Africa's wildlife armageddon

2014-04-07 12:06

The forces at play (1)

Africa’s wildlife is fighting for its life on a number of fronts.  In South Africa the current commercial poaching onslaught on the country’s white rhinos has been well publicised and needs no further elucidation – but the underlying realities need to be exposed and discussed by and within, responsible society-at-large. Such a debate, however, cannot take place without all the facts being known and considered.

Stories are rife about elephants being killed in large numbers by commercial poachers all over Africa; and the extinction of the species is being predicted by the so-called ‘international conservation community’ – a group of animal rightist NGOs that each has its own agenda.   Fortunately – or unfortunately (?) - nothing could be further from the truth.

Whilst everyone has been preoccupied with the alleged fate of these charismatic mega-fauna animals, our lesser wild animal and plant species, and the soils that nurture them all, are sliding inexorably down the slippery slope to extinction.  This is happening because Africa’s wildlife sanctuaries, right across the continent, are not only being MIS-managed they are not being ‘managed’ at all.

Finally, hanging like the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over this whole pantomime, is the reality of the continent’s human population explosion.

United Nations statistics record that in the year 1900 the human population in sub-Saharan Africa numbered 95.9 million people.  By the year 2000 that number had increased to 622 million.  And the predicted number for the year 2100 is in excess of 2.5 billion.   This reality represents the greatest of all long term threats to Africa’s wildlife; to its national parks; AND to its currently burgeoning eco-tourism industries.

The principal forces driving the commercial poaching pandemic in Africa are the perpetually escalating hand-in-glove problems of poverty and unemployment.  Over the last 10 years the unemployment rate in South Africa has averaged 25 percent.  That means twelve-and-a-half million people in South Africa are constantly living below the poverty line.  The residents of most of the rural communities living on the boundaries of our national parks fall into this category.  They are desperate people, therefore, who will do anything in order to survive; and it is from within this cohort of our society that the poachers who ravish our wildlife sanctuaries - those who pull the triggers - come.  And, believe me, what we have so far experienced is just the tip of a massive iceberg that is looming on the horizon.

Whatever solution we devise today, therefore - with respect to stopping the current commercial rhino and elephant poaching in Africa - has to take into account the massively expanding human population factor.  If it doesn’t, all our efforts will be smothered beneath the uncontrollable, and without doubt mainly destitute, human avalanche that is coming tomorrow. There is a complexity of factors that mankind has to consider if he himself, and his civilization, is to survive this century in Africa; particularly if man wants to take the continent’s wildlife into posterity with him. Revealing the forces at play within this conundrum will be the ongoing task of this News24 column.  Its intention will be to properly inform the public about the realities that face Africa’s wildlife and its managers at this time, and into the foreseeable future. Ron Thomson                                



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