TV5MONDE: What is the real impact of poaching on species extinction in Africa compared to other threats such as climate change or deforestation?
We are aware that climate change will be increasingly important for species extinction, especially in connection with the droughts we are currently witnessing in the African diaspora. But today we cannot say that he is the main culprit.
There are two main reasons. First, it is criminal poaching, ie illegal hunting or fishing by attacking protected species or work without a permit. In fact, I prefer to talk about environmental crimes rather than poaching.
Major mammals are threatened with extinction due to poaching in Africa
- Elephants aim at ivory tusks. Among elephant populations, mortality from shooting is now greater than natural death. Due to poaching and habitat loss, their population has shrunk by at least 60% and in the forests in thirty-one years by 86%.
- Rhinos killed for their horns. 3 rhinos die every day. At present, not even 29,000 individuals will remain on our Earth.
- Big cats (lion, leopard, cheetah) hunted for their bones. For example, the lion fell to less than 25,000 individuals in Africa instead of 450,000 50 years ago.
- Large apes (gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees), killed for their meat or captured as pets. In the world’s tropical or equatorial forests, four of the six species of apes are now classified as “endangered” in the International Union for Conservation’s Red List of Endangered Species.
The second is the conflict between humans and animals, caused by the shortage of wildlife and human development (in particular, through the construction of infrastructure, ed. Note). The growing closeness of man and animal gives rise to two phenomena. On the one hand, people kill animals because they do not allow them to develop in terms of agriculture and animal husbandry. On the other hand, such proximity could lead to a pandemic.
Today, rhino or tiger horns are used not only for medicinal purposes. They are also a sign of wealth. Sergio Lopez, President of Wildlife Angel and author of The Field Range of African Rangers.
TV5MONDE: Scientists warn public opinion about species extinction. At the same time, poaching broke out within ten years. How do you explain this trend?
Demand is growing in Southeast Asia. Rhino horn, lion bones were consumed at that time relatively measured. Today, rhino or tiger horns are used not only for medicinal purposes. They are also a sign of wealth.
This explosion of demand leads to an explosion of supply and the number of active poachers. At the time, it was more difficult to smuggle animal parts. Today, exchanges are globalizing and becoming increasingly important between Africa and China. Chinese companies are established in African territories. It is much easier to hide these goods among legal exchanges.
Mafia with very well-established networks in the field of drug, arms or human trafficking turned to poaching.Sergio Lopez, President of Wildlife Angel and author of The Field Range of African Rangers.
In addition, wildlife trafficking developed along with other criminal activities. Mafia with very well-established networks in the field of drug, arms or human trafficking turned to poaching. For many years, the wildlife trade was considered less serious. Good for traffickers who saw less risk. –
Over the last four or five years, we have seen a change of course on the part of governments. We are starting to punish poachers more. We saw it in South Africa, in Namibia.
TV5MONDE: Is poaching developed across the African continent?
This applies to the four main regions of Africa. Poaching depends on setting up companies, including Chinese ones, that can facilitate trade.
In West and Central Africa, there is more trade in ivory and wildlife meat. There are many elephants and rhinos in East and South Africa. In Southeast Asia, rhino horn is sold on the black market for more than $ 60,000 per kilogram. So the mafia in these regions is well established.
TV5MONDE: You are the author of the Field Range for African Rangers. Specifically, how do you act on the ground to fix this?
In the field, we begin to arm our rangers. But we never address this issue without resorting to self-defense and human rights. There are areas in Africa where environmentalists (rangers) are not armed by government decision. This applies to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Guinea. Then we focused much more on martial arts. It is very realistic and adapted to the threat, facing a knife or machete.
We teach environmentalists (rangers, editors) legibility, ie the ability to distinguish between different types of poachers.
Sergio Lopez, President of Wildlife Angel and author of The Field Range of African Rangers.
Then our rangers are taught intelligibility, ie the ability to distinguish between different types of poachers. Six types that are growing dangerous have been identified. Depending on the level of danger, rangers must adapt their behavior.
Imagine they are catching a poacher setting up a small antelope trap because there has been no tourism in his village since the pandemic. We are going to catch him, but we are not going to arrest or threaten him. We are going to do pedagogy. On the other hand, two years ago in Niger, when al Qaeda members decided to kill the Rangers in front of them, you have to defend yourself well.
TV5MONDE: How do you support this farmer who sees no other way of life?
Our doctrine is to do preventive education. They are reminded that this is their legacy and that if they destroy it little by little, they will no longer be able to benefit from it.
We also support the development of assistance programs or rely on NGOs that provide them with health, education adapted to their culture, and support them in microeconomic projects in agriculture and animal husbandry that go in the direction of “History”.