Archive for February, 2007

Consumptive vs Non-consumptive Utilization of Wildlife Resources

February 26, 2007

Are bans on hunting and trade the best way to conserve species?

It is natural for people to jump to the conclusion that they are. After all, if no one is allowed to kill an animal, the thinking goes, surely its population will grow…

To understand why hunting and trade bans are not as effective as they are supposed to be, it is worth considering elephant conservation programmes in Africa, where countries have adopted two diverse strategies.

Elephant tusks (ivory) are used in artefacts around the world and, whether we like it or not, they command a market value similar to many precious metals. As a result, there is a constant international demand for ivory.

Unfortunately, most African economies are poor and wildlife conservation has to compete with many pressing demands for public money, such as the provision of public housing, sanitation projects, health care (particularly related to Aids) and education.

African elephant and her calf (Image: AP)

So conservation projects are going to be most successful if they can be self-supporting; in other words, if they can generate income and provide local jobs.

In southern Africa, countries have followed the philosophy of sustainable use. They have issued permits to sport hunters to kill a limited number of elephants that are pre-selected according to factors like age and sex. They cannot shoot breeding animals, for example.

Sport hunting produces significant income through hunting fees, safari costs (guides, accommodation, trophy fees, etc.) and this is reinvested into conservation programmes. Local people support it because it provides secure employment.

The result is that in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, elephant populations are well-stocked and healthy, while incidences of poaching have been kept to low levels.

By contrast, Kenya takes a protectionist approach. Killing elephants is prohibited and the country steadfastly argues against international trade in ivory.

An unintended consequence is that poaching is encouraged because local people receive little added value from the elephants and, instead, see a local resource going to waste.

In some areas people suffer when elephants destroy crops and homes. Habitat damage from dense populations also negatively impacts many other species.

Conservation in Kenya has become largely a law enforcement operation and, inevitably, this is a drain on limited local resources.

While elephant populations have recovered, poaching remains a problem and, in stark contrast to southern Africa, people have to be paid to shoot problem animals.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for nations to practice sustainable use at home while prescribing protectionism abroad.

This is true for African elephants, seals, sturgeon, whales, tigers, rhinos and many of the so-called “charismatic” species.

In the future, the fate of many animals may well depend on the extent to which the public around the world starts to accept the idea of utilising wildlife in a sustainable way.

The Good. The Bad. The F***ed up!!

February 20, 2007

I have eventually reached that point where one decides whats the hell is going on? What is it that I am trying to accomplish? Why am I trying to be different? And why the hell am I trying to beat the odds that are stacked so high against me to succeed in a half-baked pie of a conservation project?

The answer is I have no idea. People may read this; some may be our donors- people who invest heavily in this initiative, people that are conned into investing money into a “worthy”conservation project….a conservation project that Uganda couldn’t give a damn about, let alone the owner of the property. I think they should know whats going on! Anyway. Below is a very brief summary of proceedings in my life over the past five or so months whilst being Executive Director of a joke of a project.

October 2006 – It all begins

The Good: Start at an awesome project. Incredible experience. Good staff compliment- and they are trained!! Working in a new and exciting country and in a worthy conservation project- Re-introducing rhino back into the wilds of Uganda since their extinction back in 1982!!! AWESOME!
The Bad: The house I live in is a shambles. The three vehicles are in a diabolical state and need urgent repair. The perimeter fence has never worked and needs a huge revamp. One of my staff tries to commit suicide. I have no contract or work permit or off shore bank account as promised a few weeks earlier in the interview. The GM of DAS Air (same owner as Ziwa) refused to be signatory on RFU accounts as agreed to two weeks earlier. The official in charge of issuing CITIES permits will not issue a permit to send dung samples of the female rhino back to the states for hormone analysis – strange, because he is on the projects Board of Directors!!
The F***ed up:
DAS Air refuses to pay my pitiful salary as agreed two weeks earlier during the interview process.

November 2006 – The spiral begins

The Good: Disney Animal Kingdom agree to continue supporting the project. New potential investors in Save the Rhino International are interested in getting involved. The vehicles are up and running.
The Bad: Still no sign of salary, work permit, bank account. No CITIES permits. Personal belongings get swiped out of my house. Two solar panels that power the perimeter fence get swiped. Lawyers letter arrives for dispute between previous management and a staff member. My colleague gets badly burnt with petrol. Staff are not motivated to work and hardly anyone pitches to work on time or at all. Staff demand 150% salary increases!
The F***ed up: I am informed that RFU owes US$ 1300 for an outstanding fuel bill.

