Sunday, 29 January 2017

Namibia to blame for rhino poaching not Chinese - opinion

#RhinoPoaching #Namibia

Namibia to blame for rhino poaching, not Chinese*

It might just be worth to start by having a quick look at some numbers. 745 rhinos were killed due to illegal poaching in 2012 in Africa, which amounts to approximately two rhinos each day, mostly for their horns. In South Africa alone, 461 rhinos were killed in just the first half of 2013.
That time only less than 5 rhinos were poached in Namibia. Rhino horns are valued for their medicinal uses and for their supposed cancer-curing powers. Of course, rhino horns have no pharmacological value at all, making their harvest even more tragic.
Then in 2013 the Namibian government started giving permits to Americans to come and shoot our rhinos for fun-trophy hunting. It attracted global attention.
Government argued that a Dallas Safari Club from the US would kill five non-breeding rhino each year and that these were older males who can no longer contribute to population growth.
Not only did it seem as if the killing of an animal – especially an endangered one – for sport is directly contradictory to the goal of ensuring the survival of a species, the media and experts argued Namibia was drawing attention to the world of poachers who that time were mainly focused on South Africa and Mozambique.
Namibia in 2014 staged an auction in the US for the right to hunt an endangered black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Namibia. And the result, as usual, is now more complicated.
The permit was sold for US$350,000, well above the previous high bid for a permit US$223,000. While the Dallas Safari Club had the dubious distinction of being the first organization to hold such an auction outside of Namibia itself, it’s fairly unremarkable and actually quite common for an African nation to sell permits for trophy hunting, even for endangered species.
And it’s not just rhinos. For example, a 2000 report from TRAFFIC, an organization that works with the WWF, IUCN, and CITES to track the international trade of wildlife, describes how Namibia alone was the site of almost 16,000 trophy hunts that year. Those 16,000 animals represent a wide variety of species – birds, reptiles, mammals, and even primates – both endangered and not. They include four of the so-called “big five” popular African game: lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. (Only the elephant was missing.) The hunters brought eleven million US dollars with them to spend in the Namibian economy. And that doesn’t include revenue from non-trophy recreational hunting activities, which are limited to four species classified as of “least concern” by the IUCN: Greater Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok and Warthog.
The issues here are complex and highly politicized. There are several questions that science can’t help address, primary of which is whether or not the money raised from the sale of hunting permits is used for conservation, something often promised by hunting tour operators. But empirical research can help to elucidate several other questions, such as whether hunting can ever help drive conservation efforts.
The same Ministry of Environment and Tourism that failed to account for millions in a botched international KORA Awards event has never detailed where the "millions" from trophy go to particularly the communities where these animals are hunted.
What the Americans did to our rhinos is no different from what the Chinese are doing. Killing animals.
Government made a stool in public, now we have flies all over us.
Can the message that an auction for the hunting of an endangered species like the black rhino brings possibly be reconciled with the competing message that the species requires saving?
The Americans had the desire to kill a magnificent animal for sport, even if the individual is an older non-breeding male. The sale of the right to kill an animal for a trophy surely reflects the value that animal lives hold in at least some corners of our society: that killing an animal for fun isn’t wrong, as long as you can afford it. It is right to worry about the sort of message that sends.
For a government to approave the killing of an endangered species as charismatic as the black rhinoceros which is under such extreme threat from poaching, then perhaps the message that the species needs saving has a larger problem to address than the relatively limited loss of animals to wealthy hunters. The real tragedy here is that the one rhino killed by the Dallas Safari Club received a disproportionate amount of media attention compared to the hundreds of rhinos lost to poaching each year, which remain largely invisible.
Chinese are just doing what our government allowed the Americans to do. Killing our animals.

*Opinion may differ from publisher's.