Why is Poaching for Ivory Increasing?

Lately, elephant poaching in Africa has been increasing at an alarming rate. Kenya, whose elephant population has – according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) – increased from 16,000 elephants before the 1989 CITES ban on ivory trade to the current 32,000 – has seen its fair share of this poaching. It is now becoming a big problem and we are likely to see a sharp decline in the population of the African elephant if poaching remains unchecked. But how did this sudden increase occur and how can we solve it?


First, this problem is not a problem of Kenya alone. It is happening all over Africa. Whereas the KWS blames the CITES-sanctioned one-off auction of ivory from southern African states to China and Japan for the sudden upsurge of poaching, there are indeed other factors that come into play. The upsurge in poaching is not a direct consequence of the auction although it did trigger the growth in demand.

What happened is that the auction made legal ivory available in the market and that was the danger. The sudden availability of a significant amount of ivory revitalized a market that had disappeared. Now, there is no way that legal ivory could satisfy demand in this enlarged market. Illegal ivory, consequently, found a new outlet and soon started fetching better prices at the source.

Although the influx on Chinese workers in Africa is also blamed for rising poaching, this is unlikely to be contributing significantly to the problem. The Chinese workers are lowly paid and thus they don’t have the large amounts of money required to buy ivory from poachers.

Far more important, there is quite a busy ivory market in China triggered by the one-off auction of Ivory last year. Twenty years ago ivory was not very affordable in China. Only a few rich people could buy. Today, China’s per capita income has been growing by about 8% per year. There are now tens of millions of Chinese people who can buy ivory. This is where the problem is.

In 1980s majority of these new buyers were young and did not know about the ivory crisis. The one-off sale however alerted this new market to the availability of ivory.

Poverty has also increased in Africa as the population grows faster than the economy. People are increasingly becoming desperate and are therefore getting more involved in poaching to put food on the table. The current drought in Kenya has made the situation even worse.

We also know that majority of African elephant range states have no effective policing mechanisms to contain this problem. in Kenya, the KWS has no money to fund any effective law enforcement that is required to contain poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

A solution needs to be found and the way forward is to try and get the total ban on ivory trade reinstated. Once the ban is reinstated, ivory disappears from the market. Possession of ivory becomes a crime. Policing thus gains some effectiveness. Furthermore, lack of a market will drive the price of raw ivory in Africa down.

People have asked me if KWS should repeat the public burning of ivory to make a statement, especially now that it is the 20-year anniversary of this event. I say it depends on how this is handled. Of course, we did raise some money back then, but the idea was new then. It is now an old idea and old ideas have to be handled carefully. It would however be a PR disaster for the KWS to sell the ivory to a third party.

In the old days, we created a fine force that was able to bring down the level of poaching until Kenya’s elephant population started increasing.  The situation is different today. Twenty years ago, elephant poaching was done by Somalis who were not very well equipped. Today, the poachers are mostly local people especially in the north of the country.

In the north, there are very many guns used primarily in cattle rustling – by both the rustlers and those protecting their cattle. These guns are now being used in poaching. This is worsened by KWS allowing the nomadic pastoralists into wildlife reserves especially during this drought. This is a big mistake. KWS should clear the reserves in order to get these guns away from elephants.

Until something is done, poaching will continue to escalate. The time to act is now.

I personally thank all those who read the WildlifeDirect blogs and particularly those who leave comments, and make donations. Your comments encourage our bloggers and your donations help us support more than 100 projects. I urge you to continue giving and help us save the wildlife you very much love.

WildlifeDirect Welcomes FMC’s Withdrawal of Furadan from Kenya

FMC Corporation’s withdrawal of Furadan from Kenya and their commitment to buy back the entire remaining product is a welcome gesture of commitment from the Philadelphia-based pesticide manufacture, WildlifeDirect has said. WildlifeDirect’s Chairman, Dr Richard Leakey, who has been calling for a ban on this lethal chemical following lion poisonings in the Masai Mara Reserve over a year ago, says it is encouraging that FMC has finally taken action to prevent further poisoning of wildlife using this highly potent pesticide.

