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The sustainability of the wildlife industry unpacked in a global context by Ron Thomson
Published: Tue, 04-Jul-2017

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I believe that: “The people whose livelihoods are dependent on the sustainable-use of ANY living resource, are those who are the most concerned about its proper management.”

When you spend your life doing one thing, you become expert at it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “The outliers - the story of success”, states that nobody is an “expert” at ANYTHING until he has spent at least 10 000 hours actually doing it.

With time off for lunch and breakfast, 10 000 hours at 10 hours a day, translates into 1000 days, or approximately three years, of solid work from dawn to dusk, every day, without a stop. And that only gets you to first base. So you can all now work out just what degree of expertise you have in the game ranching business.

YOU are the practitioners. YOU make a living out of it. YOU are directly accountable to nobody but yourselves. When you do the right thing you make money. When you make mistakes, you pay for them. And, over the years, you make fewer and fewer mistakes because you can’t afford them. THAT is called “gaining experience”.

Unfortunately, you do not have a free hand.

Your industry is controlled by a government authority that does not enjoy your proficiencies or your passion. Nevertheless, it has “position power” over your activities; but its purpose is to HELP you succeed. So it would be in your own best interests to work hand-in-glove with this authority. You SHOULD have common goals.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

The authority’s purpose is to provide “advice and service” to help you achieve YOUR objectives. But their salaries are paid by government irrespective of their contribution to your success, or failure; and they can always ‘walk away’ when they make a mistake. Nobody will reimburse YOU when they make a mistake.

I know that there are some very good civil servants – but there are many that are not. This has caused me to have serious doubts about the general state of cohesion that exists between our civil service and yourselves. This is an important problem that needs to be rectified.

Kruger National Park comprises 2 million hectares of land; or 20 000 sq. kms. It is larger than the state of Israel; and it carries a bigger spectrum of plants and animals than any other wildlife sanctuary in Africa of comparable size.

By comparison: There are 10 000 game ranchers in South Africa and they comprise over 20 million hectares of land. Combined these ranches are 10 times the size of Kruger National Park; they carry 10 times as many game animals as Kruger does; they generate 100 000 permanent jobs; and they annually contribute R 9 billion to the country’s GDP. And the industry is still expanding.

This industry, therefore, deserves totally positive understanding and proper support from government – at ALL levels.

In my opinion, government tends to impose itself unnecessarily on game ranchers; and some of its heavy handedness is not necessary and undesirable. This is caused by two things: (1). Many government wildlife-orientated people have minds that are still irreconcilably locked-into the nature reserve mentality; and (2) a legacy of government over-regulation - and of civil service ‘control’ over the populace - that extends back many decades. I am concerned because over-regulation stifles innovation. And if this industry is to flourish, it is innovation and freedom of action that will make it do so.

Some of government’s impositions, in my opinion, are preposterous and have no basis in common sense. I am not suggesting that game ranchers should be given carte blanche - not at all - but rather they should enjoy the same kind of freedom of action, with minimal constraints, that pertains to the farmers of domestic stock.

For example: In view of the huge man-induced changes that have occurred to our habitats in the last 300 years, the dictum – only selectively enforced - that no species of animal may be introduced onto any land if it did not occur there historically, is nonsensical; and is scientifically pedantic – under the circumstances of game ranching. The ruling also does not apply to domestic stock - the most alien species of them all – which are allowed to roam freely everywhere!

There are huge areas that used to be heavy bush or forest, that are now grassland; and there are equally large areas that were once grassland but are now heavy bush or forest. And we all know that - depending on the veld management application – we can ourselves change the one into the other in just a few decades.

Animals that are known to have occurred in some areas in the past - sometimes in large numbers - would not survive there today because of a changed habitat. And there are many species of animals that never occurred in particular areas in the past which, due to the changed habitat, will now thrive.

