Attitude change needed towards Africa and wildlife to curb poaching

Will this symbolic gesture of ivory burning be the last and translate into action to stop the extinction of precious wildlife?

Photo / Tim Gorski / Facebook

By Essie Wambui >>>>>>>>

This is what 10,000 dead elephants and over 340 rhinos look like. 16,000 elephant tusks arranged into 11 pyres ready for a mass burning event. A twelfth pyramid representing 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn prepared to exert the most effective visual impact against enemies of wildlife.

Aerial view of the burning site. Photo/ Tony Karumba / AFP

Aerial view of the burning site. Photo/ Tony Karumba / AFP

Sources say this is the largest burn yet, with 105 tonnes of ivory ready to be ignited by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday April 30, 2016.

This mega statement against poaching, trafficking and the black market sale of such products should not be a celebratory photo-op event touted to be attended by celebrity and various Heads of State.

Instead let’s see this for what it is. A mass funeral, a cremation of beauty! Lovers of wildlife world over should be wailing in agony for the unnecessary death of such majestic creatures. Kenyans and Africans everywhere should be crying for the loss of a part of our heritage as a continent.

Estimators say that quantity of ivory could sell for over $100 million, and the rhino horn fetch as much as $80 million, so money is obviously the biggest motivator behind this trade and animal killings.

May be I’m naive but I like to think that anyone who buys an ivory trinket has not seen the beauty and majesty of a live elephant, rhino or indeed any wild animal more so in their natural habitat. This is a privilege that a majority of the world population doesn’t get to experience.

African countries have often blamed poaching on outsiders both directly and by paying locals to do the killing. We also know that foreign markets for ivory and rhino horn products fuel poaching of these animals.

Photo / Neel Akber / Facebook

Photo / Neel Akber / Facebook

But if we can get over ourselves for a moment, we’d realize that we are equally guilty of not defending and protecting the animals that not only fetch us tourist dollars but also enrich our lives and continent in numerous other ways.

The world seems to have a huge appetite for the exotic and endangered and with Asia particularly providing ready markets for these products, the battle against poaching is steep. Ivory jewelry and ornaments are highly valued while rhino horn is used to create traditional medicine that allegedly cures a myriad of ailments. Could there be a better way to ensure sales than sell rhino horn as a cure for dwindling virility?

We kid ourselves if we think that without these precious animals tourists will continue to flock at Africa’s doorstep. If you’ve been anywhere outside of Africa, you know that foreigners don’t come to sub-Sahara Africa for “well-preserved” history, culture, cuisine, museums, architecture or how beautiful and safe our cities are. Don’t even dream they’ll come solely for the beaches as that field has enough, often cheaper and safer competition. What brings majority of them to our beautiful continent is the only thing they don’t have anywhere else – free roaming wildlife. Every other continent has its form of beautiful landscape.

It is understandable that many Kenyans won’t go out of their way to protect such wildlife or keep away from encroaching into animal reserve lands.  Others will continue to turn the other way as illegal shipments of ivory make it out of the continent. An undeniable fact is that poor local populations rarely ever benefit from tourism. But the main reason why so many animals will continue to die to the point of extinction is the uncouth, selfishness, destructive and murderous nature of the human race against other non-human planet earth occupants.

As for Kenya and Africa in general, this is unlikely to be the last burning spectacle since we as a country are greedy, corrupt and rarely plan for the future. That is why so many years after colonization we continue to allow foreign interests including governments and multinational companies to pillage our continent with little to zero benefit for the African.

As long as the true owners of the continent remain beggars, we will not end this illegal trade and other such self-defeating ills!

by Essie Wambui

~Wakenya Canada

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