December – OK here we go!

The Good: I have a friend coming to stay at the end of the month and its Christmas! I get a contract scribbled on one and a half pieces of paper. The boundary fence is up and running for the first time in its existence.
The Bad: Staff are grumbling because of unfulfilled promises by previous management. Via the grapevine I figure there is trouble looming. I give them the option of being patient until we get more donor support, or retrench 9 people. No salary or work permit or CITIES permit yet. Things get stolen out of my house again.
The F***ed up: A staff member who is meant to be on duty and lies that he is not points a loaded AK47 assault rifle at me, I grab him by the collar and pull him out of the room. He lays charges of assault against me. Police make me pay him US$ 4000 as compensation, together with a reference letter of good service and an open invite to come and work for RFU again! In a separate incident other staff members go on strike with the rest of the AK’s and are drunk. I hear that they want to shoot me! For what I have no idea? Police are eventually called in to clear up. It takes them 3 days. I recieve a letter to say thet RFU owes Conrad Motors thousands of dollars for fixing a written off project vehicle that was repaired in early 2006!!

January 2007 – Beyond the point of no return!

The Good: Its a new year. An opportunity to put last year behind you and start fresh! Develop new website fro the Sanctuary. I go to Kenya for a Rhino Management Workshop. We get our first film-crew visiting the Sanctuary.
The Bad: I get Malaria and have to sleep in the passage on a mattress at night with two firearms for safety reasons. Retrenchment goes ahead all staff involved steal most of the equipment assigned to them. They hang around at the main gate for two weeks plotting something, and threatening the other staff if they return back to work. I get UWA in to remove six AK’s from the property and leave us with five. Still no salary, bank account or work permit! One rhino gets gored by another. Our dominant female is getting very thin. Surrounding communities are cutting the fence on a daily basis to push cattle onto the property for grazing.
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels are stolen. One of the retrenched staff sabotages one of the AK’s by removing the firing pin. My head ranger together with the police decide its best to steal one from the Uganda Military against my direct orders not to. Get lawyers letter to say that someone is suing RFU for US$ 14,500.00 for a car accident that happened in Feb 2006!!

February 2007 – The end must be near!!

The Good: I have two mates coming from the UK to help out on the sanctuary for a while. I draw my first salary and decide to back date all my owed money to me by the fund. I am rich!! The cattle are moved off the property, the guesthouses are painted and we get our first guests. Staff get food rations and complain that it is still not enough.
The Bad: Still no bank account, work permit or CITIES permit. The rhinos seem to be getting caught in wire just about every day. Three of the RFU board members have negotiated a deal to bring in another two white rhinos into Uganda and have left RFU out of the loop!! Strange!! Staff still do not pitch for work or complete assigned tasks. I am expected to run Ziwa Tourism and the whole farm for Capt. Joe Roy for free!! You must be having a laugh!
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels get swiped. The project is in a serious nose dive purely because of crap decision making in the past by various individuals. I am happy that others are bringing rhinos in onto public land! Good for them. I am thinking about moving the project or myself somewhere where it will be a success. With the cattle moving off the property so has all the equipment, including tractors, trailers, generators, pumps and tools. As a result the property does not have water, only five hours of solar power during the day, the guesthouse has been closed because of no water and the horses and 40 odd staff are thirsty and grumpy!! Now its becoming a little more than just F***ed Up!!

So in a nutshell that’s what been up at Ziwa and RFU since I have been here! Still keen on investing I ask people??!! “Let me think. Hold on…..Hell yes!!” is the reply I get!! Ha!
RFU and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a farce. There is no intention to complete the goals and objectives set out in the original RFU Rhino Action Plan!! Its only to get one private landowner- who is not putting a cent into the project, to own Uganda’s only six white rhinos and a whole bunch of other game animals in the future and to generate the only benefit from it! I say bugger that. Move the rhinos off privately owned land and onto public land where the whole of Uganda will benefit out of the project, not just one rich individual!

Take it or leave it! These are just my thoughts….. straight from the horses mouth as it were!