there! I participated in that count and I listened to the debate. Even at that low number, those elephants were then rendering important tree species locally extinct. The carrying capacity of this c.14 000 sq km (c.5000 sq mile) national park was then (arbitrarily) determined to be 2500 (or roughly one elephant per 5 sq kilometers; or one elephant per 2 sq miles) and the drive to reduce these elephants in number began in 1960. I was involved in that ad hoc exercise! Proper annual culling was instituted in 1965 and it continued until 1989. Today Hwange’s elephant numbers exceed 50 000. So this population is grossly excessive. It is 20 times bigger than the size recommended in 1960. The habitats have now been trashed and the population continues to expand.
Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. In 1971 the Gonarezhou’s elephants numbered 5000. This was deemed far too many for this 5000 square kilometre (2000 square mile) game reserve to carry. The habitats were being destroyed by these animals and large numbers of ancient (up to 5000 year old) baobab trees were being killed off annually. In 1971 & 1972 I led the game ranger hunting team that reduced these animals by 2500. No annual culling programme took place after 1972, and by 1982 the numbers had recovered to 5 000. Another 2500 were then removed – and once again no annual culling followed. By 1992 the elephant population had again recovered – but a devastating drought that year killed off several thousand of them. Today the Gonarezhou’s elephants number c.12 000. If we use the Hwange yardstick, the carrying capacity ‘guesstimate’ for the Gonarezhou game reserve would be 1000 animals. So this population, also, is grossly excessive.
Kruger National Park, South Africa: Elephant culling began in 1967 when the park’s 7000-PLUS elephants were arbitrarily reduced to 7000; and for the following 27 years the Kruger elephant population was religiously maintained at 7000 – by culling. A 1944 top canopy tree study in the park’s Satara area was used as the scientists’ yardstick. At that time, there were, on average, 13 large top canopy trees per hectare in this study area.
This statistic did not change for some 15 years. By 1965, however, the numbers of top canopy trees had been reduced to 9 trees per hectare; by 1967 to 6 trees per hectare; by 1974 to 3 trees per hectare; and by 1981 to 1.5 trees per hectare. This indicated very clearly that 7000 elephants grossly exceeded the game reserve’s habitat carrying capacity! But no adjustment was made to the culling target of 7000!!! By 1994 – when culling was finally stopped (following animal rights protests), the big trees in the Kruger National Park had been reduced by 95 percent.
Today the top canopy tree loss is said to be: “Greater than 95 percent”. And, tragically, the big eagle and ground hornbill populations are in serious decline.
Today Kruger’s elephants – within the park only – are said to number c.18 000; with many others having dispersed onto adjacent private game reserve properties and into Mozambique. The Kruger elephant population, therefore, is grossly excessive; and it, too, is still increasing.
There exists in southern Africa one massive MEGA-population comprising, mainly, the core elephants of Botswana. To this number, however, must be added the elephants of western Zimbabwe (Hwange); of south western Zambia; of south eastern Angola; and of north eastern Namibia. All these elephants intermingle and breed within the same group. This huge population is grossly excessive and without doubt numbers well over 300 000. Technically, none of this population’s several “national” population groupings can or should be managed in isolation.
Notwithstanding that biological fact, rumour has it that CITES is suggesting that it transfers the Namibian and Hwange components of this mega-population from its Appendix II list to Appendix I. THAT action would prohibit all hunting and essential lethal management and it would negate best practice elephant management procedures. And because of the excessive nature of this entire population it makes no sense at all.
“Are the elephants of southern Africa endangered in any way?” NO! The facts and figures I have presented thus far speak for themselves. “Are these elephants being poached?” Undoubtedly YES – but at very low-intensity! Throughout their history they have been illegally hunted; and they will probably always be subjected to some minor level of poaching. “Is the poaching having any detrimental effect on their numerical strengths?” Definitely NOT!
“Is there any truth in the animal rightist propaganda – that the elephants of Africa are being so heavily poached they are facing imminent extinction?” No!
