COLUMN

New agents of change

Conservationist Grant Fowlds
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‘Save The Rhinos!’ — it’s a very common modern day slogan. Unfortunately it has  led to what is referred to in nature conservation circles as rhino fatigue. For many years we have over-used this catch line — to the extent that it has made the ambitions of conservationists, the world over, awkward. And it is furthered by corrupt members of the illicit counterfeit pseudo organisations that steal from all of us.

 

But what if – what if nobody cared? What would happen to the millions of less publicised creatures that don’t get the same attention of the giant mega herbivores like rhino and elephants?

I’m a self-confessed terrestrial fanatic and it saddens me that, in our deep blue oceans, the carnage continues. However, whales, for instance, went through a similar trend and their numbers seem to be on the increase since awareness campaigns were launched. It is a crisis, but we have to be positive if we want to make a difference.

Growing up in the African bush, I have never dreamt that I would see the day when our natural resources would be disappearing at this alarming rate. A million pangolins (the world's most trafficked animals) poached for their scales are gone forever, the number of apes (a popular source of bushmeat) in our forests are waning at an alarming rate and hippo teeth are being poached as a substitute for elephant ivory as we speak.

To top all that, the live pet rate leaving every port on most continents every day, and the thousands of starving people who have no other option but to hunt for what has been coined bushmeat, also contributes to this vicious cycle.

As I’m writing this column (nearly 11 000 km in the air on my way to North America to bring awareness and gain financial support to unleash campaigns to save Africa’s natural resources), other conservationists are gathering in Europe at the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Switzerland.

The world’s surviving rhinos may be in a worse state than government figures are willing to admit. With the planet’s biggest conservation gathering in session, our last chance to save the species may be about to slip through our fingers. Unless of course we can convince the masses of the urgency of taking appropriate measures to this end.

So let’s remind ourselves not to lose sight of the focus and that we

  • recognise that wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth that must be protected for this generation and the generations to come;
  • are conscious of the ever-growing value of wild fauna and flora from aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational and economic points of view;
  • recognise that peoples and states are and should be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora and
  • recognise, in addition, that international co-operation is essential for the protection of certain species of wild fauna and flora against over-exploitation through international trade.

I have to reiterate: it is us, the people of this planet, who are causing it grief and upsetting the balance of our natural world. We, species Homo Sapiens, are destroying it. It is sliding away. This is despite the good work done by veteran environmental warriors such as Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey, Wangari Mathai, and Diana Fossey.

Today, the search is on for a new generation of conservation hero’s – new agents of change – teens, young adults and graduates – tomorrow’s leaders of nature conservation. Out of our Rhino Art Campaign, arguably  the biggest platform to halt rhino poaching in the world, we have selected the best of young people to attend the third Youth World Wildlife Summit at the SA Wildlife College in the Kruger National Park this month. Hopefully via this project we can make a lasting impact and ensure that the next generation of conservation leaders are empowered, equipped, engaged and educated to face the crippling realities of poaching and all forms of wildlife crimes.

As we celebrate World Rhino Day on 22 September, let’s not give up on this beautiful planet and each and every creature that dwells on it.

Grant Fowlds

 

ABOUT OUR COLUMNIST

Grant Fowlds is a passionate conservationist from a dedicated Rhino Family, who pioneered with others a wildlife project called Amakhala Game Reserve – now a leading tourism brand based in the Eastern Cape. Read more about Grant here.

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