Last night I went to see an event that was raising funds to support the work of Lucy and Tony Fitzjohn (whose biography Born Wild is on the #throwingthenetopen Christmas gift book list I posted last week here), a husband and wife team who protect Tanzanian rhino’s and wild dog’s.
Tony is an extraordinary conservationist and it was amazing to hear him speak after the film about his and his wife’s work was shown. What he said was heart-breaking and brave it inspired my latest post…
The politics of conservationism
Today many terrorist groups are now funded by money garnered from the illegal ivory trade. This includes: Boko Haram, the group behind the abduction of the 220 plus Nigerian girls (where are they now?) and who are also responsible for the killings of over 2,000 men, women and children in their local communities;
al-Shaab the Somali Islamist group who conducted a 4 day siege in the Westgate mall in Nairobi killing 67 people in September;
and Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army and many others.
In a speech that MP Pauline Latham OBE made as part of a discussion on international animal crime, she mentioned that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently made a connection between Al-Queda and illegal poaching. Ivory are the new black diamonds.
Given how many terrorist groups that governments spent exorbitant amounts of budget deterring and so on receive as much as 40% of their funding from the illegal ivory trade, it makes sense Tony suggested that conservationism needs to be at the forefront of our national security strategy. Will Cameron agree?
According to reports from The Wildlife Conservation Society more then 1,600 rhinos have been poached for their horns in the last TWO years.
In Africa there are only 5,055 black rhinos left. In Sumatra less then 100 rhinos left and in Java a very fragile number of rhinos roam. Between 35-45 to be exact. These creatures are so much more friendly and trusting then we think. (Fitzjohn shows how rhinos are big fans of carrots in the film. Their sweet gentle dinasaur like mouths chewing contently as Tony hand feeds them from the window of his car).
Where Tony was particularly awesome last night was not in saying ooh this terrible evil terrorists, they must be stopped. Instead he said: we are partly responsible. And if this is to change, the poverty that forces the poachers to do their heart-breaking work needs to start shifting. And if this is to change, us humans need to start changing our priorities and start taking more care of our human family and our animal and plant friends too. We need to take better care of our planet. Slugs n all.
The power of choice
I went to a talk of the Buddhist monk Matthiew Ricard earlier in the summer here in London and he surprised me by talking a lot about the environment. (I’d managed to split dhamma and ecology). He spoke of the craziness of the choices us humans make and how in terms of the environmental impact most of these choices have; they make no sense. But on we go making them.
What is going to wake us up?
Because we are stubborn us homo sapiens and it takes a lot to shift our mindset. Take a look at the fate of the rhinos, for even though rhino horn has absolutely no nutritional benefits at all, there is a ‘insatiable’ market for it. And so on the demand goes and on the killing goes.
And we live on such a precious planet and it’s being torn apart in crazy ways. Recently, with increasing frequency I hear people talk about where we are and where we are going and they say things like, what will our children say when they grow up?
Mama, Dadda…what are these creatures you talk of?
Will we even remember?
What a strange lonely world it will be then, if we one day find ourselves walking around with only humans and buildings and iphones to see. No bees, no turtles. Is this what we want?
If you would like to make a donation to the Mkomizi project you can here.
And in the meantime, here’s a video I watched yesterday with my daughter from the BBC #lifestories (a couple of times)!
These incredible animals, how we dishonour them by saying it is only we, us tragically over emphasied beings, who have emotions and intelligence. (Codswallop). But maybe it is in believing this that allows us to savage them and use them and abuse them like we do. And perhaps the soul searching needed to change our ways is too painful, too uncomfortable. Because otherwise why do we allow it so?