“Is it true for West Africa?” I believe that question might require a hesitant “YES” response; but only insofar as many elephant “populations” in that region are in a serious predicament due to poaching. Nevertheless, whatever might be happening in West Africa should not, in any way, affect the elephant population management programmes that should be applied in southern Africa. How, for example, would subjecting southern Africa’s super-abundant elephants to inappropriate total preservation management programmes, save the elephants of West Africa? That notion is simply preposterous.
We have now examined the status of the African elephant and, hopefully, convinced the European Commission that there is no truth in the animal rightists’ allegation that the African elephant is facing extinction. We have explained that the endangered species concept is a fallacy; and that Africa’s elephant populations can only be managed individually.
Indeed, I hope we achieved more than that. I hope we explained the elephant’s position clearly enough to enable Mr Karmenu Vella – the E.U.’s Commissioner for the Environment – to understand that unless southern Africa’s several excessive elephant populations are reduced in number to a level that their habitats can sustainably support, the elephants will render themselves extinct. This will occur because, during every moment of every day, they are further destroying their own habitats; and tragically, concomitantly, they are also destroying their own sanctuaries’ biological diversities.
Losing biological diversity – because misinformed urban societies in the Western World will not allow the appropriate management of Africa’s excessive elephant populations – is the worst type of environmental crime that mankind could ever inflict on Africa. There is no worse a violation of the natural world!
There have been some appalling elephant poaching pandemics during the post colonial era in Africa. Contrary to the animal rightist NGOs’ claim, however, that this poaching was instigated by “greedy African peasants” who operated in cahoots with foreign Mafioso, the chief architects were, in fact, Africa’s political and social elite. Nevertheless, the village hunters were involved.
I refer to the poaching that took place in: (1) Kenya (1970 – 1989); (2) & (3) Tanzania (1977 – 1993) & (2008 – 2012); (4). Zimbabwe (1980s & 1990s); and (5). Zambia (1980s). I have insufficient information, however, to comment on the poaching that also occurred in other regions of the continent during this era.
As I understand them, the facts are as follows:
• Kenya (1970 – 1989). During this period Kenya’s elephants were estimated to have been reduced from 270 000 to 20 000; whilst 10 000 black rhinos, 5000 zebra and over 20 000 Colobus monkeys were also killed. The world press and Kenyan society accused the following people of orchestrating this giant poaching pandemic: Jomo Kenyatta and his close family members – particularly his wife, Kenya’s First Lady, Mamma Ngina; Kenyatta’s daughter by a previous marriage, Margaret Wambi; Jomo Kenyatta’s senior government cronies; and that after Kenyatta’s death, President Daniel arap Moi (who, ironically, was the man who lit the CITES ivory bonfire in 1989). It is an indubitable fact, therefore, that this poaching was organised by Kenya’s social and political elite!
• Tanzania (1977 – 1993). During this first serious poaching phase, the country’s elephants were said to have been reduced from 365 000 to 53 000. Dr. Rolf Baldus – of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) – reported: “Village poachers and game scouts did the shooting, but ‘big people’ – politicians, civil servants, businessmen and even hunting operators – masterminded the slaughter.” So this poaching, too, was organised by the country’s social and political elite!
• Tanzania (2008 – 2012): Elephant numbers in the Selous Game Reserve (only) were reduced from 70 000 to 13 000. Another account states that the killing rate was, on average, 11 000 elephants per year for four consecutive years. As previously, the killing was carried out by village hunters, game scouts, the military, and the police. But the orchestrators of the slaughter were (again) the country’s political and social elite: the army generals; senior members of the police; and prominent businessmen. The most resolute Tanzanian fingers, however, all pointed directly at the recently retired state president, Jakaya Kikwete.
• Zimbabwe: (1980s & 1990s): Untold numbers of elephants were slaughtered; and (except for a very few that were captured and relocated) all the black rhinos in the Zambezi Valley were eliminated. Some of this poaching was carried out by Zambians employed by Lusaka-based politicians and businessmen. The Zimbabwean poachers, however, were employed/controlled by the country’s Vice President, Simon Muzenda; a serving member of the Zimbabwe Parliament (Muzenda’s brother-in-law – T. Mudiriki); the Director of the Department of National Parks (Elias Makombe); the National Parks Department’s head of security, Graham Knott; and other such like prominent civil servants. Most of the poaching in this era, therefore, was also organized by members of the country’s social and political elite!
