Emmanuel Koro Correspondent
History has taught us that racially driven motives do not produce sound decision-making but we have apparently learnt nothing from it.
In their ongoing attempts to lead the international ivory trade ban without consulting the African elephant range states, the animals rights groups have evoked the same racism driven strategies that were used centuries ago to enslave, impoverish and dis-empower the African people. The animals rights groups are famous for consulting their own people while ignoring black Africans. The insensitive decide the future of Africa’s elephants without reference to the people who are not benefiting from their elephants and ivory.
This is a live reminder of the racism of the 19th and 20th centuries.
While this is happening, there is a deafening silence from the ministers of finance and economists of the African range states, let alone their presidents, who should be the first to cry foul. Why are we putting up with these racist and unwarranted international ivory trade sanctions that are being undeservedly imposed on us? Are we African people too blind or too cowardly to protest?
Worse, the poor rural communities next to national parks in these countries only get the costs of, without the benefits from, elephants. Without benefits from elephants these communities see no incentive to conserve them and would rather collaborate with poachers to get a bit of income to fight the poverty that grips them daily as is already happening in some parts.
Hwange Rural District Council elephant attack survivor, Mr Biggie Shoko, said: “I was attacked by an elephant recently but I was not compensated. There is no way I can get compensated or get benefits from elephants — we only pay for costs of living with these animals because animal rights activists continue to support the international ban in ivory trade. They are forcing us to collaborate with poachers because without benefits from them — elephants are now a nuisance to us. Animal rights groups have turned us against wildlife conservation. It is them not us who are enemies of African elephants.”
Notably, the beneficiaries of these trade bans are largely animal rights organisations. They are raising billions of dollars from the elephant crisis that they created by unjustifiably shutting down ivory markets and then seeking even more donations to “save” the African elephant. Very little or none of that money ever reaches its intended conservation destination in the African states. The newfound and lucrative animal rights industry money benefits the West and not Africa because it is scandalously kept in these Western countries.
Even communities settled around one of the world’s biggest national parks with one of the world’s biggest elephant populations, the Hwange Rural District Council of Zimbabwe, have seen no money.
Villagers there say that they have never received any money and, moreover, would not want to receive elephant conservation money from animal rights groups because of the scandalous way it is raised.
They now view animal rights groups as racist and desktop “conservationists” who get false information about elephants in Africa through the social media and fake news outlets. They increasingly view these conservationists as committing punishable environmental crimes. They have become the African elephant range states’ number one problem — worse than poachers.
“Their support for international ivory trade bans and lately the shutting down of ivory markets continues to fail the needs of true African elephant conservation,” said Mr Ben Ncube, Hwange District Council coordinator for the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources. “These African elephant conservation needs can only be met through sustainable and controlled trade in live elephants and their products, including ivory.”
The managing director of a United States-based Ivory Education Institute, a non-profit organisation that supports sustainable trade in ivory worldwide, Mr Godfrey Harris who will deliver public lectures on wildlife politics at key South African universities in May 2018, is very concerned with the growing trend of animal rights groups’ interference in African countries’ wildlife management, without consulting the Africans, in order to consider their conservation needs and interests.
“Under my theory of Lobbycratic Governance, it is the interest groups such as animal rights groups who control government through the senior bureaucrats they work with,” said Mr Harris. “The politicians, which most people equate with ‘government’,” have lost influence and power, mainly because they have been bought off.”
A former university lecturer, diplomat and advisor to the US President’s Executive Office, Mr Harris is countering the animal rights groups’ anti-ivory campaign. He has embarked on a worldwide campaign to support Africa’s efforts to regain effective control and secure the benefits from its wildlife resources.
The animal groups are leading the senseless drive to ban international trade in ivory, demanding that all ivory markets worldwide be closed. Many in Africa increasingly view this policy as racially motivated as opposed to being an honest attempt to save the African elephant. Do they dare ban oil trade in the name of protecting the environment without consulting the Organisation of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC)? No they don’t, but then OPEC is lilywhite. So why is it okay to ignore the interests of black African countries in banning ivory? Can both a conscious and a subconscious racism be at the heart of the answer to this question? Moreover, what is doing more damage to the environment right now — elephant poaching or oil consumption?
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.