Africa’s battle to save its wildlife and national parks
Those people who are involved with the sustainable utilisation of wildlife in southern Africa – whether they be game ranchers; game breeders; hunters; or businessmen who serve the wildlife industry – are all in the same boat. And nature lovers – even those who abhor the idea of the sustainable use of wild animals – are in the boat with us.
We share a common interest. We all want to achieve the best practice management of our wildlife. If our boat founders, therefore, we will all sink together. Yet this seems to be a lesson that we still have to learn; and it is important that we learn it quickly because time is fast running out. There are many very powerful and influential people all over the world who are intent upon sinking us.
The international animal rights brigade has its sights set on destroying the hunting industries in Africa. They have also, already – as a consequence of their successes at CITES – made it impossible for wildlife professionals to practice science-based management. The imposition of their irrational demands has negated any chance that we will be able to create an ecological balance between the soil, the plants (habitats) and the wild animals in our national parks – which is a vital necessity if man is to have any hope of taking our natural world into posterity with him.
It is at this point that the nature loving man-in-the street loses the plot. Even if man does not sustainably utilise wild animals, nature still has to be managed. The soil still has to be protected from erosion by the plants that grow in it. And the plants still have to provide homes (habitats) for animals to live in; and food for herbivorous animals to eat.
If genuine nature lovers doubt this requirement, they should go to Botswana’s Chobe National Park in September or October. There they will: (1) see the massive soil losses on the denuded river banks; (2) note the total lack of riverine forest that once grew on those river banks; and (3) observe that there are no edible grasses, shrubs or trees of any form. Instead, they will see barren sand being blown around by the wind. There are no plants remaining for even the elephants to eat within 10 miles (25 kms) of permanent water.
And this tragedy is a consequence of the animal rights brigade’s successful and destructive interference in Africa’s wildlife management affairs.
In 2013, the official elephant count in Botswana was 207 000 – up from c.7500 in 1960. And all other game species had declined by 60 percent; some by 90 percent.
Botswana’s entire northern wildlife sanctuary area is a disaster – and it has been festering every dry season for the last 25 years. It won’t be long now before that whole ecosystem collapses. Then more dead elephants will be seen than ever before. The elephant population crash will, of course, be ascribed by the animal rightists to the drought; but its real cause will be a total lack of management over the last 50 years.
Hwange (in Zimbabwe) is another national park that is suffering the same fate. All elephant management came to a halt in that park when CITES declared the elephant to be an endangered species; and when the ivory trade ban came into force (1990). Zimbabwe has always had tons of legal ivory to sell; and its regular annual sale had been paying for its vital culling programmes. And after 1990 the country’s elephant population exploded.
In 1960 there were 3500 elephants in Hwange Game Reserve, and they were already causing the extinction of their favoured food trees. So it was decided to reduce them to 2500 (one elephant per 2 square miles). I played a major part in that elephant population reduction programme.
Today there are 50 000 elephants in Hwange – which means the park is 2000 percent overstocked.
These excessive numbers built up because: (1) There was immigration from Botswana; and (2) because no elephant population reduction measures have been implemented over the last 25 years. The result: since 1960 the elephants have stripped the habitats of all edible plants. Today Hwange’s elephants are in a state of dire nutritional stress. Every year there are increasing numbers of baby elephant deaths; and now even adults are succumbing to starvation. I predict that Hwange will soon experience a massive elephant population crash.
The same thing is going to occur in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park – where I was the game warden-in-charge from 1968 to 1974. In1971/72, I commanded the elephant population reduction team that removed 2 500 elephants from a population that then numbered 5000. Another 2500 elephants were removed in 1982. Today (2015) there are 11 000 elephants in the Gonarezhou -10 000 too many. An elephant population collapse occurred in the Gonarezhou during the severe drought of 1992. Another, bigger, crash is imminent.
Don’t listen to those preservationist academics who preach the gospel of animal rights-ism. They are sponsored by the enemy and now dance to their tune.