FMC announced the withdrawal and the commencement of the buy-back programme following the airing of a documentary on CBS’s 60 Minutes show on Sunday 29 March 2009 in which was reported that the death of some 75 lions had been linked to Furadan poisoning in the Masai Mara.

Furadan-poisoned lion

Although lion poisoning may have prompted FMC’s rapid response, the misuse of Furadan threatens a variety of other species including large predators which are particularly susceptible such as, hyenas, jackals, leopards and others that are considered pests, as well as numerous birds and fish species that are killed with Furadan for human consumption. This practice poses a serious human health threat since the pesticide’s active ingredients, carbofurans, are dangerous to humans.  Ingestion of tiny amounts of these compounds can cause paralysis and even death.

Dr Richard Leakey, world renowned for having led the efforts that brought down the massive poaching of elephants in the mid-1980s, has been at the centre of the campaign for the withdrawal of Furadan in Kenya. In response to the announcement from FMC he said,

“I am delighted at the swift response from FMC which is a promising sign of corporate responsibility. WildlifeDirect is looking forward to working with FMC as well as other stakeholders to ensure that this deadly chemical no longer poses a threat to wildlife in Africa”.

Dr Leakey refers to the action by FMC to withdraw this poison of choice for herders, fishermen and bird hunters, as a victory feather to be added to WildlifeDirect’s cap.

Several Kenyan scientists working closely with WildlifeDirect have been studying the use of carbofuran in the various wildlife poisoning applications. Dino Martins, a PhD scholar at Harvard University has written a report on the use of carbofuran for fishing in Lake Victoria. The tragedy is double, poisoned fish are sold for human consumption and given away to HIV-AIDS orphans.  Martin Odino, based at Nature Kenya, has been conducting a long term investigation on the use of Furadan to poison wild birds in Bunyala rice growing region since February 2009. Odino has documented alarming numbers of poisoned birds of several species in this area that he calls ‘a Furadan hotspot’. He predicts that Furadan use could have devastating effects on Kenya’s wetland birds’ diversity in the near future.

As a follow-up to their announcement, FMC representatives will be visiting Kenya to, amongst other things, ensure that the Furadan Buy-Back Program is working effectively. The buy-back program will be implemented in Kenya by the local distributor, Juanco SPS.

WildlifeDirect welcomes the invitation to work with FMC with whom they will be meeting during their visit to Kenya in the coming days.

The Gibe III Dam must be stopped

You may have heard about the raging controversy regarding a massive dam that is under construction on the Omo River in Ethiopia. It is called the Gilgel Gibe III dam and it has a wall that will soar 240 metres high – this is the tallest of its type anywhere in the world. It will hold back a reservoir 150 kilometres long.

Map of Gibe III dam

The Ethiopians say that they need this dam as it will provide 1800 megawatts of electricity. That will more than double the country’s current generating capacity in one hit, and according to their Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, it will solve a national energy crisis.He says they can’t afford not to have Gilgel Gibe III. He also claims that it will enable the country to store water and regulate the flooding downstream in the Omo River.

Gibe III dam

This new dam will produce far more electricity than the country is capable of consuming, most will be exported to neighbours like Sudan and Kenya.

I think that this project is fatally flawed in terms of its logic, in terms of its thoroughness, in terms of its conclusions.

It looks to me like the Environmental Impact Assessment was an inside job that has come up with the results that they were looking for to get the initial funding for this dam.

I and the Environmental Resources Group believe that rather than being beneficial to the river valley as the Ethiopian government say, the dam will produce a broad range of negative effects, some of which would be catastrophic to both the environment and the indigenous communities living downstream.

Even if the science is in dispute – this is reason enough to invoke the precautionary principle and stop the project before it is too late because if the Ethiopian government is wrong, those communities living along the lower Omo River Valley all the way down into neighbouring Kenya will pay a heavy price. I believe that one immediate consequence will be the aggravation  of armed conflict in a war over the shrinking natural resources.

