Opinions Tue, 14 Oct 2014

Africa and poaching

Over 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013 according to a report released by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

The report also shows a clear increase in the number of large seizures of ivory (shipments over 500 kg) made in 2013, before the ivory left the African continent. For the first time, the number of such seizures made in Africa exceeded those made in Asia. Just three African countries — Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda — accounted for 80% of those seizures.

Now this report struck me in two phases; it is obvious that the rather familiar pleas of wildlife conservation has yielded minimal returns both for the campaigners or activists, the elephants and affected countries.

Sometimes I just wonder whether the aforementioned report is just not frightening enough. It is self-evident the poachers and those directly involved in the illegal ivory trade do not give a damn whether generations unborn will have the rare privilege of seeing live elephants and rhinos on their vacation tours or not.

Their lines of argument and sometimes defense more often than not hinges on survival; the world now is more about survival than thinking about the future they say, it is about putting food on the table. Who cares whether someone somewhere gets to see a live elephant or not, after all, people are fan of coffee and tea yet have never seen how domestic farm workers toil on coffee plantations in Africa and other continents.

Wildlife Tourism which is a subset of the broader tourism umbrella in most African countries contributes a greater chunk as far as the revenue of most African countries is concerned. This same revenue when accrued goes a long way to aid in the developmental projects in the respective countries no matter how checkered the execution of such projects maybe.

Save the pleasure obtained in wildlife tours, an unfathomable point of worry is why some few social misfits as far as the issue of poaching is concerned would want to deprive the entire citizenry of a country the chance of enjoying the benefits that will be derived from wildlife tourism. Suffice to say, that is exactly what most African politicians do anyway, most often than not, they deprive the entire population the benefits of a well-ruled state.

To competently arrest the issue of poaching and preserve our wildlife, I strongly think, while we make the poachers face the full rigors of the law thereby deterring subsequent poachers, another area authorities should be concerned with is the market for illegal ivory trade.

This is in no way the sole responsibility of a particular government but I think a combined effort, round-table discussion, an action oriented policy statement banning illegal markets will go a long way in curtailing the rather alarming rate at which our elephants and rhinos are dying; for want of ivory and immediate cash for the parochial reasons of certain individuals.

Distant ‘selfies’ posted on social media once in a while by celebrities will do no magic, the illegal ivory market should be the point of target, when that market is adequately met with measures to halt its bloom, campaigners will breathe a sigh of relief. Who will produce goods with no market to patronize? A concerted effort by the powers that be should be made to stop the illegal ivory market now. Posterity will never forgive us in this regard should we fail; generations unborn must enjoy the sight of live elephant and rhinos.

michael.daleasiedu@facebook.com michaeldaleasiedu@gmail.com
Columnist: Dale-Asiedu, Michael