Wildlife Management in Africa
In the past three decades, many of Africa’s wild animals have suffered a massive decline in population due to poaching. Africa is the world’s second largest continent and home to thousands of species of animals. Unlike in North America, most of these animals roam completely free in an almost totally undeveloped environment. In attempt to save these animals from possible extinction, anti-poaching laws have been enacted by governments throughout Africa, as well as an international ban on ivory trade. Anti-poaching regulations have in turn stemmed the formation of programs and policies for the management of Africa’s wildlife.
Poaching, the illegal killing of protected animals, occurs in Africa for a variety of reasons. The most profitable reason is the ivory trade. Hundreds of elephants and Rhinos are slaughtered every year for their ivory tusks, which claim a sizeable profit on the black market. Many hunters also poach for the sport of it, the thrill of the hunt. Many of the country’s native peoples, however, poach animals as a means to stay alive. Because the wildlife of Africa roams so free, many people and crops are damaged and destroyed every year and natives poach the animals for self-defense. Financial concerns also drive many natives to poaching, seeing as most of Africa is still considered to be third world and an elephant tusk can mean the difference between starving to death and a prosperous year (Messer, 50). Poaching also has negative effects on the environment, and on the economy. Governments in Africa and around the world have tried to enforce strict anti-poaching laws, and also regulate the ivory trade, until recently however, both efforts have been in vain.
In the past, government imposed anti-poaching laws transformed animals such as elephants and rhinos into a non-resource. They imposed laws that forbad the killing of these animals, but offered no alternative for those whose livelihood came from the animals (Butler, Mar1995; 40). The programs that were implemented were enforcement programs: many with a policy of shoot to kill (poachers). For example, in 1984, Zimbabwe implemented “Operation Stronghold,” whose main policy was to shoot poachers on site. Kenya has similar policies in their game parks, in retaliation to the poachers “poaching” park rangers (Hogan, 13). This attempt to secure animal populations has often cut off the human population in the immediate area from a valuable source of both income and food.
Wildlife and Rural Inhabitants
Many rural communities depend on farming as livelihood. Only 5 percent of the land in Africa is considered suitable for intensive agriculture, which therefore makes farming difficult (Child, 1997). Wild animals, especially elephants, make it even more difficult to eek out a living on the African landscape because they like to eat the crops, devastating the farmer’s income. In order to avoid or reduce damage from elephants, farmers have tried various strategies to deter them. Especially during the harvest season, farmers expend a great deal of labor attempting to guard their fields from elephants. Different methods, such as lighting fires, beating drums, and even firing guns into the air are tried. However, farmers explain that elephants, with their great intelligence, quickly learn that they will not be harmed by these methods and often return to eat the crops (Butler, Mar1995; 40). More modern methods, such as electric fencing and trip alarms have also been tested. Despite the high cost of these deterrents, elephants have learned to foil them as well. Another method that has been used with some success in Zimbabwe is the firing of tear gas canisters filled with chili pepper (Butler, Mar1995; 40). So far, no method has been able to completely deter the elephant aside from killing it. It should be noted that elephants do not destroy crops solely by eating them, but can also cause considerable damage by trampling crops while in transit.
On the other side, farming and ranching have had a dramatic impact on Africa’s wildlife. Some 90 percent of the herbivore biomass is now domestic livestock (Child, 1997). Land that was once open range for elephants and rhinos is now used for agriculture and livestock. In addition to poaching, these factors put great strain on animal populations. Ranchers often construct fences to