Wildlife poaching in Africa may well have reached crisis levels once again.
It’s marvelous to see the mega rich, like Howard Buffet, and influential royals, like Prince William, get involved in the fight to end organized wildlife poaching (some times referred to as wildlife trafficking.) But what about ordinary people like you and I do? What can we do?
Is wildlife poaching the same as wildlife trafficking?
Wildlife poaching has probably been around since the beginning of time. It’s when a wild animal or bird is illegally captured or killed. In Africa, hunting wild game for food is pretty much common practice by most tribes. When human populations were small and wildlife populations large this was sustainable. However, today illegal hunting has reached far beyond the family pot. Bushmeat is killed and sold on the black market. Wildlife body parts, from skins to paws, are trafficked to countries like Asia and the USA for large sums of money.
Organized wildlife poaching has grown into big business. Actually, as far as illegal crime goes wildlife trafficking rates right up there with guns and drugs to the tune of around $19 billion a year!
With wildlife poaching happening on such a global and huge scale how in the world can any of us ordinary folk make a difference?
We might think it’s easy for the rich and the royal to get involved, after all they have clout. That’s true, individually we may not be able to fund a huge anti-poaching effort in Africa or sway political will in the favor of rhino and elephants, however collectively we can make a difference.
The last weekend during our Africa Wildlife Conservation Tour 2014 we met with Peter Milton and Robi Beninca from the Strategic Protection of Endangered Species (SPOTS). Being ever strategic Peter offers a way anyone anywhere who cares to make a difference.
Donations are always welcome of course. This past year Nikela helped purchase a costly military grade thermal imaging camera for one of SPOTS’ drones (UAVs) called Air Rangers. This piece of equipment is crucial in deterring, detecting and apprehending poachers. With a thermal imaging camera attached to an Air Ranger the ground unit can detect animal and humans in the area even on the darkest of nights. Robi showed us footage where three elephant and a calf were spotted. This imaging system is so amazing we even saw the largest elephant raising his trunk.
Equipment and operational costs for deploying anti-poaching units are not cheap, even with a savvy efficiency minded Robi at the helm. So sure, every donated cent is gratefully received. However, what is most important is to spread awareness of the poaching problem.
While at the Johannesburg airport I was approached by a representative of the South African Tourism Department. She was conducting a survey. One of her first questions was how I’d enjoyed my stay. I responded that it was fantastic, except that the ever increasing rhino poaching numbers really saddened me. She looked surprised, not as surprised as I was by her, “That is still going on?” She was not aware that one of the main reasons tourists come to South Africa (to see the Big Five) was in jeopardy! Now she does… and not only that, she cares as she sincerely asked me, “What can we do to make it stop?”
Two things we can all do to stop wildlife poaching
Very simplistically put, two things need to happen to make the poaching of rhino, elephant and the killing of lions stop.
First, all wildlife needs to be protected, as does their environment. This is what the anti-poaching units, game parks and reserves, conservancies, governments, rescue/rehab centers and sanctuaries do (or supposed to do.) That’s what governments are expected to do… assure that all life has the opportunity to thrive.
Second, the demand for wildlife body parts for medicinal purposes, adornments, religious relics, ego, prestige and any other human craving must be curbed. Asia and the USA being the largest consumer markets.
On our flight back to the USA while in conversation with a fellow US traveler also a wildlife enthusiast born in Africa. She was appalled to learn that 90% of the trophy hunters in Africa come from the USA. After our conversation she now does and soon so will her circle of friends.
You and I may not have the financial clout of a Howard Buffet, or the influence of a Prince William, however we can take every opportunity off- and on-line to raise awareness.
The way we do it is of utmost importance. People are more likely to take action when their hearts are touched and they feel confident that they can make a difference.
Not too long ago I viewed a video regarding the rhino poaching crisis. The rest of the day I was down in the dumps. I finally realized why, the video’s message had left me feeling hopeless instead of motivated to act.
Chris Mercer (Campaign Against Canned Hunting) reports that the recent global march for lions to end the despicable practice of hunting hand raised lions was hugely successful in raising awareness. Thousands of people marched in over 60 cities around the world. Kalli, a Nikela Volunteer, organized the march in Austin, Texas. Russ and I were scheduled to join the march in Johannesburg, sadly due to the heavy rains we were stranded in the Waterburg. Getting passionate people focused works!
What you say and do matters. Nikela Volunteers for example may write one story about “Why I want to save wildlife“, or raise funds to translate one ebook as Nicole did with POACHED! Or create an activity, like our “Save the Rhino Party Kit for Kids” by Wendy B, or share their photos like Andrew, write an ebook like Wendy S and Sandy, and the list of ordinary people who’ve gotten involved goes on (see our Volunteers/Angels.)
Helping is easy…