What do you think, should Ethiopia be allowed to go ahead despite the concerns of down stream environmental and social impacts affecting over 500,000 people and Lake Turkana in Kenya?

Announcement of Leakey Lecture

Climate Stabilization Seminar

(03/12/2009)    A conference organized by a group of women focusing on climate stability and global warming will take place at Stony Brook Southampton between March 27 and 29. Organized by Women’s Initiatives for a Sustainable Earth, a New York State nonprofit organization, the conference will focus on “Mobilizing for Climate Stability: One Conversation at a Time.”

The cost is $165 per person for those who buy tickets before Sunday, or $225 thereafter. Students can attend for $100, and pairs of students can purchase tickets at a discount, for $165.

The conference includes lectures by environmental experts, morning yoga sessions, live music, film, and food. A dinner supported by Stony Brook University’s Center for Food, Wine, and Culture will cost an additional $22 per person, or $12 for persons under the age of 21.

Among the keynote speakers will be Margaret Wheatley, founder of the Berkana Institute, Harriet Fulbright, president of the Fulbright Center, Richard Leakey, a wildlife conservationist, paleoanthropologist, and founder of Wildlife Direct, and Sarah Newkirk, the director of coastal conservation at the Nature Conservancy on Long Island. Entertainment will be provided by Katherine Buckell, a singer-songwriter from Australia, Jane Comfort and Company, a dance theater company based in Manhattan, and Rha Goddess, a hip-hop artist and poet.

Conference organizers noted that “women control 85 percent of consumer spending,” and suggested that helping them to collaborate across New York State would be key to mobilizing toward climate stability. According to a press release, the conference entailed six months of planning, and over 400 people are expected to attend. Organizations that plan to contribute to the conference include the Nature Conservancy, the Peconic Land Trust, Group for the East End, and many others.

Registration will begin at 6:30 p.m. on March 27, and the event wraps up at 1:15 p.m. on March 29 with music, dancing and song. To purchase tickets or view the itinerary, those interested can visit sowise.org.      K.M.

Climate Change and Japan’s Krill Fishing are Devastating the Antarctic

I returned to Kenya last week after a short but truly memorable trip to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsular.  I traveled from Argentina, the port of Ushuaia, across the Drake Passage and returned by the same route after a week in the islands and the peninsular.  The sea was “bumpy” and not everyone would enjoy the crossing but the destination was quite awesome and one of the best experiences in my life.

Antarctica ice

The viewing of whales, orcas, various seals, penguins and of course the incredible ice formations was a wonderful way to spend a week.  My interest went further and I was especially interested to see what I could related to glacial retreat and the effects of climate change generally in the southern landscape, usually considered to be the coldest place on our planet.


I was shown evidence where, in the past 10 years, the glacier front had receded several hundred meters, where inlets and small bays were free of ice now during summer but which never were so before.  Records from one of the research stations on the peninsular showed an increase of the mean summer temperatures of 2.5?C.  Penguin species such as the Adelie were moving further south and warmer climate species were appearing for the first time.  There is no doubt that significant and rapid changes are taking place.


The other alarming information I obtained was that the Krill (the essential base of the food chain for the vertebrate fauna) are also being depleted.  Whilst climate change and its effect on ice flows and pack ice have a major bearing on this, there is today massive fishing for krill by Japan.  I was told that new techniques for extracting krill at a far greater tonnage were now having devastating effects on the population density.  This will have an additional impact upon the survival of other biodiversity further up the food chain.

I wonder if anyone reading this has detailed information.  Are we seeing a different but perhaps a more sinister onslaught against sea mammals and birds in the Antarctic?  If so, should the alarm not be raised?  The over use of any species can have far reaching impacts on species survival across a broad spectrum.

