COVID-19 Produces Poaching Increase in Africa
The below piece is written by Kurt Rutter, Content Director for CANIS and South African Native.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt globally in every sense of the word. There is no industry that has not been affected in some way or form, including the African hunting industry. It leaves one feeling numb with uncertainty and anxiety about what the rest of the year 2020 will bring. Entire countries have ceased operations, putting thousands of people out of work.
In Africa, especially the poorer countries, most of the population work hand to mouth to survive – simply put, no work = no food. The inability to provide a meal often leads these people to one thing, the natural resources on their doorstep. It is in times like these that massive amounts of poaching take place. The usual practice is the use of wire snares which kill in a brutal and cruel manner often leaving animals to suffer a slow agonizing death. These snares are basically a loop of wire secured to a tree limb. As an animal passes through the loop, it tightens around its neck or leg. The more the animal fights, the deeper the wire cuts. It is truly a barbaric practice!
Poachers set snares out on well-used game trails or often around waterholes, thus no specific species is targeted or left unscathed. Antelope, lion, leopard, buffalo and even rhino have been caught. Larger game such as rhino usually break free but often the snare has bitten deep into the flesh causing a secondary infection and slow death. If discovered early enough a wildlife vet can be brought in to assist. Areas which have been left uncontrolled can be decimated in a very short space of time. As a result, safari outfitters must maintain a constant presence on the ground to mitigate both meat and commercial poaching, especially of rhino horn and ivory, but that is another topic on its own. It is extremely difficult when no revenue is being generated from safaris to keep anti-poaching units active.
Garry Kelly Safaris in Zululand South Africa, as have many other outfitters, has taken initiative early to curb indiscriminate poaching in their concession areas. With financial aid from hunting organizations such as Dallas Safari Club, donations from past clientele as well as gear sponsorship from CANIS for their anti-poaching units, GKS is protecting a vast area which would otherwise be decimated. They have seen an increase from 4 to 5 poaching incursions a month to that amount in a single day. Hundreds of wire snares have been removed. Why the massive increase? It is purely the result of no safaris being able to take place, resulting in no income for local communities.
Hunting outfitters not only provide jobs for these rural communities, but also provide much needed revenue generated from foreign hunting clientele, protein in the form of meat from harvested game as well as clean drinking water, medical supplies and even schools. This all empowers and incentivizes these communities to protect and manage the habitat and game as a sustainable resource for future generations. Bear in mind that these are all basic services that should be supplied by local governments, but simply are not.
You might be asking “What can I do?”. If you have a safari booked somewhere in Africa this season, rather choose to postpone than cancel your trip or you can donate to an organization that aids these outfitters in the war against poaching. Your dollars mean so much more than expected. Do your bit and help protect Africa’s wild places and her wildlife. It has been proven time and time again that hunters’ dollars save wildlife and vast tracts of habitat. Sustainable utilization is the greatest form of conservation.