POACHING, particularly ivory poaching, has been much in the news of late, particularly with the announcement in Beijing of China’s year-long ban on the importation of ivory and elephant tusks.
Well, I came across a most interesting article the other day by that extraordinary South African conservationist, Dr John Hanks, on his thinking as regards rhino and elephant poaching*
He says, “There is no single solution to addressing the growing illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory, in spite of the simplistic options promoted by genuinely concerned individuals, sickened by the almost daily accounts of appalling suffering of both species at the hands of poachers.”
He goes on to list six concepts or steps to a possible solution to the problem:
* The courage to speak out on corruption and help to eliminate it: this is more or less self-explanatory, but Dr Hanks stresses that of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world, six are in sub-Saharan Africa, a problem in itself, but one that can be eased with the help of the recent global expansion and success of civil society organisations — whistle-blowing, in other words.
* Promote a greater awareness of some of the realities of living and working in Africa: he says there are what he calls sanitised Western views of Africa, of Utopian Serengeti-like plains teaming with wildlife, an unrealistic view that ignores the facts of the matter, like the human factor.
* Stop the developed world dictating to African countries on how to manage its wildlife: this quite naturally follows the last point, there must be African solutions to African problems, taking into account prevailing poverty and the under-funding of wildlife areas.
* Call attention to the realities of the impact of human population growth: I quote Dr Hanks, ‘We are entering an epoch known as the Anthropocene, marked by humanity’s long-term transformation of the natural world and the loss of biodiversity, a sixth extinction fuelled by our vast appetites and powerful new technologies’.
* Be aware of the role of international terrorism in the illegal rhino horn and ivory trade: here he emphasises the fact of failed and fragile states across Africa, with huge swathes of ungoverned territory exploited by rebel and terrorist gangs financing their operations with poached ivory and rhino horn.
* Focus on the growing impact of China in Africa: he points out that China now has a population of nearly 1.4 BILLION and an annual economic growth rate of nine percent – a population with an insatiable appetite for ivory and rhino horn for very different reasons and for the most part don’t care whence it comes. This is bound to have a huge impact on the world’s rhino and elephant populations and must be taken into account.
Quite a wish list, but all very valid points in the overall fight to save Africa’s and Asia’s elephants and rhino.
No quick fixes, as Dr Hanks says, but a multiple approach to a vexing problem could be a very good start to finding a solution. As I’ve said before, one can but hope.