WildlifeDirect Video

Dear Friends,

Earlier this year we partnered with National Geographic to tell our story. We  hope you enjoy this video and will feel inspired to support conservaiton through WildlifeDirect. Let us know what you think.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZhwxqLzEtJs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Dr Leakey and Other Conservationists Condemn Destruction of Trees in the Mathews Range

There is great concern about an ongoing post-doctoral research project carried out by Luca Borghesio, a student from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which is clear cutting substantially large plots of indigenous trees in the Mathews Range.  Mathews Range, also known as the Lenkiyio Hills, is a range of mountains about 150 km long, in the Laikipia District of the Rift Valley Province in northern Kenya, 50 km north of Isiolo Town.

“Approximately 234 mature indigenous trees have been cut down” says Helen Douglas-Dufresne of the Milgis Trust in her blog  “Nine plots of 60-metre diameter have been cleared and 11 more have been marked for clearing”, she adds.

Kitich forest 2

Utter dismay: Community members assessing the destruction

Douglas-Dufresne, other conservationists and the local community in the area worry that this “wanton destruction in the name of research” could have detrimental effects on the overall health of the forest and the environmental services it provides to the otherwise arid plains below the Mathews. They are also irked by the reported secrecy with which the research is being conducted.

Adding his concern, renowned Kenyan conservationist, and Chairman of WildlifeDirect, Dr Richard Leakey said, “I have learned of the research project that involves cutting of trees on a number of plots in the Mathews where we have one of the last remaining pristine forest in Kenya and I find it disturbing”. “I would urge that this project be suspended and that there be a full public discussion of what is being done and why and for whose benefit”, adds Dr Leakey.

The researcher, a tropical forest ecologist, explains – rather ambiguously – in an email to Douglas-Dufresne, that his research is neither covert nor wanton destruction but a study on how human activities, particularly those of the nomadic communities who live adjacent to, and utilize, the Mathews forests, can help conservation.

Kitich forest 3

The big ones: Big trees cut down for research

Of his hypothesis that traditional nomadic activities can help conservation, he draws parallels with the community livestock grazing programme that begun at Lewa conservancy, acknowledging that carefully planned grazing can benefit both people and conservation . He portends that the same might be true in forest areas. How this is linked to chopping down mature indigenous trees does not come out convincingly in his explanation.

When asked about this notion, Dr Richard Leakey said “I find it very hard to believe that cutting so much wood can possibly be justified in the current time when deforestation and climate change are of such concern”. “Kenyan forests [which cover only 2% of the land against a recommended global standard of 12%] should not be destroyed without an extremely good reason and academic research could hardly justify what is happening in the Mathews Range”, he adds.

Kitich forest

Ecosystem services: The Mathews is a source of water for the community

The researcher says that he cleared 10 plots of 12m diameter adding up to about 4,521 square meters – about an acre – in the 300km2 forest and therefore in his view it would have no significant effect on the entire ecosystem. The Milgis Trust however has produced pictures indicate that the areas are much larger than this. The ruffled local elders have indeed come to Douglas-Dufresne to seek advice on what to do about the felling of the large trees.

Some weeks back, the community had come into the study plots and evicted the researcher. Reportedly, the researcher paid KShs 100,000 (about US$ 1,300) to some local leaders and was smuggled back into his study area. He however denies this saying that what he paid is the normal government fees that any researcher is required to pay for permits to conduct research.

The Kenya Forest Service, the government body charged with the responsibility of looking after Kenya’s forests, has not been very cooperative and Douglas-Dufresne has not had much success trying to have them stop this project.

Dr Leakey, who sees this as another of those corrupt deals where the local community is being taken for a ride asks for a transparent process. He wonders who did the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project to go ahead and asks if the public know of its existence.

“I would encourage readers of this blog to get in touch with the University of Illinois and express concern so that we may put a stop to this destruction which the local community are equally opposed to”, he concludes.

Ivory Auctions A Disservice to Conservation

I am deeply concerned about the ongoing one-off ivory auction that started on 28 October in Namibia and ends on Wednesday, 6 November 2008 in South Africa.