I understand why bontebok and blesbuck should not be mixed – because they are races of the same species. And I understand why, ecologically, it is not desirable that nyala be introduced to habitats containing bushbuck – because the nyala will eliminate the bushbuck. At the same time, I believe that if a game rancher wants to introduce nyala, and to forfeit his bushbuck, he should allowed to do so. Game ranches are not nature reserves! And I do not believe that these kinds of nature-reserve orientated arguments should be used as a blanket excuse to deny wildlife introductions on private game ranches. Game ranches and nature reserves have TOTALLY different objectives; and “management’ is the application of practices that are designed to achieve man-desired objectives.

I would understand it, if a game species movement permit was denied on the grounds that the current habitat on a game ranch is unsuitable; but the denial of a movement permit on the grounds that the species did not occur there historically, does not make any sense at all.

The next thing I want to emphasize is that ‘management’ of wildlife can ONLY be applied to animal POPULATIONS. It cannot be applied to a SPECIES. THIS is ONE of the cornerstone principles of wildlife management and it renders the concept of “endangered species” invalid.

By definition, a population is a group of animals of the same species that
interacts ONLY with others of its own group, in continuum, on a daily basis;
and that breeds ONLY with individuals of its own group.

This means that, because all animals are fenced-in on South Africa’s game ranches, every single game ranch contains individual populations of whatever different species of animals occur on them. Thus, potentially, there could be 10 000 different populations of impala; and 10 000 different populations of blue wildebeest, etc.

Even when impala on one game ranch can rub noses with impala on the adjacent property, through the wires of the common game fence, they cannot interact socially and they cannot inter-breed. The impala on both those properties, therefore, are distinct populations and they have to be ‘managed’ separately. To do otherwise is MIS-management.

All over South Africa, these different populations of the same species are either in decline; they are breeding like mad and are over-populated; or their status lies somewhere in between. This is why EACH of these populations has to be managed on its own merits.

When a particular species of animal is very low in number everywhere – and is declining - there might be a case for government to impose very special management conditions. But such special cases should be divorced from general management practices.

Finally, I would like to suggest that the bulk of our bread-and-butter species - like impala, kudu, and blesbuck - and most birds - should be assigned to an unclassified or “common” status that requires little or no control by government. FULL control of these common species is not necessary. And if the administrative effort that is put into their control is dropped, it would free-up our limited numbers of nature conservation officers to concentrate on those more rare species that deserve their undivided attention.

The game rancher himself is well equipped to look after the common species.

Today, the wildlife ranching community is facing one of its biggest ever challenges – that of very heavy rhino poaching – and all sorts of solutions have been mooted.

Here I would like to offer a word of caution. If you wish to solve ANY problem, you must first determine its proximate causes - the underlying reasons why something is happening. THEN you have to set about removing that cause - if you can; or manipulating it if you can’t.

ONE of the causes of rhino poaching is the fact that rhino horn is now worth more than its weight in gold.

Can we remove the demand for rhino horn? No! Not in the foreseeable future. Why? Because the traditional medicine market that uses rhino horn in the Far East, is centuries old. The practice is now ingrained in the cultures Eastern Asia.

Can we downgrade the value of the horn? We might be able to do THAT because we probably have enough horn in stockpiles, and/or we might be able to “grow” enough rhino horn (on rhino farms), to make rhino horn a readily available commodity. In all trade, the price of a commodity rises if the demand remains constant (or increases) and its availability becomes less. The reverse applies, too. If a commodity is readily available its price drops.

South Africa’s rhino owners have seen this gap and they have proposed that they should be allowed to ‘farm’ white rhinos; to harvest their horns; and that they should be allowed to open a transparent and international trade in rhino horn.

I made this suggestion over 10 years ago - published in the African Hunting
Gazette. The Professional Hunters rejected the idea because, they said, it
would down-grade the value of the white rhino as a trophy animal. There was
not one supporting comment. But, I believe, the time is now ripe!

