Poaching Elephants in Botswana - Denial, Poverty, and the African Dilemma
The discussion on the decision to allow poaching in Botswana has become a huge topic in the past few months since the Elephant hunting ban was lifted in May. We circle back to as the great question, is the lift on the ban denial, poverty, or greed. Let's discuss the African dilemma.
African-elephants-calf-grazing - Photo by Ele Footprints
It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear about, or see haunting images of a great African elephant laying on the ground with its face hacked off by poachers in search of his / her precious ivory tusks. I can't help but think about the pain that these elephants endured, and continue to endure during these sad events; the hopelessness in their eyes as they lay wounded while a heartless hunters take what belongs to them. It's horrific to imagine that this happens so often in African countries, and that we are chasing ghosts who are filled with greed.
Elephant-with-baby-Photo by Rachel Claire
It's true that in some African regions, with the help of their governments and western intervention, have managed to restore elephant populations by saving orphan calves and reducing poaching. Technology has also been in the forefront, providing monitoring devices to track elephants and poaching activity. The most important piece of their success lies within their ability to get buy-in from the surrounding communities where people live and coexist with these elephants. Poverty in Africa has been linked to a lot of the poaching and elephant killings due to land encroachment and earnings provided by outsiders who enlist their help in hunting these magnificent creatures. Take for example, the unfolding events in Botswana, where the local villagers have reported conflicts with elephants, and loss of human life has taken a toll in their communities. It's tough to get buy-in from a community suffering from the loss of their loved ones due to elephant conflicts. Some of the villagers have also been energized by the recent ban on elephant hunting because to them, it means trading their services for assisting outside visitors with hunting and cleaning up trophy tusks in exchange for money to feed their families. Poverty to this point leads them to desperation and now that it has been legalized, it will open the floodgates, and containment will prove difficult.
Mama elephant and baby elephant walking - via GIPHY
Herein lies the dilemma, the villagers are helping to hunt the elephants because they gain money, but they also get peace because the reduced elephant population will reduce traffic in their villages and possibly eliminate these areas as pathways for elephants in the future. How then do we begin to unravel this tangled mess? We want to save all the African elephants and to ensure that they don't become extinct, but at the same time, we don't want the villagers to get hurt by these elephants or worse yet, be killed by elephants who perceive them as a threat if they truly aren't a threat. Yes, it truly is delicate, but this is a conversation worth having.
Tune in as we continue this gripping discussion, and please feel free to offer any suggestions that you may have that will help save both human and elephant lives in Africa. Let us care for our environment and the wonderful animals who we share it with.
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