New and old approaches needed to halt poaching
I read with great interest Paula Kahumbu’s latest blog in the Guardian.
I work with the IFAW communications team around the world to engage the media in covering poaching stories and the plight of elephants and rhinos.
The horror of what is happening with up to 40,000 African elephants losing their lives each year to fuel the increasing demand for ivory needs the world’s attention to drive change.
So it was interesting to read that in some ways increased media coverage may in fact be stimulating poaching as Paula heard from Duke University Professor Dan Ariely. He says that heightened awareness through news reports makes the problems of ivory trafficking and elephant poaching worse.
His argument stems from social acceptance: “Everyone else is doing it so why not me?” Ariely may have a point even though it is counter intuitive, but raising awareness through the media will always be paramount.
What’s also needed is to tackle the illegal ivory trade and poaching from every possible angle, which is something that IFAW is working hard to do. We are on the ground training anti-poaching patrols and working with our partner INTERPOL, and local enforcement officers to apprehend the poachers.
Tougher penalties like those recently approved by the Kenya government will also have an effect. As Paula points out in her blog, people will commit crimes as long as they think they can get away with it or if the potential punishment is light. When governments crack down hard – they send the message – “If you do this – you will get caught and you will pay a heavy price”.
Another key link in the ivory chain is in transit countries. IFAW is working to train customs officers in key transit countries in the Middle East, which will lead to increased seizures and loss of profits for the king-pins behind the poaching business.
And we are also working to reduce demand in critical consumption countries such as China to highlight the fact that ivory trinkets are killing elephants. Our campaigns are having a real impact by reducing by half the numbers of those polled who were likely to buy ivory.
We won’t succeed without the world media, and particularly media in consumption countries such as China, continuing to highlight the appalling cost the ivory trade is having on African elephants.
We need the story to be told for people to care--inside Africa as well as outside. We need people like Jim Nyamu walking across Kenya to raise awareness, and Paula Kahumbu calling for new approaches such as looking to tribal punishments for poachers, in addition to stiffer legal penalties.
And we need buyers to know the terrible cost of ivory trinkets and to reject them now and forever.