OPINION: Saving Wildlife From the Specter of Trade

Rural communities living alongside game parks in South Africa still largely survive at a subsistence level often below the poverty line. (Photo by Colin Bell)
Rural communities alongside game parks in South Africa still largely survive below the poverty line. (Photo by Colin Bell)

By Adam Cruise

Elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife across the globe are being slaughtered for their tusks, horns, pelts, and bones with no end in sight.

Last week, the battle lines for an offensive were drawn. At a conference in Cape Town, South Africa, experts from around the world gathered to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, they have to fight on two fronts.

While it is widely acknowledged that crime and the illegal trade are the primary drivers of prodigious declines in wildlife over the past decade, they’re ably abetted by an influential, if not unintentional, ally: Those who favor a legal trade in wildlife.

The umbrella cause is otherwise known as Sustainable Utilization and Development. The promoters, which include such august bodies as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, are unashamedly anthropocentric.

Wildlife is regarded exclusively as providing “vital goods and services for mankind,” according to a recently released paper by the International Trade Centre, “The Trade in Wildlife: A Framework to Improve Biodiversity and Livelihood Outcomes.”

Their concern is that wildlife, as a means of satisfying human needs and desires, cannot sustain rising demand for their products, such as ivory or rhino horn, unless it is properly “managed” or “regulated” (read “consumed” and “exploited”).

But the perfidiousness of the powerful pro-trade lobby is that its agenda is promoted under the guise of conservation, preservation of biological diversity, and poverty alleviation, when in fact it’s in the name of vested interests and profit through materialist self-aggrandisement.

The catastrophic results of this approach speak for themselves.

In 2008 the world, through the supervision of CITES, voted for a sale of an enormous stockpile of ivory that had been collected by the southern African bloc of countries.

It was —> Read More

Cheating Death on the Amazon

In 2012, National Geographic explorer and grantee, West Hansen, was preparing to set the record for the fastest expedition to paddle the length of the Amazon River. Amid expedition planning, the game suddenly changed. The Mantaro River was declared as the new source of the Amazon River, making the river some 50 miles longer than previously thought. With little hesitation, Hansen set his sights even higher: “Once the new source was discovered we shifted gears to become … the first expedition to paddle the full length of the Amazon River from its newly discovered and farthest source,” Hansen says.

Heading into uncharted waters, Hansen and his team had little idea of what to expect. “It’s relatively unsure, the number of miles that we’re gonna cover. We looked to be going approximately 4200 miles … So while I’d like to finish in 60 to 90 days, I’m really not sure how long this is gonna take,” Hansen said.

During their 12-14 hours of paddling each day, the explorers were met with ocean-like conditions, as the Amazon River can reach 300 feet in depth and 30 miles in width, stirring up 12-foot waves. Storms emerged with no warning, leaving the team in whiteout conditions and temperatures below freezing.

Hansen’s team was also confronted with challenges far more frightening than nature’s wrath. They were held up at gunpoint no less than three times and were on high-alert for drug runners and pirates who might not think twice about robbing or even killing the outsiders.

Terrifying weather and criminals aside, Hansen still believes the journey is one most people can complete. “I’m no physical specimen,” he laughs. “Things like this are open to most people whether they know it or not … Every morning I woke up, I didn’t think, ‘I’ve got 1800 more miles or 3,000 more —> Read More

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