I have spent many years looking at issues of elephant conservation and ivory trade and played a major role in successfully eliminating the massive ivory poaching that characterized what is considered the darkest period for African elephants in Kenya in the late 1980s, I believe that auctioning the ivory stockpiles would cause poaching to increase particularly in the central, eastern and western African elephant range states where poaching is not yet properly controlled.

Elephant in Aberdares

Namibia auctioned its 9 tons of ivory on Tuesday, 28 October raising $1.2-million. Zimbabwe and Botswana have also auctioned their ivory to the exclusive Chinese and Japanese buyers making $480,000 and $1.1-million respectively. On 6 November, South Africa will auction the largest cache of ivory – 51 tons – to conclude this controversial sale. According to the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the parties to the auction, the funds generated from this sale will be channeled directly into conservation. I am skeptical and wonder if there is a way of knowing whether these funds will actually help conservation.

The entry of China into the legal trade is also a cause of concern for me. It is hard to believe that a country which in 2002 scored only 5.6 out of 100 points in the CITES Elephant Trade Information Systems (ETIS) ranking – which ranks countries on how effectively they tackle illegal ivory – could have scored 63 points this year. China has admitted loosing track of 120 tons of ivory from the government’s official stockpiles in the past 12 years.

Recently, Kenya saw the successful conviction of Chinese nationals accused of smuggling ivory that appears to have originated from 22 out of the 37 African elephant range states. The entry of China – the destination for most of the illegal ivory – is an ill advised move that will only serve to open up the illegal ivory markets.

Reports already indicate that poaching is increasing in most parts of Africa. The Kenya Wildlife Service – Kenya’s official wildlife authority – has reported that poaching is increasing in key elephant zones. Central and west Africa have also witnessed escalating poaching in recent times. The Democratic Republic of Congo, caught up in a complex civil strife, has become a haven for poachers.

Although CITES secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers says that southern African states have everything under control, it cannot be true for Zimbabwe. Reports by bloggers at WildlifeDirect.org and on independent media show that Zimbabwe is experiencing an unprecedented decimation of wildlife. Reports indicate that Zimbabwe may have lost up to 80% of its wildlife. There is reason to believe that a large percentage of this wildlife consists of elephants.

As the hammer falls for the last time in South Africa on Thursday, we cannot in any way say that this is a victory for conservation. It is indeed a great disservice to conservation.

I categorically denounce this auction and call on CITES to rethink how they run endangered species affairs. It should not be lost to CITES that they exist to protect the endangered species against trade malpractices, not to serve partisan interests that work against the species.

Opinion: Dr Terese Hart Speaks on Bushmeat in Central Africa

Dr Paula Kahumbu interviewed Dr Terese Hart, a friend of Dr Richard Leakey, who has been on expedition in the forests around the Tshuapa, Lomami and Lualaba Rivers (TL2) in the Democratic Republic of Congo since May 2007 in search of bonobos. Paula asked her about her experience with the bushmeat trade in the Central African Rainforest.

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon (picture (c) bonoboincongo.com)

1. In your opinion, what are the three greatest threats to forest wildlife in the Central African Rainforest?

The three threats that I think outweigh others are:

a.  bushmeat hunting

b.  ivory hunting

c.  loss of habitat

In the area where we are working, loss of habitat is not yet an issue, only hunting.   Habitat loss is associated with high human population and increasingly with logging and agricultural expansion. These have not yet reached the forested swath explored by our TL2 project of more than 60,000 sq. km running south-north through central D.R. Congo.  This forest area follows the Lomami watershed but reaches into the valleys of the Congo on the east and the upper Tshuapa on the west.  Through the entire area there is no road that can support even four-wheel drive vehicles.  Bushmeat hunting for distant markets has nevertheless become the main revenue source in isolated villages.  Trade in bushmeat is lucrative enough to bring buyers long distances to these outposts.  The wild meat they buy is smoked and dried.  The profit they gain is from markets hundreds of km distant to which they send their meat by foot, bicycle, and dugout.

