Written By Christine Kinori
Photos Courtesy of: Frederic -el- Mariach
Ask any tourist coming to Africa what they really want to see, I bet 90% will tell you they are beyond excited to see the wildlife . The problem is most of these animals are in danger because of poaching. Last year alone, Africa lost 20,000 elephants to poaching. South Africa lost 1,054 rhinos in 2016. It sure does beg the question, what is Africa doing to protect its majestic wildlife? Is it enough?
Even though it is illegal for these wildlife trade, poaching is still a big threat to Africa’s wildlife. According to African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the mountain gorilla and the black rhino are critically endangered. Statistics show that the black rhino population has dropped 97.6% since 1960. Rhinos are mostly killed for their horns. The horns are alleged to cure an assortment of illness such as cancer, impotence, blood disorder, fever, and hangovers. According to AWF, a pound of rhino horn is sold at $30,000 which is $8,000 more expensive than a pound of gold.
South Africa is home to about 79 %of the world’s black rhino. Most of them live in Kruger National Park. Almost two-thirds of the 1,054 South African rhinos killed last year was from the Kruger Park. This has forced the park to amp their security. The efforts are beginning to bear fruits since there has been a decline in rhino poaching in South Africa. Unfortunately, poachers have now turned to the neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Botswana has also been putting efforts to move the black rhinos to a safer location. The animals are fitted with radio transmitters and are regularly tracked. The International Rhino Fund (IRF) has been a huge part of the black rhinos conservation in Africa. It partnered with South Africa by giving grants to build and equip three new guard post in areas where it was previously difficult for staff to operate because of a lack of accommodations and has provided a secure digital communications system for the Reserve. It also partnered with Botswana and wilderness safaris to secure and translocate black rhinos from South Africa.
Mountain gorillas are the second critically endangered species. Statistics show that less than 900 mountain gorillas remain in Africa. There has been a recent upsurge in trafficking of infant gorillas. According to AWF, one infant goes for more than $40,000. They are mostly found in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC.
Although mountain gorillas are not poached for their meat, they are constantly being maimed, ensnared or killed by traps meant for other animals. They also get killed for their heads, hands, and feet. The infants are sold to researchers, zoos, and people who want to make them pets.
Mountain gorillas may just be the next species to get the dinosaur fate if not protected. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been working tirelessly to save the species. It is currently spearheading campaigns to stifle the severe threats to the mountain gorillas. They have tried to stir up the “save the gorillas” conversation through various mediums and there have been a lot of positive feedback and response.
Nations, where gorillas live (Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo), came together in partnership with local people and international conservation organizations to put up strong conservation strategies and measures that would aid in protection and conservation of gorillas. This led to a legally binding contract known as the gorilla agreement where 10 nations agreed and come up with solutions to curb down threats and conserve gorillas through policies like -:
Protection of gorilla habitats through effective trans-boundary management. Gorilla national parks were gazetted and turned into eco-tourism destinations and had the ranger based monitoring systems put in to monitor the gorillas by the park rangers and guides.
Supporting local communities living near gorilla national parks through development projects and alternative resources. Ending poaching and illegal trade of gorillas or their products.
Gorilla tourism in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo is continuously attracting tourists who come for gorilla trekking in Africa. In return, foreign exchange is earned through the sale of gorilla permits and it is the money used in conserving the gorillas. The revenue has helped a lot with community development projects such as sustainable agriculture and water projects thus improving the living standards of the people.
The iconic African elephant is also vulnerable. Did you know that about 35,000 were killed in 2016 alone? The elephants are poached mostly for their Ivory. A pound of the elephant Ivory is sold at $1,000. According to AWF, 70% of the ivory goes to China. I am personally attached to elephants, I think they are a huge part of our majestic African pride. They’re legendary, to say the least.
The World Wildlife Fund has partnered with most African countries to ensure improved elephant protection. They have provided equipment and training to anti-poaching teams; promoting the creation of new protected regions and enhancing the management of existing protected regions; developing community-based wildlife management schemes that contribute to elephant conservation whilst providing benefits to the community; and determining population sizes.
It has also helped to mitigate the human-elephant conflict. It has trained wildlife managers and local communities to utilize effective tools, and refining current methods based on what works best in specific situations. It is also keen on monitoring the illegal trade products by conducting surveys to update data on domestic Ivory markets.
As much as there are measures such as the “save the elephant “campaigns and the annual march to create awareness against elephant poaching, I still don’t think it is enough. The elephant conservation act passed in 1988 has done nothing much. We can mitigate the human-elephant conflict further. Secure more habitats by increased protection and management. Train more guards and harsher punishments for the poachers.
The grevy zebra is also highly endangered. African Wildlife Foundation estimates approximately 2,000 remaining. It is mostly hunted for its gorgeous hide and as game meat. Their numbers have dropped so significantly that they can now only be found in Kenya and some parts of Ethiopia. In 2012, the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments joined forces to help protect the endangered zebras. Programs such as the grevy zebra Trust have put in a lot of effort to curb the dangers faced by the species.
They have started by engaging local communities in the protection and monitoring of the grevy zebras. The project has not only been successful but has also helped to create job opportunities especially for the women who monitor and record the movement of the grevy zebras. It has also created community awareness and herders are now letting the zebras share the limited grazing resources with their livestock. Kenya wildlife service has also been monitoring the movement of the zebras. Conservation rangeland such as the Lewa wildlife conservancy has given 11% of the grevy zebras a home in a bid to protect them from the predators.
The lions are also high on the list of Africa’s vulnerable species. The lions are already extinct in 26 African countries. A few years back, the African lion gained the endangered species act. This is good news and a step towards the right direction considering that lions have vanished from 90 % of their historic range. This just goes to show that if conservation measures are not carried out then the range can drastically drop. Most lions are killed due to human-lion conflict or for their mane and teeth.
Lots of conservation funds are trying to eliminate the human-lion conflict through community education and the establishment of wildlife protection corridors. The Maasai steppe predator movement in Tanzania has been one of these successful programs. Most African countries have started conservation trust and funds in an effort to protect the king of the jungle. The United States of America has also been proactive in protecting the African lions. The government has given both financial grants and sent experts to Africa to support the conservation programs in different African countries.
Most countries such as South Africa have stiffened their poaching penalties. In Kenya, a poacher not only faces a stiff penalty but can face jail time too. All this said I don’t think the African government is doing enough to protect our wildlife. I believe the poachers should get life imprisonment.
I don’t think we as Africans are doing enough to save our animals. I don’t think we have raised our voices loud enough. I don’t think we have marched long enough. I am not sure we truly understand or appreciate our wildlife enough to stand up for them. I am petrified that the next generation will only see most of this animals in pictures and archives in museums. We can not continue to protect the poachers, it is time to oust them.
I want our children to hear a lion roar in the jungle. I want our children to see how majestic and iconic our elephants’ tusks are. I want the next generation to see how beautiful the grevy zebras are. I want them to see the rhino as it lazily grazes. Don’t you think it would be wonderful if they got to see how the mother gorilla carries her infant on its back?
It is about time we all as Africans come together to protect our treasure. Our wildlife is one of the best natural treasures that we are lucky to have. The lion can’t roar anymore. The elephant is no longer strong enough to trumpet.It is up to us to blow the trumpet, it is up to us to roar to their safety. What are you doing to protect our wildlife today?