No such thing as 'endangered species'

2014-05-12 05:45

One of the biggest wildlife fallacies of all time is the concept of “endangered species”.  There is no such thing – at least, not in the sense that most people have been led to believe.  And because the concept is invalid, it has given rise to a mountain of inappropriate and down-right WRONG wildlife management decisions and practices.

Wild animals don’t arrange themselves at the ‘species’ level.  They arrange themselves in a complexity of circumstances at the ‘population’ level.

          A population of animals can be defined as a group of animals of the same 

          species, the individuals of which interact with each other on a daily basis (in

          continuum) and they breed ONLY with other animals in the same group.

Thus, in South Africa we have distinct and quite separate populations of elephants in Kruger National Park; Addo; Pilanesberg; Hluhluwe/Mfolosi; and there are several smaller isolated populations scattered about in private sanctuaries.

So, although all the countries of Southern, South Central and East Africa have the same ‘species’ of elephant, all their respective populations are quite different.

Furthermore, each and every elephant population in all these countries have distinct environmental (and/or man-made) ‘pressures’ exerted on them all the time – but there is nothing uniform about these pressures.  Some game reserves are deserts; some semi-deserts; others savannah grasslands; some have heavy woodlands or forests. Some elephants live in swamps. Some need artificial water supplies to survive.  Many currently need to be reduced in number; others need protection from poaching.  The Addo population has had heavily tusked bulls inoculated into the population (from Kruger) because, due to selective hunting in the past, the breeding herds in Addo are largely tuskless. So every population of elephants in Africa has ‘management’ needs that are unique to itself.  None are the same. So wildlife management practices that are appropriate for one population are inappropriate for another.  There is no single ‘wildlife management strategy’ that can be applied uniformly to every elephant population in Africa.

Despite this scientific fact: In 1989 the African elephant was declared to be ‘an endangered species’ by CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).  Why? Because, at that time, the elephant populations of Kenya and Tanzania were in serious decline due to heavy commercial poaching!  At the same time, however, the elephant populations in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe were all being heavily culled by the wildlife authorities.  Why? Because there were too many elephants in these countries; because the elephant numbers were expanding annually (doubling their numbers every 10 years); and because the elephants were destroying their own habitats!

When CITES imposed the status of ‘endangered species’ on ALL of Africa’s elephant populations, therefore – which demanded that every elephant population in Africa be “protected from all harm” - they created conditions that caused the MIS-management of every African elephant population on the continent EXCEPT those in Kenya and in Tanzania.  So, because the governments of Kenya and Tanzania were inept – and because they could not protect their elephants against the poachers – every other country in Africa was penalised and they all had to pay the price. What possible benefits could the declining East African elephant populations gain by the cessation of necessary elephant culling operations in the southern states?

That 1989 declaration, therefore, was tantamount to the United Nations subjecting the people of New York City, in America, to water rationing, because the Indian sub-continent was experiencing a life-threatening drought! Ipso facto: the concept of ‘endangered species’ is a fallacy. In the next essay we shall discuss just HOW and WHY different ‘populations’ of elephants (and other wild animal species) can and should be managed. Ron Thomson

Website: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za

Email: magron@ripplesoft.co.za

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