Wildlife Management in Africa
In the past three decades, many of Africa’s wild animals have suffered a massive decline in population due to poaching. Africa is the world’s second largest continent and home to thousands of species of animals. Unlike in North America, most of these animals roam completely free in an almost totally undeveloped environment. In attempt to save these animals from possible extinction, anti-poaching laws have been enacted by governments throughout Africa, as well as an international ban on ivory trade. Anti-poaching regulations have in turn stemmed the formation of programs and policies for the management of Africa’s wildlife.
Poaching, the illegal killing of protected animals, occurs in Africa for a variety of reasons. The most profitable reason is the ivory trade. Hundreds of elephants and Rhinos are slaughtered every year for their ivory tusks, which claim a sizeable profit on the black market. Many hunters also poach for the sport of it, the thrill of the hunt. Many of the country’s native peoples, however, poach animals as a means to stay alive. Because the wildlife of Africa roams so free, many people and crops are damaged and destroyed every year and natives poach the animals for self-defense. Financial concerns also drive many natives to poaching, seeing as most of Africa is still considered to be third world and an elephant tusk can mean the difference between starving to death and a prosperous year (Messer, 50). Poaching also has negative effects on the environment, and on the economy. Governments in Africa and around the world have tried to enforce strict anti-poaching laws, and also regulate the ivory trade, until recently however, both efforts have been in vain.
In the past, government imposed anti-poaching laws transformed animals such as elephants and rhinos into a non-resource. They imposed laws that forbad the killing of these animals, but offered no alternative for those whose livelihood came from the animals (Butler, Mar1995; 40). The programs that were implemented were enforcement programs: many with a policy of shoot to kill (poachers). For example, in 1984, Zimbabwe implemented “Operation Stronghold,” whose main policy was to shoot poachers on site. Kenya has similar policies in their game parks, in retaliation to the poachers “poaching” park rangers (Hogan, 13). This attempt to secure animal populations has often cut off the human population in the immediate area from a valuable source of both income and food.
Wildlife and Rural Inhabitants
Many rural communities depend on farming as livelihood. Only 5 percent of the land in Africa is considered suitable for intensive agriculture, which therefore makes farming difficult (Child, 1997). Wild animals, especially elephants, make it even more difficult to eek out a living on the African landscape because they like to eat the crops, devastating the farmer’s income. In order to avoid or reduce damage from elephants, farmers have tried various strategies to deter them. Especially during the harvest season, farmers expend a great deal of labor attempting to guard their fields from elephants. Different methods, such as lighting fires, beating drums, and even firing guns into the air are tried. However, farmers explain that elephants, with their great intelligence, quickly learn that they will not be harmed by these methods and often return to eat the crops (Butler, Mar1995; 40). More modern methods, such as electric fencing and trip alarms have also been tested. Despite the high cost of these deterrents, elephants have learned to foil them as well. Another method that has been used with some success in Zimbabwe is the firing of tear gas canisters filled with chili pepper (Butler, Mar1995; 40). So far, no method has been able to completely deter the elephant aside from killing it. It should be noted that elephants do not destroy crops solely by eating them, but can also cause considerable damage by trampling crops while in transit.
On the other side, farming and ranching have had a dramatic impact on Africa’s wildlife. Some 90 percent of the herbivore biomass is now domestic livestock (Child, 1997). Land that was once open range for elephants and rhinos is now used for agriculture and livestock. In addition to poaching, these factors put great strain on animal populations. Ranchers often construct fences to contain their livestock, but wildlife needs aren’t taken into consideration (Lee, 2001). For example, a fence may keep cattle from wandering, but it also prevents wild animals from reaching watering holes or food.
Economics of Poaching
Many poachers are driven to do so because of poverty. Often times, their only source of income is farming or ranching on mediocre lands. These lands are only “productive” when the weather agrees and if no animals come to enjoy the crops. If crops fail, people are left with no money or food to live off of. To alleviate this suffering, some people turn to poaching animals either for their ivory or for meat to sell at market.
