Bring HOPE for African Elephant: Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants (II)
H.O.P.E. is an NGO founded by an American with the purpose of protecting wild elephants. The smuggling of ivory on the African Continent has been a massive and complicated international issue. Although the software and hardware of animal protection have been strengthened under the cooperation of governments and H.O.P.E., this only provided small breathing space for countries that suffered from smuggling and could not fundamentally solve poaching issues. Take Zimbabwe for example. Agricultural populations suffered life restrictions due to animal protection policies, while smugglers promoted the concept of “poaching for ivories can lift you out of poverty” to the public. Therefore, related solutions must first encourage the people in order for the public to continue to invest in resources for the conservation of the elephant population.
Win-win “Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources”
Most of the Zimbabwean population live in rural villages that take up 50% of the nation’s land. These areas are also the habitat of elephants and other wild animals. In response to Zimbabwe’s special local tribal communities and coordinating closely with the aforementioned basic principles of encouraging the people and resource consistency, H.O.P.E. proposed the “Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources” (CAMPFIRE) project. The basic concept of this project is that local governments (district councils) will rent land from villages to run legal hunting business, wild animal/plant tourism parks, or other businesses officially. 80% of the revenues from these businesses will be given back to rural communities and local residents will decide commonly on how to use them. The remaining 20% will be used for the management and operation of the communal area.
The CAMPFIRE project first obtained success in local grass-root ecological reformation. To prevent each area working on their own and making efforts into overnight wonders, each CAMPFIRE project was further linked together. H.O.P.E. then encouraged related authoritative sectors of the government to work together in stipulating wild resource economy plans to help the diversified development of communal areas. Such plans can also help point-to-point and local-central interactions. The stipulation of national-level wild resource utilization plans were also encouraged in order to eventually develop into a comprehensive and sound wild economy market.
Open but Controlled Hunting Activities
Unlike animal protection groups that people are commonly familiar with, despite having wild elephant protection as its goal, H.O.P.E. does not believe that hunting activities should be completely prohibited. It supports “controlled and limited hunting activities”. The internationally recognized “Addis Ababa Principle” stipulated “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora” (CITES), “Convention on Biological Diversity” (CBD), and “Convention on Migratory Species” (CMS) all tend to protect biodiversity and maintain the sustainability of wild resources.
The founder of H.O.P.E. mentioned that the rise and fall of the hunting industry may affect the development of other industries in African countries, such as photography tourism and export. In countries with relatively scarce resources, the people have little choice for survival. The complete prohibition of hunting may result in the direct crisis of thousands of households. Also, hunting is a cycle in many indigenous cultures that is directly related to human dignity that cannot be deprived, and therefore complete prohibition on hunting resembles cultural suppression. The first article of the “Convention on Biological Diversity” clearly recognized that indigenous people have natural sovereignty prior to nations. In reality, limited hunting activities are conducive to maintaining ecological balance.
In Mozambique, restricted hunting projects have been carried out at Coutada 11 and 12 hunting parks of Zambeze Delta Safaris, a legal hunting operator. After a few years of implementation, the population of the endangered Cape Buffalo (a species of large black buffalo native to South Africa) has successfully increased from 1,200 to more than 20,000 and the population of Sable has increased from 44 to more than 3,000. This is a famous example of how restricted hunting can restore the population of endangered species.
Encourages the Cooperation of China to Establish a Robust International Hunting Trade Industry
Under such standpoint, H.O.P.E. did not conceive of China, the largest smuggling destination of ivory in the world, as an absolute opposing nation. Instead, it seeks to cooperate with China to establish a legal import system and make it an important collaborator on countering smuggling.
The current mainstream of the Chinese government on hunting and smuggling is leaning towards animal right groups by strictly prohibiting hunting. However, it is evident that legal restrictions did not make ivory disappear from the land of China. On the contrary, it has caused smuggling to run wild, resulting in a lose-lose-lose situation for national tax revenue, import trade, and the rights of elephants in Africa.
As the country that imports 70% of African ivory, China can develop a standard ivory certification system like the current one for lumber. It enables suppliers, dealers, and consumers to recognize whether ivory sources were legal or not and provide them with legal assurance.
On the other hand, H.O.P.E. also calls upon the legal ivory trade dealers of China to form an African Elephant Protection organization in order to provide support to the sustainability of wild elephants, such as taking part in African elephant conservation projects, using the budgets for corporate social responsibility on African elephant conservation, or carry out projects similar to the USA’s “2% Protecting Plan” in which it encourages corporations and individuals to dedicate 1% of their time and 1% of their money on ecological conservation.
In the future, H.O.P.E. expects itself to become an international indicating comprehensive supporting service providing partners on anti-poaching and anti-wild animal smuggling in Africa. To reach this goal, besides maintaining its current progress, it needs to consistently keep track of the wild animal conservation and hunting activity trend of Africa, China and the world in pursuit of having the most comprehensive and latest status, so that it can provide the most effective assistance when collaborators encountered any kind of difficulty.
Most of H.O.P.E.’s current major activities are in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. It seeks to diminish the poaching and smuggling network of these countries and aggressively expand cooperating opportunities at other regions of Africa at the same time.
On the other hand, H.O.P.E. also noticed the great effect of social community strength on animal protection and will therefore stress more on the organization’s community operation and use social media well to propagate their efforts. After all, common people do not know what is happening in remote Africa. If people have more opportunities of understanding what is happening there, they can discover that there are more people that share the same ideas as they do than one can possibly imagine.