I wish to comment on the lead article "Is there an elephant overpopulation in Kruger" which appeared in your August 4, 2005, edition. In this article you reported on the conclusion of an "Elephants Alive" workshop held in Johannesburg from July 18-20, and attended by 50 people comprising "animals rights activists, scientists and lawyers".
You said the conclusion of that workshop was that "Kruger National Park does not have an elephant overpopulation and that there is no need to cull at present" You were in error by omission in this report insofar as you did NOT say that the scientists and the lawyers were animal rightists, or had an animal rights bent, or that they represented animal rights organisations, too.
Notwithstanding this understandable error, this conclusion is not surprising taking the source from which it came. And it gives me the greatest confidence in SANParks, over this issue, to see that they did not attend this workshop. I think it is important that your readership understand the implications of what all of this means.
First of all, I think they need to understand just what an "animal rightist" is. To explain this properly I need to go back to 1980, when the IUCN published its mission statement - The World Conservation Strategy (WCS) (revised 1991).
This is the only protocol in existence that spells out the fact that man will only survive on planet earth if he learns to harvest the world's renewable natural resources, for his own benefit, in a sustainable manner. These resources include, first and foremost, THE SOIL.
They also include domesticated animals and cultivated plants, and wild animals and wild plants. The three principal objectives of what the WCS calls "Living Resource Conservation" are (in brief):
- (1). To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems;
- (2). To preserve genetic diversity (i.e. species must not become extinct); and
- (3). To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems (notably fish and other wildlife, forests and gazing lands) which support millions of rural communities and major industries.
Note: The third of these principles supports BOTH commercial AND subsistence resource "use" - the emphasis being placed on the term "sustainable". South Africa's National Conservation Strategy (NCS) is based upon the WCS and these three objectives, as a consequence, have been written into South African law.
Indeed, all over the world, this is the only way that the WCS has obtained its legal teeth - through the laws of those responsible countries that have obligated themselves to uphold the principles of the WCS. Animal rightists can be identified as people who reject the third principle listed above.
Their purpose in life is to STOP society's efforts to "use renewable natural resources (even on a sustainable basis) for the benefit of mankind." It is their purported belief that man has no "right" to use animals - ANY animal and in ANY way - for his own benefit. Some animal rights NGOs are more rabid in their pursuit of these goals than are others.
They are all, however, against "killing" animals for whatever reason. This means that their purpose in life is make the attainment of WCS goals (and so too, the goals our own NCS) impossible. All over the world there is a growing realisation and acknowledgement that the animal rights movement, as a whole, is the biggest confidence industry the world has ever known.
This is because of their highly emotional (and often blatantly false) propaganda that they use to solicit funds from uninformed and sensitive members of the world's urban publics. Again, some animal rights NGOs are more at fault, in this regard, than are others. And some animal rightists are more intense, in this respect, than others.
Yet, there may also be a few misguided souls who genuinely believe in what they advocate. Just because a person is a scientist - or a lawyer - or whatever - doesn't mean to say they do not have animal rights tendencies. People in all walks of life are sometimes persuaded to support an animal rights NGO because the NGO funds their various projects.
Next time you see someone displaying his project matter on the screen just look at the shadowed sponsorship and you will see what I mean. The old adage still pertains: "He who pays the piper calls the tune." This is why some scientists have come up with pie-in-the-sky ideas about how wildlife management should be practised, and why they pursue these ideas vigorously - because they have been persuaded not believe in the sustainable use of wildlife for the benefit of man; because they have been persuaded not to accept culling as a management tool; and because they detest hunters and hunting.
This has resulted over the last several decades in Botswana being now 2000 percent overstocked with elephants; of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park being 1200 percent overstocked with elephants; and in Kruger National Park being (in my opinion) 300 per cent overstocked with elephants. And the bio-diversity of all these regions is in the process of being destroyed as a consequence.
I would appeal to your readership, therefore, to keep an open mind in all these things. Above all, they must understand that animal rightists are NOT the friends of our wildlife that they purport to be - or the friends of mankind, either; and that scientists and lawyers are NOT ALL squeaky clean - and that their ideas are not ALWAYS "scientifically pure and innocent of deception or personal opinion".
I do not have to think twice about my rejection of the "Elephants Alive" workshop conclusion. And, once again, I applaud SANPrks for not being gathered into this animal rights net.