'The scope, and ruthlessness, of the current wave of elephant and rhino poaching and illegal ivory and horn trading has, once again and with horrific clarity, thrown the whole issue of wildlife ecosystem conservation in Africa into the spotlight. The consequences, if something is not done and done quickly, will be devastating.'
David Peddie is a professional advisor in the conservation of wildlife, sustainable economic development of rural communities and the integration of safari tourism into conservation and development programs; his clients include government agencies , NGO's, private research and conservation projects and he is conservation advisor to the Judges in the Safari Awards. We talked to him about the poaching crisis and what he thought could be done to arrest the current trend:
'From mounted, heavily armed gangs riding hundreds of kilometres to slaughter elephant herds with AK47s and using the ivory sale proceeds to fund fundamentalist-driven violence; to ignorant and impoverished villagers being coerced into using cyanide to poison salt licks and waterholes as stooges for criminal syndicates and corrupt civil servants, the situation presents a "clear and present danger" (with apologies to our American friends!) to African ecosystems and to African economies.'
'It remains my contention and that of the majority of conservationists working on the ground, that one of the key elements in controlling the poaching assault is the provision of sustainable, natural resource and wildlife-based economic development alternatives for poverty stricken rural communities. Without an alternative, how can you ask an impoverished community to stop its only income-generating activity? In Southern Africa, Namibia has lead the way with their successful Communal Conservancy Programme - especially since the Zimbabwe Campfire Programme lost its way and effectiveness in the morass of politics and corruption.
'In many parts of Southern and East Africa considerable work is being done, often by private lodge and safari operators and NGOs, to bring this concept of "rural economic development for communities living on the periphery of protected wildlife areas" to fruition. More....