• Zambia (1980s): approx. 75 000 elephants, and ALL the black rhino, were killed in the Luangwa Valley. Kenneth Kaunda has been cited – by both Zambian citizens and itinerant professional hunters and researchers – as being the man behind this slaughter. And the triggers were pulled by the police, the army, local village hunters, and national park game rangers. In this case – again – the country’s president was inculpated.
NB: In all of these countries – throughout the last 50 to 60 years of extremely heavy poaching – the ‘poachers’ were given immunity from arrest by their political masters. That is why – during these extensive poaching programmes – no significant arrests were ever made.
The animal rightist NGOs who, by 1989, had been based in Nairobi, Kenya, for 25 years, MUST have been aware of all the poaching facts pertaining to Kenya and Tanzania! If the stories were being regularly publicised in international newspapers and discussed in the Kenyan parliament; if the ordinary citizens of East Africa knew; and if a European visitor (like Dr. Baldus) discovered all the details shortly after his arrival; there is no possibility that the NGOs could NOT have known.
But, at the CITES meeting in 1989, not one word was uttered about this political scandal! To have revealed the truth would have destroyed the animal rightists’ purpose at CITES that year. They WANTED the ivory trade ban instituted; and they WANTED the elephant to be declared an endangered species. So they kept their mouths shut!
None of the tons and tons of poached ivory and rhino horn, or any of the zebra and monkey skins, were exported under any kind of CITES certification. The contraband was simply exported quietly and clandestinely from East Africa’s own seaports. All the permission it needed was tacit presidential approval.
Yet the animal rightists convinced the world in 1989 that the poachers responsible for this slaughter were “greedy peasants”; that the Mafia was behind the poaching; and that it was made possible ONLY “because there was a loophole in the articles of CITES”. The loophole, they said, was the fact that (up until 1989) legal ivory could still be exported with CITES permits (so illegal tusks could be laundered through it, too). But how can this argument be valid when not one CITES permit was ever issued for the export of even a single illegal tusk?
So the 1989 Ivory trade ban, and the placement of the African elephant on the CITES Appendix I list – which declared it to be an endangered species – were engineered on a blatant animal rightist propaganda lie. And the whole world has been living with that lie ever since.
I cannot understand why the world’s governments allowed themselves to be so easily duped; and why they still allow themselves to be manipulated! The activists who perpetrate these scandalous scams are “racketeers”. They tell untruths about the poaching and status of Africa’s elephants and then contrive to profit from their own lies. They are, therefore, part and parcel of a massive and highly organised international crime syndicate.
There are a number of truths that emerge from this saga, however, that need to be examined, because they indicate a more appropriate route for world society to take in mankind’s African wildlife management journey into the future.
It would probably be safe to say that most of the ‘trigger-pulling’ in all of these poaching pandemics was carried out by Africa’s village hunters. But they are not the “greedy peasants” that the animal rightists describe; and I am empathic towards the village hunters. Within their own societies they are very significant people. They keep the cooking pots full, so they are highly respected by their extended families. When asked to do so, they made themselves available to poach for eminent politicians because:
(1) They were unemployed;
(2) They were skilled hunters;
(3) They received immunity from arrest; and
(4) as always, they were penniless.
The village hunters, therefore, regarded such employment as a fortuitous means to wrest themselves and their families from POVERTY. They poached in order to survive!
Ironically, this same key – POVERTY – is the factor that induces village hunters to stop poaching elephants when they are presented with a preferable, more dignified, more lucrative, more permanent and legal way to apply their well honed skills. This is why Africa’s community-based wildlife utilisation programmes attract so many old poachers.
And THAT defines the future for Africa’s people and its wildlife!
In 1900 there were 95.9 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. By the year 2000 that number had grown to 622 million. And, if the rate of growth in the 20th Century continues in the current century, this population will have increased to over 4 billion by 2100.
In 1900, local native chiefs were responsible for allocating land to every family (average 8 people) in their tribes. They made sure that each one had: sufficient land to grow the crops required to feed itself for a year; enough grass and browse to satisfy the needs of the family’s cattle, sheep and goats; sufficient trees and thatching grass to build the family’s living huts; and enough firewood to keep the family warm in winter and to cook their food.