If we are to avoid these horrific elephant population crashes now and in the future; if we are to properly protect the game reserve habitats from total destruction; and if we are to preserve our national parks’ biodiversities, society has to understand that annual elephant ‘culling’ programmes are an absolute necessity. No matter how low our elephant population numbers have to sink, our national parks cannot afford to carry elephants in numbers that cause any kind of progressive deterioration in their habitats. Just one elephant too many and the game reserve will ultimately become a desert. The degree of elephant over-population will be the factor that determines the speed at which the desertification process takes place.
I mention these facts to make an impression on those who deplore the killing of even a single elephant. If our elephants are to survive into posterity they HAVE to be maintained in numbers that their habitats can sustainably support. Nobody enjoys culling – but those who do it regularly become inured to the killing and they become experts at it. The killing is then accomplished quickly and humanely with minimal suffering.
In the Gonarezhou, my three-man hunting team was consistently eliminating between 30 and 50 elephants in, sometimes, just 60 seconds. Every elephant died from a single brain shot. Every elephant in every breeding herd that we addressed was accounted for. So the surviving herds had no personal experience of the killing.
For elephants to survive into posterity our wildlife managers have to make many such tough-love decisions. Furthermore, they are able to execute them without emotion and with expert precision.
The long-standing lack of appropriate elephant management in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, therefore, is nothing short of criminal neglect. No culling has taken place for many years, often because the governments of the day are bowing to the rantings of the animal rights brigade; because they have practiced no population reduction programmes; because they have practiced no annual culling; or (in the case of Zimbabwe) because the CITES ivory trade ban has made it impossible for the government to pay the cost of ‘best practice’ elephant management.
In Botswana, and in Zimbabwe’s Hwange and the Gonarezhou national parks, the habitats have been so badly damaged they are beyond redemption. It is now too late to cull. All we can do is wait for the inevitable elephant population crash cycle to unfold.
Following this catastrophe, the next generation of game ranger/managers will have to pick up the pieces and see if they can put humpty-dumpty together again.
The elephant population crashes that are going to occur will be an expensive lesson for everybody. I only hope that society-at-large (and our cowering government ministers) will then stop listening to those First World urban yuppies who demand that their animal rightist philosophies prevail. They are pariahs. I list them in the same category as paedophiles. In my generation they have seriously corrupted our civilization. The next generation must not allow them to destroy it!
The non-consumptive nature lovers in our society – although they may not agree with hunting and game ranching – are, nevertheless sailing in the same boat with us. And if they don’t stand together – with us – to beat off the fanatical scourge of animal rights-ism that is sweeping the world today, they will suffer the consequences as much as anybody else. When – due to the lack of appropriate management – our wildlife becomes extinct, and when our national parks have become vacant drifts of shifting sand, they will rue the day they did not stand united with us.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee!
I have been watching the strength of the animal rights movement develop over the last 30 years. In the 1980s I wrote a column in the Man Magnum magazine called: Conservation Comment. In it I regularly discussed what I perceived to be this looming and dangerous menace. I then severely criticized the Nationalist Party’s Minister for the Environment, Gert Kotze, for succumbing to the demands the animal rightists – who had threatened to organise an international ban on South African sea products if the government dared to resume seal culling on the coastline. Guess what! The seal culling was prohibited.
I told Kotze that, having achieved one major victory, he could expect that the animal rightists’ next demand would be to have elephant culling stopped in Kruger National Park. Everybody thought I was nuts! The culling, however, was stopped due to animal rights pressure in 1994!!!!!
In those years I also cautioned the expanding wildlife industry not to ignore the growing influence of the animal rights brigade. I was scoffed at and accused of being a MacArthur: “Seeing a communist (animal rightist) behind every bush!” The game ranchers and hunters were myopic. They showed no interest whatsoever in what was taking place in the big wide world outside their private game fences.