2. How serious are these threats – are any species in danger of extinction? 

Yes, there is an increasing danger.  Where snare trapping is used, bushmeat hunting empties these forests of antelope, pig, okapi and buffalo.  Where shotguns are used, the primates are principal targets.  Frequently both methods are used. Were the abundance of these animals to be mapped, large halos of empty forest would become visible around market centers such as Kisangani, Ikela, Lomela and Kindu.  These rings of silence are growing.  When the areas of local extinction coalesce, the process becomes difficult if not impossible to reverse.  In the TL2 area, bonobos are endangered.  In the east, Grauer’s gorillas are endangered. Both are endemic to D.R. Congo.

Elephant hunting occurs separately from bushmeat commerce.   Forest elephants have been decimated with military arms, mainly AK 47s that became abundant in D.R. Congo during the war period of the 1990s and early 2000s.  Ivory hunting has occurred in waves.  The result is that thousands of elephants were slaughtered in the Lomami watershed alone.  Their remains are piles of large slow-decaying bones scattered throughout the forest.  The living population is concentrated around a single tributary of the Lomami midway between the major export markets of Kindu and Kisangani.  Similar Elephant decimation happened during the war period in all Congo’s major wilderness forests: the Ituri, Maiko, Uele, ….

3. How much bushmeat is being harvested from these forests annually (can you estimate the gross amount, number of animals and number of species?)

We cannot now make an estimate but should have good evaluations of offtake from a number of areas next year.  At this point our information is from measures of hunting effort rather than hunting success and bushmeat transport to market.  It is important to point out, however, that all areas with consistent hunting for the bushmeat trade have decreasing, often rapidly decreasing,  populations of wild animals.

In interviews with villagers it is clear that areas around even the smallest settlements have been largely hunted out.  In villages more than 200 km south of Opala (remote!) people are  already saying that the animals are no longer close to the village.  They must walk several days into the forest to  hunt successfully.   There is no forest so remote in Central Africa that it has not been subject to at least some bushmeat hunting.

4. Could bushmeat harvesting be conducted on a sustainable basis?  Why? 

Some species would survive continuous hunting but only with enforced regulation (hunting seasons, no – hunting areas, tax on bushmeat transport and sale) before commercial hunting can exist in a “sustainable” manner. Sustainable here means without local extinction.  Regulation does of course have to accept a certain level of depletion.   If hunting regulation is too difficult to enforce then the best single option is to create a no-hunting zone or protected area.  This has rather simple and absolute restrictions but would best be policed in collaboration with local people.

Controlling the people who actually profit most from the bushmeat trade will be difficult. The profit is minimal for the villagers who are the hunters that actually kill the animals, butcher and dry the carcasses.  The real profit is at the next level up, the buyers.  They buy for little and resell at a large mark up.  They have no attachment to the forest.  The result is that the forests are emptied with no improvement in local living conditions.  Villages that have long depended on hunting for protein in their own diets are left impoverished.  Bushmeat hunting has become a large industry in the wake of Congo’s war and in response to the concomitant loss of jobs.   However this form of commerce is mining a temporary resource and will bring only a transitory source of wealth to a middle-income group while impoverishing the poorest.  The result is food insecurity for those rural communities most dependent on hunting.

5. What do you think would be the most appropriate way to manage human need for protein and still assure conservation of wild species?

There needs to be large scale animal husbandry and pisciculture projects close to all centers of population.  Domestic meat needs to cost significantly less than bushmeat, which is not now the case.   In Kindu beef sells for 4000 to 4500 FC the kilo (about 8.5 dollars/kg).   A dried monkey sells for significantly less per kilo. A dried bonobo is only 50$.

There needs to be a variety of domestic meats:  pork, beef, chicken, and possibly other small animals such as rabbit.  The domestic meat industry, particularly beef, was seriously compromised by the war and it still has not recovered.

