Like most ideologies wildlife conservation has evolved and morphed into what is is today some good some bad, podcast.
Wildlife conservation, what is it really? Is it about preserving wild animals and birds? I would venture to say that’s what I thought. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that modern wildlife conservation is not always about what’s best for animals and birds.
In this episode I share with you my journey and experience in the realms of wildlife conservation, not as a conservationist by any means, but as a concerned citizen of the planet.
In case you haven’t watched “Africa for 8 Months”
Key #NikelaAfrica into the Search bar for stories, videos and podcasts.
Wildlife Conservation Today – What is it Really?
Despite my love for animals and birds it wasn’t until about six years ago that I got involved with anything to do with saving them. Frankly, I’m ashamed to admit, I didn’t know so many species were teetering so close to extinction. I Also thought wildlife conservation was straight forward and that everybody was on the same page. I was wrong.
To me wildlife conservation meant protecting and preserving things wild so that animals and birds could live as nature intended them to… wild and free in a balanced ecosystem. I soon came to discover phrases like, ‘sustainable use’, ‘wildlife management’, ‘if it doesn’t pay it doesn’t stay’, ‘predator elimination’, and words like ‘biodiversity’ and ‘culling’.
Where were ‘preservation’ and ‘protection’?
Somewhere along the line we as humans felt that wild animals and birds were just another commodity for us to use, exploit and abuse. I came to learn that wildlife conservation had a price tag and it wasn’t about simply doing the right thing… doing right by wildlife and nature. Somebody always wanted to attach money to wildlife conservation.
Now, although I tend to be idealistic I thought preserving wildlife was doing that… with no strings attached. Sure it takes money, money that has no ROI, sunk costs that don’t result in a profit. And before you go saying that never happens… let’s stop and think for a minute.
When you spend money on going out to eat, buying music or movies, spend money on entertainment, be it sports or the theatre. Buy jewelry, car accessories, upgrade your furniture, and the list goes on… do any of these make you money? No they don’t. You spend your hard earned cash on them because you want to, because they bring you pleasure, relaxation, excitement, or boost your ego.
Don’t get me wrong, many of us also give to charities to help feed the hungry, buy life saving medicines, or school books for kids. We do this because we care, because we think its the right thing to do, because we don’t want others to suffer or what ever the reason, we do it without expecting a penny in return.
So where in the world did we get the notion that wildlife … mere animals and birds… had to pay for their keep? Or that we had the right to make money at their expense?
It really doesn’t make much sense does it? It really feels morally wrong doesn’t it?.
Much of modern wildlife conservation seems to have strayed from simply protecting and preserving wildlife and their habitat because it is right. On the contrary some governments in Africa feel that ‘sustainable use’ and ‘biodiversity’, ‘if it doesn’t pay it doesn’t stay’ are the way to go.
Aren’t public monies used for things of public concern? And what could be of greater concern than protecting our ecosystems and those who depend on it? Us included!
Possibly Karen Trendler, the renowned rhino calf rescue and rehabilitation expert, put it best:
“Conserving wildlife in their natural habitat is real conservation – it not only protects the species but also protects habitat and ecosystems and all the species from tiny microbes to plants and animals that exist in that environment.”
The ideal then is to keep wild animals and birds wild. Preserve them in their natural ecosystem or return them to it whenever possible when they have been found orphaned or injured and nurtured back to health. Silke who runs Bambelela is a prime example of a rescue/rehab center for primates that works giving vervet monkeys a second chance at living free.
When this ideal is not possible some wild animals and birds need safe forever homes where they are not exploited but live peacefully. Some do become ambassadors for their species frequently being the only exposure some people ever have to wildlife. Shannon and her Bird of Prey Sanctuary is a good example as is Kevin’s Big Cat sanctuary with its most beautiful lions.
A few approaches that some tout as wildlife conservation are:
Legalizing the trade of Rhino Horn In South Africa.
In parts of Asia rhino horn is believed to have medicinal qualities and more recently it has become a status symbol among the new rich. Because the demand for rhino horn has escalated dramatically and with it the poaching of rhino in South Africa rhino owners are lobbying to legalize the trading of rhino horn. There are several things wrong with this proposed solution to the rhino killings.
It is a myth that rhino horn has medicinal value (it is composed of the same substance as our fingernails.) Profiting from selling a placebo or feeding a myth is ethically wrong.
Farming rhino to be able to harvest their horns would reduce this wild animal to a domestic one.
Once the door opens to legalizing a trade that is harmful to wildlife it is an easy step to make the sale of lion bones and other animal body parts legal. All leading to further exploitation of already fragile species.
There are numerous other legal, political, ethical and business reasons that make legalizing the rhino horn trade a bad idea. You may want to read “Rhino Horn” by Chris Mercer a complimentary ebook in our online library at www.Nikela.org/ebooks.
Trophy hunters would also like us to believe that they contribute to wildlife conservation.
Some how killing animal A to save animal B has never made sense to me. Hunters tout that the money they pay to hunt goes to help preserve the species. Why not simply donate the money directly to the conservation program of their choice?
Hunters say that the numbers of some species have increased. That may be true, however, these animals like lions and blesbok are now bred and kept in unnatural farm like environments.and largely bred to be killed.
Peter Muller with C.A.S.H. explains it best:
“Predation, in nature, benefits both the predator and the prey species. The predator species, and incidentally scavenging species, benefit by having their food needs met by predation. The prey species, however, also benefits. Predation will 1) remove infected and diseased individuals, and so reduce risk of further contagion and spread of parasites and 2) remove congenitally weak animals, preventing them from breeding, and thereby improving the gene pools of the prey species….
Hunting by humans operates perversely. The kill ratio at a couple hundred feet with a semi-automatic weapon and scope is virtually 100 percent. The animal, no matter how well-adapted to escape natural predation (healthy, alert, smart, quick, etc.) has virtually no way to escape death once it is in the cross hairs of a scope mounted on a rifle. Nature’s adaptive structures and behaviors that have evolved during millions of years simply count for naught when man is the hunter.”
Some have suggested we keep endangered species safely tucked away in zoos.
Living in captivity is never the ideal situation for any wild animal, bird or reptile.
However, there are zoos and then there are zoos.
Far too many lions, leopards, tigers and bears have been rescued from despicable situations in bad zoos. Then there are other zoos who are sanctuaries for rescued and abused animals that cannot be released. If it weren’t for the good zoos many children and adults would never have the opportunity to view our planet’s most amazing inhabitants. Not too forget, that some species like the panda only exist because of the protection afforded them in zoos.
Let’s always remember, that all living beings preferably belong in their natural environment.
Then there’s captive breeding… Is it a viable form of wildlife conservation?
Some species, like the white rhino during the 1970’s, were brought back from near extinction due to captive breeding. However, studies have found that some captive breeding programs like that of the cheetah are not really viable conservation options for that species. The so called breeding of lions for conservation is nothing but a front for the cub petting and canned hunting industries.
It appears that captive breeding has its place when a species is endanger of going extinct and no viable wild populations exist. However, if captive breeding is merely a source of profit without a proven strategy for introducing the species into their natural habitat in the wild, then it is a business and not wildlife conservation.
The current attitude appears to be that if wildlife is not a commodity how can it possibly survive.
However, as I mentioned before, we spend millions of dollars on things that don’t pay for themselves. Our cars, televisions, jewelry, ‘toys’ to name a few. We purchase them because they bring us pleasure. Those who truly value wildlife, nature, and the planet, do what they can to protect it, not for any monetary reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
Let’s put our money where it really matters most!
Nature and all its splendor is counting on it…. Counting on us!