Today the animal rights brigade is poised to take over the world; and their many successes in recent years have made them even more arrogant and more fanatical than ever before. The accredited animal rights NGOs at CITES now control voting at the convention. They are transforming CITES from being an organisation that once REGULATED the legal wildlife trade into one that PROHIBITS it.
The WWF (International) – also – has regularly employed high powered animal rightists to represent them at wildlife conventions: such as CITES and the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The IUCN has now opened its membership doors to animal rightist NGOs. And it has become virulently anti-hunting – even attacking members of Europe’s royal families because the kings and princes enjoy hunting. It also now openly supports the so-called prerogative of animal rights activists (like Greenpeace) to publicly protest against ‘whatever’ – even when their demonstrations are terroristic.
In 2013 the so-called “International Conservation Community” (a large and influential group of animal rightists) had a meeting with Hillary Clinton in New York with the purpose of impressing upon her the fact that (in their opinion) the African elephant was facing extinction as a result of (what they said was) a recent and alarming spike in commercial elephant poaching. The fact that this was not true made no difference. The result: Clinton agreed to use the financial and political power of the Clinton Foundation to save the African elephant. How that develops remains to be seen.
The White House now hosts a committee – which contains prominent animal rightist members – to advise the president on all matters relating to illegal wild trafficking. President Barack Obama, I might add – when he was still a senator for Illinois – supported the cause of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) during one of its activist campaigns. So we know where his sympathies lie!
More recently, the American administration – ostensibly in an effort to help save the African elephant – pressured all the state legislatures to make it illegal for ANY ivory item to cross state boundaries. Even a guitar with tiny ivory inlays was forbidden to emigrate! Many states complied. Others did not! Yet there have been moves afoot to publicly burn all ivory and ivory carvings that exist in the United States. Just how THAT action is supposed to save the African elephant defies all reason.
In 2014, the American USF&WS – acting in terms of its Endangered Species Act (ESA) – banned the importation of legally acquired elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe for no apparent reason; and they admitted they had no scientific data to support such an imposition. Their excuse was that, in their opinion, Zimbabwe could not prove that their elephant hunting quotas in the Hwange region were sustainable. THIS, from a massive elephant population in a game reserve that is 2000 percent overstocked! Good Heavens! Don’t the Americans ever do their homework? Despite pressure from many quarters for over a year now, the banning order has not been rescinded.
During 2015 most of the international airlines that service Africa’s safari destinations, simultaneously made it their policy NOT to carry wild animal trophies. This was not coincidental. The animal rightists had worked hard behind the scenes to achieve such a success.
Finally a lion called ‘Cecil’ was shot in Zimbabwe just outside the boundary of Hwange National Park, by a respectable American trophy hunter. He was under the full control of a licensed professional hunter and outfitter. There have been claims and counter claims that the hunt was illegal, or partly illegal, but that seems not to have been the case. As I write these words the matter is still sub-judice. But the story won’t go away. Instead, it has been embellished and spread with great emotion from one end of the world to the other.
One might think the furore is ridiculous, that it is a storm in a tea cup, but it was followed by a massive movement to stop all lion hunting on the continent; and THAT, of course, was its contrived purpose. The drive has been, first, to outlaw all ‘canned lion hunting’; then to stop lion hunting altogether; and very soon it will be to stop all hunting – period!
After watching an animal rightist propaganda film recently, the president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa was persuaded to review PHASA’s policy regarding the hunting of lions. He claimed there is now such a general and massive social resistance to lion hunting – especially canned lion hunting – that PHASA can no longer afford to ignore it. How clever! The animal rightists are now getting one of the leading hunting organisations in South Africa to do their dirty work for them. And the PHASA president now has personally experienced the power that the animal rights’ carefully constructed propaganda has, to influence society.
