By Rolf D. Baldus
Finally the worsening poaching crisis has reached the political world. The UN, ADB and Interpol are working at action plans; IUCN is preparing an elephant conference in Botswana; President Barack Obama has promised some assistance and the Clinton Global Initiative has invited African leaders to sign a moratorium on ivory trade in Washington. Prince Charles is likewise organizing a high level meeting of invited Heads of States from Africa to a discussion on wildlife crime. His sons, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, went one step further and created a new global conservation organization, called "United for Wildlife". Footballer David Beckham registered as the first fan and member. It remains to be seen how effective the well-intentioned mix of political heavyweights, glamour and royalty will be at the end of the day in saving elephants and rhino (see Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham join forces to fight illegal wildlife trade - Telegraph).
For the veteran "wildlife's" amongst us this is all remindful of the poaching crisis in the nineteen seventies and eighties. We also remember what did work a quarter of a century ago and what did not. International cooperation in fighting the illegal wildlife trade across the borders is indispensable (see the article "UN Office on Drugs and Crime" on page 21). We all hope that this finally can be achieved. It is well known from where ivory and rhino horn comes and where it ends. Corruption, individual greed for economic gain and bad governance are at the root of the problem. Without success at these fronts nothing will change in the long run. Charity begins at home!
However, one fact must not be forgotten: Without "boots on the ground" the illegal killings will not be terminated. Well-trained, armed and motivated game scouts will have to stop the poaching in the parks, reserves, wild lands and private properties of Africa, where the wildlife roams. More often than not they are not provided the necessary means by their wildlife administrations. In many countries it is the presence and anti-poaching effort of hunters in the wildlife areas, which complement and even sometimes substitute state efforts. More....