Excuse the rather shocking photo but this is what it looks like when we talk about "poaching". Here's a brief and rather depressing look at some of Africa's wildlife on the brink of survival. Once you've read this blog and clicked through some the links, you'll probably be thinking "How can I help?". There are a few things you can do ...
How You Can Help
- Go on safari and stay in lodges/camps that supports both conservation and local community efforts.
- Donate money directly to those on the front line. Check out: WildlifeDirect, Rhino Conservation, Virunga in Crisis, African Wildlife Foundation.
- Volunteer on a conservation project, there are plenty to choose from -- click here.
A recent New York Times article compared the current elephant poaching crises with the "Blood Diamond" trade. Elephants are being hacked to death for their tusks by their dozens in places like the DRC's Garamba National Park. "Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades." Militant groups are getting involved and even shooting elephants from helicopters. It's also no coincidence that the increase of Chinese workers in Africa, has brought about a parallel increase in poaching. And it's difficult to curb the current slaughter when the tusks of a single adult elephant can be worth more than 10 times the average annual income in many African countries. Read full article
The DRC's Virunga National Park is also in crisis yet again. Fighting has broken out, rebel militias have moved in, and many of the park rangers who help protect the 200 mountain gorillas (about a third of the entire mountain gorilla population) have had to flee to the relative safety of Goma. The park protects many other animals, including fragile elephant and hippo populations. They are very proactive in helping local communities living in the area, so they have a stake in protecting the wildlife. Read more...
More than 200 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2008. South Africa is home to almost 80% of the world's rhino population so it's a worrying trend. Over half have been poached from the Kruger area, and park rangers are doing everything to try and stop it. The army has gotten involved and there have been many arrests, but the killing continues. These beasts, who have roamed the earth for more than 50 million years, now have a price tag of about $180,000 on the end of their nose. The main market for rhino horn is in China and Vietnam.
Traditional healers have recently joined the fight to save rhinos. The poachers who are caught often allude to the fact that they used some kind of magic muti (medicine) to remain invisible to rangers and safe from dangerous animals. The traditional healers therefore have an important part to play in helping identify poachers by reporting them to the authorities if they ask for this type of protection. It's a smart move by the park authorities and I imagine it will be quite effective at least in the short-term.
Image of a poached elephant - © Virunga National Park (DRC)