History has demonstrated that where there is demand for a commodity there will emerge a provider. Some people are prepared to pay well to shoot a canned lion and the land on which that lion lives is maintained without cattle, sheep, goats or crops. Therefore, both the landowner and the natural environment benefit from canned lion hunting.
There will also always be a demand for lion bones – as a soup ingredient in the Far East. So – whether you agree with canned lion hunting or not – whether you will or won’t eat lion-bone soup – it is probably preferable to support a legal canned lion hunting industry than to prohibit it; and it is much better to have a legal source of lion bones than to create conditions that will encourage their illegal procurement. The black market cannot be controlled. And we don’t want our poverty stricken rural people to poison and snare lions to satisfy the demand for their bones.
Please read THE TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE – A Public Guidance Position Statement published Dec 2017 “Controversy Surrounding Hunting, The Captive Breeding of Lions and The Hunting of Captive-Bred Lions, in South Africa”
We have to get this type of alternative message over to society-at-large!
The furore surrounding Cecil the hunted wild lion from Hwange, is pathetic. The lion was shot – yes – but the controversy surrounding it was manufactured by the animal rights brigade whose ultimate purpose – never forget – is to ABOLISH all animal uses by man. They say they want canned lion hunting stopped because a wild lion was hunted! Where is the logic in that argument? But the entire world seems to have been deluded by their subterfuge. That, too, is pathetic. How gullible has our society become? Most South Africans will be sorry when the animal rightists close down stock farming and the abattoirs – which are both on their list for destruction. Whatever will South Africans THEN put on their braai grills after the Saturday rugby match?
What we must NOT do is rush into knee-jerk reactions to these kinds of volatile controversies. Never forget, theirs is a continuum of heavy leverage designed to destroy hunting in its every dimension. So the game ranchers, canned lion breeders and hunters are truly all in the same boat. And our common enemy is the animal rights brigade.
The animal rightists cannot achieve their objectives without violating the legitimate rights of other people. There is, therefore, no place for them in any civilized society.
And be advised: The animal ‘rights’ doctrine has nothing to do with animal ‘welfare’.
Finally, I have to mention the fact that South Africa’s wildlife industry is going through a very rocky patch. Some of the hunting associations have expressed severe criticisms of game ranchers who are selectively breeding colour variants and animals with bigger and better horns; and of those who practice canned lion hunting. And the game ranchers are not taking this lying down.
We might say, therefore, that the industry is in disarray! Its component parts are throwing stones at one another! This makes us all vulnerable to animal rights attack. We really need to show solidarity, not division!
Our opponents are aggressive and cunning, and they have limitless funds with which to fight their battles. Their strategy is to knock us down one by one – like a pack of common dominoes – and we are in the throes of helping them do it. They have all their ducks in a row; we clearly have not.
I am sure, if we tried hard enough, and with honesty our intent, the hunters and game ranchers can solve their differences amicably. They can agree to disagree when their opinions diverge. They can swallow their respective prides and find niches that each can occupy without conflicting with the other.
The wildlife industry has evolved. It has changed drastically in recent years and it will continue to adjust to its ever shifting circumstances; and we must learn to accept this inevitability.
Maybe the time has come for the wildlife industry to take a serious re-look at the TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE (TGA) proposal. TGA can bring cohesion by combating the common enemy. Marginalizing the animal rights brigade, and destroying its credibility in the eyes of responsible society, is precisely what TGA was designed and created to accomplish. TGA will not succeed, however, unless the game ranchers and the hunters make it their own. And if the industry’s past history is anything to go by, regrettably, I can’t see that happening!
Post Script March 2018
Re the lion bone issue. I have already released a news bulletin in which I told the world that there is no difference between selling lion bones (a legitimate animal product of the land) and beef from a Brahman ox. What we are not prepared to do at this time is to agree or disagree with the so-called hunting of “ranch” lions because we don’t know enough about the issue at this time; and we are not getting much encouragement to find out by the South African Predator Association.
First Publised in AFRICAN OUTFITTER magazine 2014/2015