Recently we had a situation in which the Vietnamese bought hunting licenses; paid safari fees; and shot (or had shot) white rhinos to obtain their horns. This may not have been the traditional purpose of the safari, but it was a legal and controllable rhino horn harvest. South Africa’s hunting and nature conservation community, however, threw its hands up in horror – and the practice was outlawed. Now it has gone underground and it is uncontrollable. Maybe we caused that to happen? Methinks we missed the boat here and got our priorities a bit mixed up.

Before I can present you with an understanding of the difficulties involved in opening up a legal international trade in rhino horn – which will require the approval of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) - I must, point out to you a number of foundation elements that shape the problems we are likely to encounter.

I have read the Hon. Minister’s recent press releases on this matter and must commend her for a most laudable initial approach to the problem. I am deeply impressed. Indeed, for the first time in three decades, I have hopes that “things just might come right” in our wildlife arena. Mrs Molewa is clearly trying very hard to do the right thing. She has grasped the nettle firmly - but, alas, I see huge holes in her perceptions of the problems that lie ahead.

Bear with me as I explain the different pieces and how they fit together.

Wildlife Cultures

Every nation on earth has a national culture – comprised of many subcultures. Every nation has a language culture. It also has a dress culture; an eating habit culture; a business culture; a social culture; a religious culture; a political culture; and many more. One of its subcultures is its wildlife culture.

All these subcultures can be likened to pieces of a national cultural jigsaw puzzle. They fit together in a complex manner to make up the national cultural whole. The nature of these subcultures is unique to every nation and they were moulded into its fabric over many years as a consequence of its historical circumstances; the topography of the country; the plants and the animals; the weather; and such like influences. You cannot, therefore, impose one nation’s wildlife culture on another. The jigsaw pieces of one nation’s culture don’t fit the complex patterns of any other nation’s culture.

A country’s national culture is very important to its citizens. It moulds their characters and it makes them what they are - and the nation what it is. From the time they are toddlers, each and every person is indoctrinated into a belief in the validity of their country’s sub-cultures.

The existence of these national subcultures is very important and we must not overlook this importance. Consider, for example, trying to convert a Muslim to Judaism - or any other religion? Consider the social consequences to her of a young lady in Afghanistan pitching up at the occupying forces’ swimming pool in a bikini.

Wildlife cultures are equally important. So let us look at two totally juxtaposed ones: those of the United States and South Africa. Few are quite so far apart.

The American wildlife culture is based on the belief that making money out of wildlife is immoral and that it caused the extinction of the passenger pigeon in America; the near extinction of many ducks in the early part of the 20th Century; and the near extinction of the American bison. NOT ONE of these “perceived” reasons are true but this has not deterred Americans from being hugely supportive of their wildlife culture; and it has all been cemented into the national culture of the United States by reason of it being intricately interwoven in American law.
You cannot buy indigenous venison even in the highest class restaurants in the United States (except Texas); but you can legally shoot a white tailed deer and give its meat away. The majority of Americans are proud to tell you that their wildlife culture is “Anti-Market Hunting”.

The South African wildlife culture is just the opposite. Our wildlife culture is based upon heavy commercialisation.

The American wildlife culture is, therefore, the complete antithesis of what we do in South Africa.

The World Conservation Strategy (WCS) & South Africa’s National Conservation Strategy (NCS).

The WCS, published in 1980, is the mission statement of the IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature) – the world’s “parent” wildlife organisation. It was revised in 1991 and renamed: “Caring for the Earth – A Strategy for Sustainable Living”. In the revision none of its principles were changed.

The most important element of the WCS – from the game ranchers’ point of view - is what the document refers to as: “living resource conservation”. It outlines three objectives which are, in brief:

(1). To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems;
(2). To preserve genetic diversity (i.e. no species must become extinct); and
(3). To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems (notably fish and other wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.

Note that it supports, and promotes, the sustainable use of wildlife for both commercial AND subsistence purposes.

