ONE of the most curious and harmful lessons that Western animal rights groups continue to teach African rural communities co-existing with wildlife and the African public, in general, is “demand the arrest of chicken thieves and not wildlife poachers”.
As can be witnessed anywhere on the continent, the African villagers and the public can readily demand the arrest of anyone, even the most powerful political elites, if they dare steal their chickens, goats and cows, but not so for poaching wildlife such as elephants and rhinos. Why?
It is because the more the Western animal rights continue to succeed in restricting benefits from African wildlife, more they teach African people to place no value on it and see no need to demand the arrest of wildlife poachers.
Without benefits from wildlife, Africans would rather help poachers to poach wildlife. This is why poaching is increasing rapidly in Africa. For instance, the poaching of eight rhinos worth millions of US dollars (for hunting and horn value) in South Africa, Kwazulu Natal, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, in November 2020 should have sparked a nationwide public protest.
Well-known for protesting against the looting of state assets, including the taxpayers’ money, South Africa’s labour movement and vocal political parties did not make a single protest statement. Yet, this was a day light looting of state assets worth millions of United States dollars.
No surprises for lack of public protest against wild wealth, because the Western animal rights’ politics and business interests of restricting benefits from African wild trade is bad education for Africans because it keeps the African public unaware of the huge wealth that wildlife can bring to Africa, including job creation opportunities.
There are numerous cases of massive poaching of elephants and rhinos, including looting of ivory and rhino horn that the African public has not protested against.
Therefore, African observers have suggested that until we get to a stage of stopping Western animal rights from restricting wild trade so that full and fair wildlife ownership benefits should go to the communities, wildlife shall continue to be harmed by poachers with no public protest.
Curiously, the poachers and animal rights are currently the direct and indirect beneficiaries of Africa’s wild wealth that should instead benefit the African public.
“The African communities that co-exist with wild animals, as neighbours need financial incentives to look after both habitat and wildlife,” Namibia-based safari operator Robert Hurt said: “Take this away and people will see little reason to keep wild animals on their land and will turn to other forms of destructive land use such as slash and burn agriculture or herding excessive numbers cattle, goats and sheep. The result would see a rapid decline in wildlife numbers.”
Sadly, the animal rights groups continue to tell sensational lies, in order to restrict and ban any form of community benefits from wildlife, including hunting.
In its December 7, 2020 editorial, the seemingly animal rights influenced British newspaper, The Times, told what observers from African and internationally view as disgraceful, untruthful and arrogantly neo-colonial racist lies; that the Africans are being forced into hunting by the Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club.
A pro-hunting British citizen, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said The Times “can’t claim that it was merely reporting”, as this was an editorial piece, representing its official anti-hunting position.
“We are very far from being influenced by the West to hunt our wildlife,” Ovehi Kasikaona, the chairperson of Namibia’s Anabebi Conservancy, said.
Wildlife revenue was used at the conservancy to build a day-care centre and is creating jobs. It will soon bring solar power for every household.
“The animal rights groups must come on the ground and get a clear picture of the benefits of hunting in Africa. They should stop misleading the world by giving a wrong picture of hunting. We will continue to hunt our animals in a very sustainable manner,” he said.
Elsewhere, the president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa), Peiter Potgieter, condemned and dismissed as “utter nonsense”, The Times’ lies that Africa was being forced into hunting against its will and that hunting brings no conservation and development benefits.
“Nobody is forced to do anything and hunting has been part of Africa’s culture long before the white man set foot in Africa and before there were any hunting organisations, local or international,” Potgieter said.
“We just found a way to better manage wildlife through our sustainable use model, which gives wildlife a greater value and an incentive for local people and communities to conserve and protect the game [wildlife], instead of just seeing it as vermin.”
Meanwhile, the former director-general for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and also former CEO of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), with the world’s biggest elephant population, Morris Mtswambiwa, said “poaching is a product of the current unfairness”, where those who suffer the costs co-existing with wildlife are denied the right to meaningfully benefit from it.
“This a blatant violation of other people’s human rights,” Mtsambiwa said.
The president of Zimbabwe Safari Operators Association, Emmanuel Fundira, said the overtures raised in The Times article “only serve external interests and should be ignored with” with the contempt they deserve.
“Africa will continue to partner with external bodies, as long as they are fully aligned to serve local interests,” Fundira said.
Africa’s known first black woman safari hunting business operator and an inspirational fighter for community hunting culture and rights, South Africa-based Esther Netshivhongweni and adviser for the Makuya Traditional Council, that occupies the most natural resource-rich part of Kruger National Park, said no one can divorce Africans from hunting.
“Hunting has been and still is, Africans’ bartering product to get access to money to acquire wealth and pride,” Netshivhongweni said.
“These international and self-appointed organisations that claim to speak on behalf African communities, while in the process making money from recolonising Africans through canvassing for the ban of sustainable use of wildlife in Africa, must be banned from talking on behalf Africans.”
