Wildlife poaching in Africa and COVID-19
By Nil Ntreh
ONE of the industries which will benefit from the proverbial eye of Sauron that has been fixated on the coronavirus pandemic is the controversial multimillion-dollar market of animal poaching in Africa.
In fairness, even if there was no pandemic in the news and poaching was under microscopic discussion, we would be fools to seek easy and simple answers. This is because there are many angles to the problem. There is an ethical dimension – conserving the lives of animals because the creatures deserve the dignity to exist without disturbance from humans.
This dimension is popular and is probably the biggest motivating factor for many conservationists. Their belief is steeped in the belief that wildlife should exist for its sake. Although anyone from any part of this world may be of this thought, we may need to understand that the ethics of wildlife conservatism is not African.
In this sense, we mean that the modern conceptualization of a philosophical basis that respects animals as equals or near-equals of humans was not dreamed up in Africa. This is not an indictment of Africans and Africa. We are simply identifying a cultural and historical difference between that part of the world and Euro-America.
It is, therefore, no surprise, for instance, that coordination with local communities in eastern and southern Africa, that is meant to fight poaching becomes difficult. In Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, there have been reports over the years of locals undermining the efforts of authorities and the government in the conservation of wildlife animals.
This absence of ethical motivation towards wildlife conservation may not be the simplest description of the matter. We may speak of another aspect – the economic dimension.
In October last year, Zimbabwe was believed to have sold at least 30 young elephants to China as drought hit the country. Park officials are reported to have said proceeds will be used to dig more wells to save other wildlife. At least 55 elephants died in September this year, the BBC reported.
Animal welfare groups lashed out at the government over the sale of the animals, arguing it will traumatize the wildlife family. However, Zimbabwe’s National Parks Service said the best option was to sell the animals to earn more to save the rest in the wake of a devastating drought.
Indeed, a spokesperson for the parks in Zimbabwe, Tenashi Farawo, said the animal rights campaigners are only “stirring up emotions”. In what transpired on that particular occasion, we were given the best possible lesson on why some countries are not averse to desecrating the conservationist ethic.
At the end of the day, for some of these African countries, it is about the sustenance of fragile economies. When well-to-do westerners pay up to $20,000 to shoot animals in Africa’s wild, it becomes difficult for the likes of Zimbabwe to turn it down.