One thing everyone who cares about animal conservation realises really quickly is that there’s no single, simple solution to the problems we face, whether it’s habitat destruction or poaching, to name just 2 examples. The brutal poaching of rhinos in South Africa happens because it’s a good source of income – Asian countries import rhino horns for their supposed medical benefits, and the South African poachers probably can’t earn this kind of money elsewhere, and most of them probably don’t care about the rhinos very much either – and it’s still easy enough. Poachers are using higher tech methods
all the time, like helicopters and veterinary tranquilisers. Anti-poaching units are struggling to keep up. Even that summary’s probably an over-simplification of the situation, so of course we can’t just stop it easily!
But there are things we can do anyway. We mustn’t ever give up!
One of the approaches I’ve found quite thought-provoking lately is that of educating the community about environmental issues, including animal conservation. For instance, in the communities around Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa an eco-schools project has been set up.
This project teaches the kids about things like resource management – water being an especially important topic – and the importance of recycling and cleaning up litter. Recently I led a group of kids on a big clean-up day
! It was so much fun! The kids also get taught about the necessity of looking after their wildlife, including highly endangered animals like the rhino.
For a bit more information about the project near Shamwari, check out my recent blog post
These kinds of projects aren’t going to solve the problem right now. They’re also not going to work perfectly in the future. Some of the kids who march through the streets with hand-drawn posters saying Save Our Rhinos are probably just excited because they’re out the classroom. Some will grow up desperate for money, and they’ll turn to rhino poaching if the government and anti-poaching efforts haven’t put a stop to this vile industry.
But I still think it’s really important. This kind of problem requires a lot of solutions, and I also think that our message will reach some of these children and help change the future of our beautiful animals and world.
What do you think? Have you come across any news of these projects making a difference, or is it too early to say yet? Do you think they’re useful for the future of wildlife conservation in South Africa (and around the world)? I'd love to learn more about this approach and hear alternative opinions.