Should wildlife charities donate money to poachers' villages for education, food, water and shelter… by @RoryJAYoung
Answer by Rory Young:
Yes, they should assist poachers' villages but not by just donating money. Donating money does not make something shameful. Education and social pressure can make something shameful. Doing so is a solution to ignorance. Assisting villages on the other hand is a solution to the problem of poverty that can also drive people to poach…
There are many reasons that poachers kill wildlife, among them for food, medicine, wealth, protecting crops and even for sport. However, I have only once met someone who claimed to poach because he wanted to wipe out all the animals in an area. He was a notorious poacher in Vwaza Wildlife Reserve in Malawi and boasted that he would kill all the elephants in the park. Unfortunately for this individual, he walked into our camp during anti-poaching ops, and then raised his weapon when ordered to lower it… but I digress…
Solving the problem of poaching is entirely about changing people's behaviour. Arrest and imprisonment will not work on a starving child's father. Sensitization will not work on greed-driven syndicate. The appropriate solution needs to be applied to a specific poaching problem.
Every park has a different mix of poaching activity. In one place it may be driven by poverty on a grand scale and in another it may be primarily driven by ignorance or greed. I use the acronym RESPECT when considering appropriate solutions for a particular protected area.
R is for Rules, Laws and Regulations. Having clear laws and penalties is a basic necessity. That does not mean that certain situations in breach of these laws should not necessitate common sense tolerance. It does mean however, that such tolerance should be a part of the system of justice and not just a random acceptance of the destruction of wild areas via "turning a blind eye". Having a codified set of rules for the protection of wildlife and wild areas can and should ensure that a government, its agencies and its political leadership are obliged to deal with the problem and is the basis upon which policing can be implemented to stop and deter poaching driven by criminal greed.
E is for Education. Most poachers I am involved in apprehending invariably state during interrogation that they know what they are doing is illegal, yet few can explain why it is wrong. They simply think the government is being unreasonable. Education can have a great impact but is a slow process and a long-term solution requiring support at all levels of government and needs to be applied to all demographics to create a change in general opinion.
S is for Social Pressure.
Closely linked to education and the powerful African philosphy of Ubuntu or Munu, social pressure is an especially powerful tool in Africa. Similar to the "Law of Jante", it is a taboo to put yourself above those around you and to go against the consensus. This social pressure can take many forms, especially via the traditional leadership and aims to influence community opinion.
P is for Policing, Law Enforcement and Deterrence.
This is a necessity in all areas and whilst it is most appropriate for greed-driven criminals it is also necessary for all other types of poaching as it provides a deterrent as well as a means of identifying those in need of and assisting those who desperately need help. Even if driven by poverty, poachers still have to know that what they are doing is not an acceptable solution and governments and NGO's need to be aware of the problem.
E is for Economic Incentives and Poverty Alleviation.
It is quite simple. Starving people will kill to eat. I would do the same to feed my children if they were starving. This does not mean that poverty alleviation is the only answer. It is not, people often poach because it is an easier way of obtaining protein or because they simply like bush meat. A person caught poaching for food still needs to be treated with leniency via the justice system in addition to being given whatever assistance is possible.
C is for Community of Man and Nature.
Harmony between human and wildlife is dependent on knowledge, understanding and commitment to protection of nature. Human-wildlife conflict is a major reason for poaching. Imagine a lion had once killed your child or a herd of elephants had destroyed your crops and therefore your means of survival. The overall attitude of man towards nature is what needs to change in order to ensure harmony. Poaching is a problem that begins and ends with people.
T is for Technology, Tools and Infrastructure
From roads to fencing to drones to satellite imagery , it all has a role to play. This does not mean of course that technology is anything but a useful tool in itself.
All of these elements need to come together in a pragmatic, cost effective and practical set of solutions as a doctrine.
If there was any one single element that could stop poaching I would jump at the chance. However, it is simply not the case. It is a complex problem requiring intelligent, well thought out solutions that take into account many factors. Every country is different and every protected area in every country has a different poaching problem.
My work with Chengeta wildlife is an effort to provide realistic solutions that are implemented through support in training to those in authority.