With the CITES meeting in Bangkok, seen as an historic ‘last chance’ given the dire predicament of much megafauna and how these issues are entwined with insecurity, it seemed appropriate for the ‘blog’ to focus on some relevant aspects of what leading writer and environmentalist, Margaret Attwood, has called the ‘Eco-Death Express’. So how can the runaway train be stopped ?
One person well qualified to speak is Chris Mercer, who lives in South Africa: he was the recipient, along with his wife Beverley, in 2007 of a highly prestigious conservation award given annually by Swiss benefactor, Jeanne Marchig, for his ceaseless campaign to stop ‘canned hunting’. A former advocate in the High Court of Zimbabwe Chris has had to draw heavily on his forensic legal skills in his numerous confrontations with various agencies, both legal and illegal, along with death threats, in the cause of wildlife protection, especially in southern Africa.
The doctrine of sustainable use has failed. Everywhere we look we find that in practice, sustainable use has become sustained abuse. Everywhere we look, we see our precious natural heritage being destroyed. Sustainable use has become just a licence to kill. Whether it is the senseless destruction by rich white men (hunting) or by poor blacks (bushmeat and poaching) or by Asian syndicates (poaching) the result is the same – devastation of biological diversity and dreadful animal suffering on a global scale.
We have forgotten that conservation means “the preservation of natural functioning eco-systems”. Nowadays every hunter calls himself a conservationist – because he is only killing some animals not all of them.
We need a philosophy that gets back to true conservation. However idealistic and aspirational it may be, it is better than adopting a licence to kill as an overarching philosophy. To preserve biodiversity, we need discipline and rigid protection. One example of this is the island of Santo Domingo.
A clear line can be seen running down the border that divides Haiti from the Dominican Republic. On the Haiti side, no trees, no life, just utter environmental ruin. On the Dominican side, some rich natural forests still survive. Why? Because right from the start, the Dominicans adopted a zero tolerance approach to Haitian poachers and woodcutters. The army was deployed to shoot trespassers on sight.
This hard line did not result in substantial loss of human life. Once a dozen or so Haitians had been killed, the message got home, and Haitians stopped coming over the border to poach. The results can be seen today, and right there is the lesson. Chris Mercer: http://www.cannedlion.org