Monday, August 16, 2010

And the problem is?

I'm cynically amused at the fuss being made in some quarters over a rather permanent solution to the poaching problem being adopted in some African countries. The BBC reports:

Prof Rosaleen Duffy has researched the issue for 15 years for a book to be published this month.

. . .

Ms Duffy says the development of nature tourism has meant international pressure to save high-profile species is intense.

Some conservation groups regard the protection of the gorilla, rhino and other endangered species as more important than human life, she says.

In countries, including Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi, private security firms have been brought in to provide military-style protection for these iconic animals.

. . .

"Because private military operations and also park rangers are given authority to shoot on sight, the suspected poachers, then they can shoot first and ask questions later," she told the BBC.

"I think what happens then is that local people get justifiably very angry about people being shot because they're suspected of poaching whereas in fact what they might be doing is simply taking a short cut through a national park or they might be collecting grass for thatch."

Ms Duffy concedes that some poachers are heavily armed professionals - often former members of security forces - who are only too willing to open fire themselves.

But escalating this war for wildlife is, in Ms Duffy's view, not the way forward.

She argues that conservationists should work with local people, so that they value the animals that wander near their homes.

There's more at the link.

I have news for Prof. Duffy. This is Africa. Human life has always been cheap in Africa. It's been that way for uncounted centuries, it's still that way today, and it'll probably continue that way for a long time to come. Locals have learned the hard way - and I really mean 'the hard way'! - that if an area's declared closed 'or else', the people issuing that warning aren't joking about the 'or else' bit. They don't go walking around in such areas "taking a short cut" or "collecting grass for thatch"! They have more sense! Ergo, those found in such areas are usually not locals. The odds that they're poachers are relatively good; and given the staggering amounts paid for poached products (a single rhinoceros horn, obtained at the cost of a few bullets in the bush, sells for an average of US $80,000 in the Far East, where it's regarded as an aphrodisiac) they're not about to stop poaching just because it's been declared illegal. There's only one way to stop them, and that's to remove them from circulation. In nations with few prisons and fewer police, that leaves only one option.

Africa is typically laid-back about a permanent solution to such problems. I recall the fuss made in South Africa during the 1990's, when it was discovered that would-be illegal immigrants were crossing the Mozambique border and walking through the Kruger National Park to get to South African cities. Needless to say, the predators in the Park were overjoyed at the influx of easy-to-catch prey (humans are slow compared to almost any animal, and have no horns, hooves or long, sharp teeth with which to defend themselves). All sorts of left-wing liberal idiots got their knickers in a twist at the thought of so many people being devoured; but the average South African shrugged and said, "Well, the animals have to eat, too!"

That's Africa. Live with it. It's not about to change.



raven said...

As king of my own little African country (Ravenhaven), My instructions to my anti poaching force would be to seize, modify, and resell on the black market the poached articles. Slow acting poison in the Leopard skin, a 20 or thirty day timed charge in the rhino horn, ditto for the ivory- trick is to take out the buyer way down stream.
Might not get them all but it would definitly lower the price of poachers booty from Ravenhaven.

D R Zinn said...

Presumed guilty with no chance to be proven innocent? You should be ashamed of yourself, Peter.

Peter said...

D R Zinn: I didn't say I agreed with the way things are in Africa - I merely stated them as they exist, and will continue to exist. That's a fact of life. It's not going to be changed by foreign academics wringing their hands, or by a legal perspective that one is innocent until proven guilty, or by Christian missionaries protesting the lack of 'compassion' or 'mercy' by those involved. It's simply the way it is.

Anonymous said...

No comment on the permanent re-education of poachers, but in some of the "civilized" urban areas near where I've done research, another name of jogger is "cougar bait." No, not the over 40 cougar, either. My money's on the mountain lions. If you are that unaware to go jogging in places where cougar pug marks and scat have been found, well, *shrug*.

D R Zinn said...

"I didn't say I agreed with the way things are in Africa..." Not explicitly, but you took a pretty sanguine approach to it, and your title strongly suggests agreement.