Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Saturday, July 8, 2017



This week, we're off to southeastern Africa. Here, an amazing wildlife re-settlement is currently underway. Six thousand elephants, water buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and kudos...just to name a few...are being loaded into enormous trucks in Zimbabwe. From there, they'll travel 400 difficult miles across the border to Zinave National Park in Mozambique. The ambitious re-settlement program is unprecedented; not since Noah's Ark have humans overseen such an enormous animal migration.

Why all the fuss? Don't animals just use Uber like the rest of us? (Joke). The goal is to re-populate part of the Limpopo River Basin that has been devastated by poachers. Overseen by the Peace Parks Foundation, Operation African Animal Ark also employs 120 humans as well. Veterinarians, truck drivers, ecologists and, of course, professional game capturers are doing some pretty dangerous work. When completed by the end of the year, a delicate ecological balance will be restored.

However, not everyone thinks the ginormous re-settlement program is a good idea. Just ask Humane Society International specialist Masha Kalinina. While the Mozambique Civil War has ended, she is not convinced the current regime is strong enough to control illegal poaching. Like many African nations, the government controls the capital city but has little presence in remote areas, like Zinave National Park. They are "transporting animals so that they may die at the hands of either trophy hunters or poachers. Is this really conservation?" Kalinina wonders.

While this is a valid point, it is also an admission of defeat. Let's dig deeper into her quote. Interestingly enough, while poachers are vile in everyway, trophy hunters are not. Believe it or not, Wilfried Pabst, the owner of the Sango Wildlife Conservatory that is donating most of the animals, is one of them! Over 60% of his profits come from hunters who shell out $20,000 to shoot a lion on his land. "In remote places with a weak tourism industry it is almost impossible to run a conservancy like Sango without sustainable utilization (a euphemism for trophy hunting)." Pabst oversees one of the largest reserves in Africa, so his message really resonates.

The irony here is huge. The bottom line is that hunters are the only people on earth who actually care enough about the animals of Africa to spend money to save them. Meanwhile, the rest of the people on earth will continue to sit by and do nothing while their beloved species become extinct. Centuries from now, historians will be perplexed by the people of 2017. On one hand, African animals are in zoos, featured in countless movies and cartoons (The Lion King) and everyday sayings (Elephant in the room). Our children hug stuffed cotton toy versions and sing songs about them. Yet humans willingly let yahoo poachers (a mere .000001% of their population) kill all the real ones living in the wild. Weird, huh?

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