In the year 2100, however, each of those single-family land units will be required to satisfy the living needs of 44 equivalent-sized families! Clearly, that will not be possible.
By the turn of the next century, therefore, unless attitudes – and actions – change for the better, Africa’s by then colossal mass of people will have long ago overrun the national parks. They will have killed and eaten all the wild animals and replaced them with domestic stock. And they will have converted the wild habitats into croplands.
THIS is the scenario that will slowly and inexorably change the face of Africa over the next 85 years – IF we allow the current state of affairs to continue.
Fortunately, most wild animals – when judiciously and sustainably harvested – are infinitely more valuable to Africa’s people than are their domestic stock. So the exact opposite scenario could prevail. If we set the wheels in motion NOW, for example, by 2100 we could have established large numbers of sustainable wildlife-use programmes that will bring to Africa’s rural people far greater dividends than they could ever accrue from subsistence crop and livestock farming.
NB: Countless rural African villagers depend on subsistence farming for survival and they live on as little as a dollar a day. In very remote areas – even less. Many are forced to subsidize their incomes by hunting and gathering from nature. Is it any wonder, therefore, that they become poachers?
If a village headman today sells one his cows to the local butcher he will be lucky if it fetches US$200. Individual elephant bulls, by comparison – depending on the weight of the ivory and the location of the hunt – sell to legal international hunters for anything from US$ 40 000 to US$ 90 000 each. White rhino bulls sell for between US$ 45 000 and US$ 100 000 each; and black rhinos – when they are available – cost a fortune. A recent black rhino-hunt sold on auction in Namibia, for example, fetched US$ 350 000.
There are marketing and harvesting costs to consider, of course, but if rural people are properly incorporated into the system, at least 10 percent of these big game-hunt values could be the guaranteed income from every legal hunting venture. That means for every elephant legally shot by a hunter, between US$ 4 500 and US$ 9 000 would accrue to the local rural community. This is infinitely more than the village hunters currently obtain for two elephant tusks from the black market. And, depending on the quality of the area and the circumstances of the elephant populations, the annual hunting quotas could be high.
Remember – elephant populations are capable of doubling their numbers every 10 years (at 7.2% increase per annum). Even if we consider the incremental rate to be only 5 percent – half of which will be males – 2.5 percent of any and all standing elephant populations could be harvested (as average-sized huntable bulls) annually.
An elephant population numbering 1000 animals, therefore, produces 25 huntable bulls a year. On this basis Hwange National Park – with a population of 50 000 – is currently producing 1 250 huntable elephant bulls every year; and Botswana – with over 200 000 elephants – produces 5000 huntable bulls annually. So there is no shortage of animals to satisfy very extensive and totally sustainable community-based hunting quotas. And well organised safari operations would include the hunting of multiple other trophy animals – each species contributing massively, in a like manner, to the income potentials for local communities. And, of course, the people would receive the meat.
All this is possible – but there is a time limit for its development. We will have to have community-based wildlife harvesting schemes in place, and working, before the human avalanche starts to encroach on our national parks. If by then, however, we have tens of thousands of people in the communities that surround our national parks – whose livelihoods depend upon the sustainable harvest of the national park’s wildlife resources – we will not have any need for game rangers and game guards. The neighbour communities will have become the wild animals’ greatest custodians – and, in their own interests, they will hold off the pressures from the invading hoards!
Southern Africa’s practical and experienced wildlife managers believe they can develop attainable and sustainable wildlife utilisation programmes that will benefit millions of poverty-stricken rural folk throughout Africa. What is more, their several embryonic models – currently developing and maturing in southern Africa – could save both Africa’s wildlife and its national parks into posterity; and they would create symbiotic partnerships between Africa’s poor rural folk and what will have become ‘their’ wildlife.
Relieving poverty in rural communities is a major consideration in all these wildlife/ human models because it is poverty and unemployment that induces Africa’s rural people to poach. So, when you are thinking “elephants”, spare a thought for the poor rural folk of Africa, too. The wellbeing of both the people and the elephants, in fact, goes hand in hand.