Urban people will move away from bushmeat as a subsistence item if it begins to cost significantly more than domestic meat.  Bushmeat may still be a prized food item, but levels of demand will decrease.

Follow Dr Hart’s expedition here

Legalizing bushmeat hunting will not solve the food crisis

I am incredulous that the Centre of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) would suggest bushmeat hunting be legalized, giving the local people the task of policing themselves. This position shows remarkable naïveté and totally fails to understand the realities on the ground. A hungry population is never going to practice conservation of food, especially where it can be had free from the forest.

CIFOR argues that since up to 80% of the rural households in central and western Africa already depend on bushmeat for their daily protein requirements then a blanket ban on the trade would endanger both humans and wildlife. They call for regulated but legal uptake of wildlife protein. Maybe, but just how can this be done?

There are no mechanisms to regulate this even with the best legislation. Past experience with forest products, poppies, ivory and charcoal are all legitimate examples of failures of communities to police themselves.

Commercial bushmeat hunting has become the most significant immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Africa and around the world. It has already resulted in widespread local extinctions in Asia and Africa. Elephant, gorilla, chimpanzee and other primates have already been wiped out of several regions. Smaller animals such as duikers, porcupine, bush pig, pangolin, monitor lizard and guinea fowl are rapidly becoming locally extinct in these regions. Legalizing this multi-billion trade will not help the wildlife. It will instead exterminate what remains, species that we are working so hard to preserve.

For instance, there are only 300 Cross River Gorillas left in the world. They are found only in Cameroun and Nigeria. If we give poachers the right to hunt these gorillas, it will take them a very short time to wipe out the entire population. Dr Anthony L. Rose, together with investigative wildlife photographer, Karl Ammann have carried out research in West Africa and estimate that in one year poachers will harvest US$2-billion worth of wildlife from the great ape regions. Part of this haul will include 8,000 endangered great apes. If the slaughter continues at this pace, then the remaining wild apes in Africa will be gone within as little as fifteen years.

This threat to wildlife is indeed a crisis because it is rapidly expanding to countries and species which were previously not at risk, largely due to an increase in commercial logging, with an infrastructure of roads and trucks that links forests and hunters to cities and consumers. The argument is that these people are poor and need both the protein and the income.
I do not personally dispute the tragedy of the poor but allowing them to hunt and encouraging a process that will result in exploitation of wildlife will not alleviate their poverty. Why don’t people encourage the rearing of chickens, fish or cane rats to alleviate their protein deficiency? This will bring development and a better and healthier existence.

If I should continue to use the example of primates, there is evidence that conserving primates, rather than eating them, will actually enhance food availability for humans. African scientist operating in the Taï region of Côte-d’Ivoire, for instance, found that seven species of monkeys used about 75 species of plants as a source of fruit, of which 25 were also used by local human inhabitants for various purposes. Now, monkeys are well known seed dispersal agents and they will spread the seeds of these plants that are important to humans. If there are no monkeys, then the chance of survival of such food plants is reduced.

There is a good reason to believe that some very dangerous diseases are haboured in wild animals and eating such animal – or handling them as you would handle food – could provoke new and terrible epidemics among these communities and at the global arena. We have all heard of at least one or more of these diseases: Ebola fever, Hantavirus disease, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and other diseases noted for their high human fatality per case rates. These and other diseases of wildlife pose increasing challenges for the health of humans already. Do we want to further complicate this problem?

I know that many people are poor and that is why I put forward this question: should we allow people to steal on a sustainable basis, taking a little from the bank on a daily basis as well as robbing everyone of the money they have worked hard for? This will not resolve poverty, nor will allowing people to take protein from the wild as is being proposed in the CIFOR report.

I don’t see any sensible person calling for the legalization of narcotics just because it is the poor who grow poppies and other raw materials. Instead, more resources are being allocated to fight this vice and to educate the public.

I totally disagree with the recommendation of legalizing bushmeat and believe that alternatives for food production and poverty alleviation exist and should be explored.