Covid is having a remarkable, somewhat complex effect on wildlife in sub-Saharan Africa. On the one hand the lack of tourists has given rise to a predicted surge in animal populations. On the other hand this has reduced poaching!
This is exactly the opposite of what was first reported and what a lot of sensational media tried to promulgate.
Wild animals and wildernesses are seriously endangered by the pandemic … not from disease, but from humans.
Poaching is increasing worldwide… not as in the past for black-market animals, but for food. Equally important communities worldwide are reducing their support for wildlife conservation, because wildlife authorities are ignoring the increasing human/wildlife conflict.
I’m betting that a vaccine will be ready by the first of the year and that Kenya, South Africa and a number of other sub-Saharan countries will require all travelers to prove they are vaccinated in order to gain entry.
Our safari ended in Tarangire, Africa’s greatest elephant park, with an exciting surprise! I’ve been coming to Tarangire regularly multiple times annually for the last two decades. This is the first time I noticed that elephant tusks are getting bigger!
Whoa nelly. There’s no tonic that makes elephant tusks grow larger – it’s completely genetic. Nor did the 40-year old male that stared me in the face, or the 60-year grand dame who almost brushed the side of our vehicle, each with tusks easily 50% bigger than the norm recently visit a stretching spa. Bigger tusks are a genetic imperative, and there has now been enough non-poaching time for big tusks to begin expressing themselves again noticeably in random populations.
Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe claim to have 250,000 elephants – which is a bit high – and their Heads of State met yesterday to decide how to handle “too many elephants.”
Botswana has a hotly contested election in five months. Elephants are a hot button issue in that election with the president decrying “too many elephants” and offering absolutely useless but provocative methods to reduce them. He hopes this glitzy gathering of mostly unpopular Heads of State will help his cause.
Last month one of the last known super tuskers died. The last time I saw one was in April, 2008. A “Super Tusker” is somewhat arbitrarily defined as an elephant with two tusks each at least 1½ meters long and each weighing at least 80 kilos. It was sipping water from a pool in Ngorongoro Crater.
Looking for super tuskers isn’t just a fun hobby. Elephant survival is directly linked to the size and weight of their tusks. Unfortunately, this is also the singular characteristic that attracts poachers.
A 19-year old who beheads an older man, then freely confesses to having done so, strikes me as less evil than desperate or dangerously manipulable. It’s a sign of our times.
The situation happened last week in Tanzania’s Tarangire national park, not far from the upmarket Swala camp. The area is at the edge of the park immediately outside of which is an agricultural village suffering climate change challenges. The boy was in a poaching gang and the village elder he beheaded allegedly had reported him to game rangers.
The reaction to the Chinese decision to reverse a policy that prohibits the use and limited sale of endangered species is a successful distraction from much, much more serious woes.
The policy change is nowhere near as bad as exclaimed by conservation groups. They – and most Chinese – are being duped with the same tactics used by Trump or Duterte or Le Pen and all the other crazies close to running the world. Don’t let them get away with it. Focus.
An AirKenya report from Nairobi last week claims that Facebook continues to contribute to the sale of ivory and rhino horn despite having joined a group in March opposing such sales.
Kenya is currently celebrating a robust return of its elephant population following years of loss through ivory poaching. AirKenya is one of the main tourist airlines serving the country’s booming big game national parks.
Next week the House votes on a series of bills to roll back the Endangered Species Act of 1973. These are acutely, expertly crafted pieces of legislation. They will absolutely do their trick.
But interestingly if the Senate agrees and Trump signs, the effects will be devastatingly quick in Africa. A new U.S. administration might reverse the reversal fast enough – for example – to save wolves and condors and whooping cranes in America. But elephants, lions in Africa?
Clarity on how badly elephants may be declining is at hand. Wednesday scientists began the “2017 Selous-Mikumi Large Mammal Census” which will be conducted over a huge area of nearly 43,000 sq. miles in central Tanzania.
It will be the first such careful animal census of the area since 2014 but more importantly will help determine the much debated viability of the “Great Elephant Census (GEC)”, which tore through the continent a year ago. One of the great criticisms of that inflammatory report was precisely that it ignored areas that the current census will now sample.
Crimes are often subjective. Elephant poachers, drug users, and teenage suicide bombers fall into this category. There are thousands more examples across a wide spectrum of wrongness.
Wednesday evening one of the most successful crusaders against elephant poaching was murdered on the streets of Dar-es-Salaam where he defied his notorious reputation with a zealous fight against poachers and brokers of illicit ivory. It’s no surprise.
After elephants “terrified” a Kenyan politician campaigning near Tsavo National Park, the candidate told supporters the government has done “Very little… to make sure human-wildlife conflict is addressed.”
A few weeks earlier Kenya’s proud new SGR train plowed into a cow in the same area because elephants had torn down the fence along the rail line.
In the last few months I’ve seen first-hand the increasing human/wildlife conflict. It’s not a pretty scene.
In this upended world even long-standing beliefs about extinction are being contested by a public ready to do anything so long as it’s different.
Rhino haven’t survived in the wild for decades, but since the 1980s they’ve been so well protected in fenced reserves that their numbers actually increased. That’s changing: Poaching inside fences is exploding, courts are freeing poachers, breeders are defying international bans and regimes like Trump’s are rescinding years of safeguards.
We just ended six days in Tanzania’s remote central game parks of The Selous and Ruaha. Zanzibar is not exactly Manhattan, but flying into here from Ruaha was like returning to civilization from a Jurassic Park time warp.
The entire massive area is defined by great sand, catchment rivers that drain nearly 100,000 square miles into the Indian Ocean. We spent almost all our time game viewing in Ruaha along the Ruaha, Mwagusi and smaller rivers. Here in this most remote wilderness the rivers are mostly sand and little flowing. Most of the landscape is dominated by expansive bushland not unlike California’s chaparral country.