Stories about poaching were in the New York Times last week. The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants and In Africa, All Conservation Is Local are both in the op-ed pages discussing this timely issue. The first article opposes the ban of ivory sales claiming old pianos with ivory keys and treasured ivory-handled pistol grips will be lost forever, hidden away in some upstairs drawer or a piano held hostage in Japan.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) “one-off sale”, as it is called, the sale that let countries sell off stockpiles of ivory as a one-time event, stimulated the market. These one-off sales, and there was more than one, sparked an appetite in China and Thailand. The United States doesn’t barter so much in ivory. It had, and perhaps still does, have more ivory on display for sale than any other country, but it doesn’t consume more.
In a discussion with Esmond Martin, co-author of the seminal study for the sale of ivory in the U.S., he reports we don’t really know how much is sold in the America. What we do know is that most of the ivory sold is classified as antique ivory. Displayed antique ivory represents 70% of the ivory offered in the U.S. New ivory, or 30% of ivory displayed in the U.S., comes from Asia.
Actual sales data for ivory sold in the U.S. doesn’t exist. Regulations in the U.S. seem to have curtailed ivory ownership. Still, if 30 percent of ivory on display is or used to be new ivory there is room to keep the pressure on. As for rhinoceros horn, Americans don’t use it. Men of North America use pharmaceutical alternatives instead.
I continue to promote the ban of ivory, using existing regulations and adding to regulations where it makes sense. I know of several states considering the introduction of new laws to supplement the federal directive banning the sale of ivory.
As for the “All Conservation is Local,” if Africa really wants to halt the killing, it should spend more of its tax revenue on youth employment. Thirty-nine percent of Kenya’s 40 million population are under the age of 30. Unemployment is at a staggering 40 percent. Petty thievery would go down if the unemployed were not so desperate.
Solving the animal crisis in Kenya is really about solving the human condition. The first article’s report on lack of poaching in Nepal, a poor country too, is encouraging. The program compensates farmers suffering losses due to elephants destroying maze crops. It deals with animal conflict and at the same time makes elephants valuable for local protection and tourism. It is a market driven solution.
Philanthropy from interested donors can do more to help the situation. More encouragement is needed that nurtures new nongovernmental organizations. NGO’s provide a different approach to problem solving and leadership development than governmental employment. Growing new leadership outside the elites equalizes the distribution of resources while empowering networks to expand into rural communities. International support by philanthropists should empower NGO’s to:
- Negotiate with the Kenyan government to spend more funding on young people. Hire and pay people in bush communities to patrol, ranger and scout against poachers.
- Include a broad spectrum of employment opportunity across all age groups
- Continue limitations on corruption by organizing local groups through the charitable sector
- Disrupt the traditional flow of funds by engaging interested philanthropists to partner with unrepresented groups
- Link the evaluation back to increased security, GDP and tourism
Let me say a little about these solutions. Kenya’s government is very busy with many issues. The new government is working to curb crime, stop terrorism, build schools, hospitals, infrastructure and the like. The country is only 50 years old and comes from the mixed experiences of colonialism and tribal tradition. The country is making huge strides in moving 40 million people into the 21st Century.
The West would do well to pay more attention to East Africa. The influence of the Chinese is everywhere as they build the roads throughout the land. These road construction projects are government-to-government contracts. Usually the Kenyan government borrows money from China with China negotiating contracts to construct roads. They are good roads. Unfortunately these good roads don’t encourage free markets, economic multiplier effect, capitalism or an ideology for holding private property.
What I am proposing is adding a capacity for youth, stimulated by a massive employment program aimed at reducing hostilities toward people and animals. An example is the newly established Kenyans United Against Poaching (KUAPO). The African tradition of coming together to mediate structures larger than themselves exists. KUAPO represents an organized grassroots network evolving out of the value to simply protect elephants and rhinos. Members represent many communities across the country of Kenya. They meet, they plan strategy, they bring awareness to the poaching issue. They are assertive and thoughtful.
It is good to see so much attention to this topic in the New York Times. It is good that we are taking notice. As one Kenya expressed last week, “poaching of rhinos is bound to get worse before it gets better”. Poaching has not stopped and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not encouraging. More philanthropic investment is needed at the grassroots level. Grow Kenyan leadership. Reform and mediate Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Time is short.