Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The recession, poverty, and rhinos

A few months ago, the first significant social study of South Africa's rhinoceros poaching epidemic that has already claimed about 5 percent of all rhinoceroses in the world. It argues that amounts of 200,000 rand or about 25,130 Australian dollars are an irresistible lure to poor people in rural South Africa, who will willingly risk their lives to move out of poverty even if only in the short term. Most “collaborators” in the rhino poaching epidemic are from the Mozambique border and have no work apart from seasonal agriculture. With 210 rhinoceroses killed according to the latest statistics, there is a major problem with simply enforcing laws against poaching, which recent evidence suggests is being largely done by a number of gangs fro South East and East Asia. Whilst it might be thought that if gangs are an issue then poverty amelioration by whatever means is no solution to poaching of rhinoceroses, there is no doubt that when agricultural work is not possible due to being out of season, or if drought or flood affects crop productivity, these poor Mozambicans will have no alternative but to look to criminal syndicates who can offer them better jobs than local businessmen or the government. these syndicates, it is apparent, come from one nation which has recently lost its entire rhino population: Vietnam, with very few from any other nation. Nonetheless, even if foreign governments become brave enough to attack the Vietnamese government for its role in rhinoceros poaching, there is no certainty that rhinoceros poaching syndicates will crop up to serve people in Southern Africa who are too poor to have any other job. Given the fact that the region has a unique combination of extremely high conservation value and iconic wildlife, tourism in southern Africa has more potential than just about anywhere in the world if well-managed. Rhinoceroses are most definitely a part of this, and need to be seen as a job opportunity when alive ratehr than when dead if poverty and ecology are not to compete with each other.

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