Botswana’s Ngamiland Council of NGOs executive director Siyoka Simasiku said hunting “is not a new practice” in Africa.
“Our chiefs dress in leopard skins when rising to the throne as a right of honour,” he said.
“Pre-colonial African communities had indigenous knowledge, so do current African communities. That knowledge gives guidance on the correct seasons to hunt. These practices helped increase the African wildlife you see today.”
A representative of one of Zimbabwe’s richest hunting communities with a hunting revenue built road and a bridge that links them to the rest of the world, as well as a school that produced medical doctors, engineers, teachers and accountants.
Ishmael Chaukura said it was a pack of lies and absolute propaganda maliciously aimed at banning trophy hunting imports from Africa to Western countries such as the United Kingdom, to say hunting destroys wildlife as The Times did in its editorial this month.
Despite these life-changing benefits brought by hunting, The Times and Western animal rights groups continue to shamelessly lie that safari hunting companies only give 3% of the annual hunting revenue to African rural communities.
The 3% benefits from hunting is a misrepresentation of Zimbabwe-based Vernon Booth’s recent research, in which he referred to a voluntarily donation of 3% from hunters to rural communities. Therefore, the 3% is not part of the officially negotiated payments to communities by hunters and safari hunting companies that range from 50% upwards, under contractual agreements that Sadc hunting communities sign with hunting companies.
Answering a media question at November 2019, Victoria Falls African Wildlife Consultative Conference, Booth confirmed that the animal rights groups continue to quote him out of context, as 3% benefits was like a bonus donation and not the officially negotiated payments to Sadc hunting communities that have much higher percentages than 3%.
To avoid further confusion and lies about hunting benefits, Sadc communities have long invited Western animal rights groups to come and see for themselves the life-changing, as well as mindset-changing hunting benefits.
However, local and international observers say the animal rights groups will never accept the invitation to see the evidence of hunting benefits, because it would end the lies that support their selfish fundraising industry, using African wildlife as their pawn. The mindset and life-changing benefits from wildlife include the transformation of former wildlife poachers to absolute conservationists.
Also, the socio-economic benefits from hunting have given hope for a better future to communities that were once hopeless. Wildlife also continues to benefit from community protection from poachers and wild habitat conservation.
The hunting communities are increasingly becoming empowered in wildlife management, as evidenced by their involvement in negotiating the hunting fees and setting the annual hunting quotas.
“For example under the Zimbabwe Campfire Programme, communities set their own hunting quotas annually, without any external influence,” Chaukura said.
“The representatives from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the rural district councils play the role of the technical advisers and the communities are the custodians and beneficiaries from trophy hunting.”
Hunting is an effective form of wildlife management that involves the harvesting of old wildlife that would likely soon die of natural causes and that would also be replaced by younger species without causing population decline.
According to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) 1997 Quota Setting Manual, the main purpose of a quota is to identify the number of animals that can be killed without reducing the population.
Trophy hunting is often incorrectly confused with poaching, or with the organised international illegal wildlife trade (IWT) that is currently devastating many species including the African elephant and African rhinos.
However, trophy hunting typically takes place as a legal, regulated activity under programmes implemented by government wildlife agencies, protected area managers, indigenous and local community bodies, private landowners, or conservation or development organisations.
In several cases, revenue from hunting is used to fund law enforcement or provide community benefits that counter incentives to engage in IWT.
Meanwhile, African observers say that Africans love their wildlife more than animal rights groups as can be seen in their wildlife-respecting/valuing surnames and totems, given since the creation of humankind.
Africans’ surnames and totems range from elephant, lion, hyena, monkey, baboon, snake, jackal, hippo, crocodile, buffalo and warthog, etc.
In contrast, Western people’s surnames are far less associated with wildlife compared to those of Africans.
Sadly, the observers say that the animal rights groups will also continue to lie that Africans do not love wildlife and hunting and all forms of wildlife should be banned.
They profit from such lies because they help them raise millions of dollars to support their high salaries and lifestyles, with hardly any funds being used to conserve African wildlife. To them, this seems to be an excellent money-making opportunity and not about African wildlife conservation.
The vice-chairperson of Botswana’s Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust, Nchungu Nchungu said that any attempt to ban hunting would be a very big mistake because it creates job and socio-economic development opportunities, as well as incentivises the need to conserve wildlife and its habitat.
“Hunting brings the much-needed foreign currency into Africa, including Botswana,” said Mr Nchungu. “So it’s part of the survival for the African communities. If they [West] ban hunting it means the African economy will go down.”
It is against this background that the Sadc Community Leaders Network issued a protest letter to The Times saying: “We say show us the evidence for this offensive, sweeping, and baseless claim which contradicts our information and knowledge as the owners and managers of wildlife”.
Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.