Commercial poaching: treating the symptoms and not the cause

2014-07-30 06:00

So everybody is ecstatic that a rhino poacher has received a gaol sentence of 77 years! When you read the details of the case, it becomes apparent that the attendant murder charge was the main reason for the stiff sentence. The man’s crime of rhino poaching was considered the lesser evil.

We are all blind!

South Africa should be ‘at war’ with Mozambique because that country is doing nothing to stop its criminal citizens from plundering our most valuable wild natural resources. If it was oil they were stealing we might well be at war! But our government is gutless in this fight - TOTALLY TOOTHLESS AND USELESS - and it has withdrawn from the battle with CITES to enable our private rhino owners to market their legitimately harvested rhino horn. We are going nowhere. The rhinos in Kruger National Park are being whittled away. And the ever-increasing poverty stricken masses in this country are supporting the poaching mafia - with glee.

There is no point in treating an AIDS patient with medicines in an attempt to eliminate the TB or pneumonia that is killing him. To save such a patient’s life you first have to remove his HIV infection. In this case, HIV is the proximate (underlying) ‘cause’ of the man’s impending death and TB and/or pneumonia are the ultimatesymptoms’ of his condition.

The proximate cause of rhino and elephant (even guineafowl) poaching is poverty, unemployment and the (colonial) disenfranchisement of Africa’s people from their ownership of the continent’s wildlife - a natural resource that belongs to ‘the people’ (all of Africa’s people). The commercial poaching that we are seeing today - right across the length and the breadth of Africa - is the erupting symptom of these long enduring causative agents. And, as with AIDS, in the longer term we cannot win the battle against commercial poaching (the symptom) just with ‘a big stick’. The only chance we have of saving Africa’s wildlife is to remove the proximate causes of the poaching.

How can we do that? How can we remove poverty from the rural communities that surround our national parks - communities that provide the most important foot soldiers (the men who pull the triggers) for the poaching mafia? How can we stop these communities from supporting poachers who come from further afield to poach Kruger’s rhinos? How can we provide them with employment? And how can we give them a sense of ‘ownership’ over ‘their’ national park, and ‘their’ wildlife that is so vital to solving this problem?

The only way we can achieve such objectives is by integrating the “needs” of Africa’s national parks (a major one of which is to stop commercial poaching) with the “needs” of the human communities that surround them (two “needs” of which are relief of their poverty and unemployment).

An impossible dream? ONLY when we don’t try to make it happen!

To achieve such a state of affairs society (and government) would have to agree to the wild animals of our national parks being ‘used’ (harvested and/or hunted) - sustainably - for the benefit of the communities that surround the national park; using carrot-and-stick incentives. In other words, financial benefits (the ‘carrot’) would accrue to the people from each legally hunted elephant or rhino ‘taken’ inside the park; and financial deductions (‘punitive sticks’ x 2 or x3 the comparative benefits) would be made from these financial returns for every animal that was found poached in the park. And the value ascribed to every animal ‘taken’ would NOT be parsimonious. Each elephant, for example, could be valued at US$ 10 000 and a white rhino at US$ 25 000.

Just one hundred each of these two species would provide an annual income of thirty-five million South African Rands.  And to that could be added the income from a great many ‘other animal species’ as well. It would then NOT be in the local people’s interest to allow poaching to continue. Indeed, it would be in their MUCH BETTER interest to see it STOPPED. So the neighbour communities would become the national park’s greatest custodians. THIS would give the people the vital ‘emotional ownership’ over our (‘their’) wildlife that is so essential. And the wildlife would persist for ever.

This option has to be weighed against the fact that today there are something like 650 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa and that, by the end of this century, there will be 2.5 billion (U.N. statistics). By the end of this century, therefore - the way we are going NOW - we will not have a hope in Hades of stemming the tide. By the year 2100 there will be nothing left of Africa’s unique, and currently still abundant, wildlife.

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AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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