The prevalent conflicts between humans and animals attempting to inhabit the same regions made apparent the need for a new approach to wildlife conservation. Instead of looking at wildlife as a non-resource, animals were instead treated as a normal renewable natural resource. This involved mainly valuing the direct use of the wildlife for commercial uses that could take place on public, private, and communal lands. It involves a wide range of activities or potential activities, including wildlife viewing tourism, safari hunting tourism, community wildlife use, game ranching, intensive ostrich or crocodile production, elephant culling, animal relocation, and product processing (Child, 1997). In Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, recent legislative changes giving communities access to custodial rights over wildlife have opened the way for wildlife use to contribute to livelihoods.
New Ways to Manage Wildlife
Since it has been noted that typical command and control enforcement mechanisms do not usually work in Africa, new approaches are being attempted. It is important to incorporate the people living near the animals in conservation plans because they must receive some benefits if they must bear the cost of sharing the land.
Zimbabwe has implemented CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources), a program focusing on wildlife conservation by involving people living on communal land (Lee, 2001). With CAMPFIRE the government has transferred the ownership of wildlife on communal lands to the communities, which sell hunting or photographic concessions to safari companies. The money earned goes directly to the community who decides how it should be spent. Hunting quotas are set by the government and local authorities are responsible for wildlife protection and management (Butler, March 1995; 39).
Since implementation in 1989, communities have stopped poaching and now monitor the animals to make sure that no one else from outside the area is poaching them. Half of Zimbabwe’s 55 local districts have joined. In 1993, 12 districts nationwide with a combined population of 400,000, earned $1,516,693 in trophy fees and $97,732 from tourism, culling, and from shooting problem animals (Butler, March95; 39).
Safari hunting, which is extremely controversial among conservation groups, can generate impressive sums of money. Hunting quotas are set based on annual wildlife surveys and all foreign sport hunters must be accompanied by a professional hunter, licensed by the government. A single hunter can spend up to $40,000, half of which goes to local communities (Butler, march95; 41). Many (foreign) conservation agencies argue that safari hunting should not be allowed. To argue this, the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe can sustainably support 22,000 elephants that have a growth rate of 4 to 5 percent. The valley is also home to eight communal districts that have a combined hunting quota of 58 elephants, five percent of the annual growth rate (Dunn, 2000). It is common practice to cull animal populations when they exceed a sustainable number. Therefore, allowing trophy hunting is in a sense culling, but at the same time allowing local communities to benefit from the revenue generated by the presence of safari hunters. Hunters not only must pay for any animal they may shoot, but for food, lodging, and any additional souvenirs they may buy.
Another interesting approach to wildlife management in Africa are animal relocation programs. Such programs move animals from overpopulated areas to under-populated regions or areas where certain animals have gone extinct. In September 2000, seven elephants where relocated from elephant-abundant South Africa to Angola. Operation Noah’s Ark is a program whose goal is to repopulate the once abundant animal population of Angola, which were desecrated during the 25 year long civil war. Animals are relocated in family groups to reduce the shock and stress of the long journey and the re-adjustment period (Swindels, 2000).
New education programs have also been implemented to teach people of the benefits of animal conservation. One such program was implemented at the South African Wildlife College with funding from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in order to train wildlife managers how to better manage wildlife, resources, and people. During the two year program, students learn how to track animals and poachers, as well as oversee irrigation systems, identify plants, and handle community relations. They also learn about legal issues in conservation and tourism infrastructure. Tanzania also has a similar program that hires professionals to teach each subject instead of full-time professors (Mooney, 1998).
With all that confronts the attempts to properly managing African wildlife, there does appear to be some avenue to pursue that could bring about an improved setting for the co-existence of human and animals. First, there needs to be better education on the plight of the animals particularly in those Western countries where foreign aid must compete with corruption. Secondly, there needs to be a way of channeling the revenue, derived from the consumption of animal related goods, to the people whose production possibilities are damaged by the destruction brought about by the animals (i.e. Elephants trampling crops or loss of farm land due to protected wildlife lands). Third, there needs to be a change of the property right structure in many of the South Africa countries. Such programs as CAMPFIRE can facilitate this change. It should be made explicitly clear that any change that will occur will do so in a political arena and careful consideration of the local political and cultural systems will be necessary to design optimal wildlife management programs.
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