For many people in the First World, this ideal may be difficult to comprehend because they have had the animal rights propaganda thrust down their throats for decades. Nonetheless – because such symbiotic partnerships hold so much promise – the West needs to give southern Africa’s wildlife managers the opportunity and the freedom of action to investigate all possibilities.
Southern Africa’s wildlife management model is based upon the commercial value of its wild animals. This, however, is the antithesis of America’s wildlife culture – which the Americans themselves call “anti-market hunting”. In America you can legally shoot a white-tailed deer but you cannot sell any part of its carcass.
Every human being is a product of his culture and his daily actions and decisions are determined by his cultural background.
Speaking French is part of a Frenchman’s culture. The religion of Islam is part of an Arab’s culture. Believing that it is immoral to profit from one’s indigenous wildlife is part of the American culture. None of these sub-cultural differences should be considered wrong. They are simply different. Nevertheless, no nation has the right to force its own culture onto another.
South Africa has a rich and proud ‘commercial conservation’ history, the benefits of which are clear to see; and hunting is its primary motivation. Today the private game ranches occupy 16.8 percent of all agricultural land – compared to only 6.1 percent in the national parks. There are 18 million head of game on the private game ranches compared to 6 million in government protected areas. Twenty percent of all red meat consumed in the country is venison. One hundred thousand people are permanently employed in the wildlife industry. The financial rewards from game ranches are three times greater than from conventional stock farming. And the wildlife industry, last year, contributed 9 billion South African Rands to the country’s GDP. Furthermore, since 2008, returns from investments in the wildlife industry have been higher than any other commodity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
So South Africa’s commerce-based wildlife culture works for southern African society; and it works in the best interests of its wildlife resources, too. Nobody should be allowed to change that – but the animal rightists are trying to do so!
Zimbabweans, Namibians and South Africans view their wild animals as a profitable resource for investors – considering them to be WILD products of the land. They call cattle, sheep and goats TAME products of the land; and because both are used to provide benefits for mankind, that fact equates the two. The only difference between them is the manner of their harvest.
None of the people in southern Africa look upon wild animals as being sacred cows – that MUST be protected at all cost. They believe that “if a wild animal pays, it stays”; and that the only way forward for elephants and rhinos is to totally integrate their needs with those of Africa’s people. They will tell you that if wild animals can be utilised sustainably to relieve poverty in rural communities, in their own interests the rural black people of Africa will ensure that ‘their’ wildlife survives, together with mankind, into posterity.
In the immediate future, the undisputable solution to the rhino’s survival is to farm them. For this to succeed, however, it is imperative that a controlled and transparent international market in rhino horn be created. The extremely high costs incurred by farmers in the protection of their rhinos from commercial poachers, could be offset by the sale of their rhinos’ sawn-off horns (which re-grow rapidly); and they fervently believe that an international rhino horn and elephant ivory market is a feasible solution. All they require is the sanction and opportunity to prove it.
CITES has proven beyond all doubt that it is totally incapable of equitably regulating the legal wildlife trade, and that it cannot halt the illegal one, so what has the world got to lose by allowing southern Africa to see what it can do without outside interference? The animal rightists desperately don’t want THAT to happen because, if these markets succeed, Pandora’s Box will have been opened – and who knows what would follow? One thing is certain, when it is proved that an open market for rhino horn and elephant ivory DOES work, the animal rightists’ propaganda machine will lose its credibility and power – because the goose that laid their golden eggs will have been be rendered extinct.
The tragedy of CITES is that it has the capacity to close down the legal wildlife trade; and to stop all hunting – both of which abolition objectives are on the animal rightists’ agenda. If THAT happens the world will soon be lamenting a wondrous African paradise lost.
The tragedy of an ill-informed Europe and America is that they take great heed of every snippet of animal rights propaganda that is published; and they take very serious note of the very questionable public referendums conducted by self-serving organisations like Avaaz. If Africa’s wildlife is to survive, the wild animals and people of this continent need a much more responsible, credible and intelligent contribution from the Western World than they have hithertofore ever enjoyed.