When the WCS was published, it was hailed as the blueprint telling mankind – if he wishes to survive into posterity - how he must interact with the world’s living resources… to provide himself with a sustainable means of survival whilst, at the same time, to properly conserve the living resources on which his survival depends! It is the epitome of symbiosis.

In 1980, responsible sovereign nations of the world – of which South Africa was one - obligated themselves to model their National Conservation Strategies (NCSs) on the WCS template. The NCS of South Africa, therefore, includes all the “living resource conservation” objectives I have just explained; AND these principles have been written into the laws pertaining to wildlife management practices in South Africa.

The Green Movement.

Everybody complains about the “greenies”. Let me now enlighten you as to who and what they are.

The so-called “Green Movement” is comprised of three elements: environmentalists; animal welfare-ists; and animal rightists. They are not all bad. It is not necessary that we discuss this movement in any depth, however, BUT it is VERY important that we spell out the differences between animal welfare and animal rights.
In order to differentiate between the two, it is convenient to use the WCS to provide us with a yard stick.

TRUE animal welfare people – of which the SPCA SHOULD provide us with a pure and good example (but does not) – agree with the third objective of the WCS’s ‘living resource conservation’ ideal. They support the concept that man should “use” animals, on a sustainable basis, for his own survival; but they have provisos.

They insist that when man “uses” a live animal to obtain benefits – such as when he rides a horse or uses an ox to plough a field - his treatment of that animal should be humane; and that when man kills an animal to obtain meat to eat, the killing process must not be cruel.

In other words, TRUE animal welfare people look after society’s civilised standards when it comes to man’s treatment of animals. I would be surprised if anyone in this room does not support these animal welfare principles.

It is the purpose of Animal rightists, on the other hand, to ABOLISH man’s ‘use’ of animals in every dimension. Animal rightists can be identified quite easily as those who reject, outright, the third “living resource conservation” objective of the WCS. That means they work against government’s every endeavour to achieve the sustainable-resource-use goals of our NCS. Furthermore, they want everybody to stop eating animal products and to subsist on a vegetable diet.

Animal rights NGOs vehemently oppose the concept of animal welfare, claiming that, by “regulating” man’s “use” of animals, the animal welfare people sanction the sustainable-animal-use ethos in the hearts and minds of society. Animal welfare NGOs, the animal rightists claim, represent their biggest obstacle to achieving ABOLITION.

The way the animal rightists operate makes their ideology the biggest confidence industry the world has ever known. It is also very well heeled. IFAW (The International Fund for Animal “Welfare”) is said to command an annual income of US $ 200 million; and last year, the annual income of the HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States) was US $ 125 million.

And their industry is not benign. The “Military Wings” of the movement in the U.S. - ELF (The Earth Liberation Front) and ALF (The Animal Liberation Front) – were responsible, over the last 20 years, for arson and sabotage attacks worth c.50 million of US dollars. These were perpetrated against the ‘natural resource-use’ industries of which they disapprove - like this one. The FBI recently declared ELF and ALF to be “the biggest domestic terrorist organisations in America”.

My personal ideas about animal rights-ism:
(1). It’s doctrine is incompatible with science-based wildlife management.
(2). There is no place in a civilised society for the animal rights doctrine.
(3). Animal rightists cannot achieve their objectives without violating the
legitimate rights of other people; and

(4). They are the biggest impediment to the success of ALL animal-use
industries - including this one.

Now, at last, we can get down to talking about CITES and about opening an international trade in rhino horn.

By 1975, the illegal wildlife trade had been identified as being the biggest illegal international trade in the world – after drugs. AND there was no means whereby any producer country could control the illegal trade in its wildlife products once the contraband had crossed its borders.

CITES was established in 1975 with the purpose of ‘regulating’ the legal international trade in wildlife. All sovereign states were encouraged to join CITES to enable the illegal trade to be brought under control. To enable CITES to function, each signatory was required to agree to the trade decisions approved by the majority of CITES members. This was tantamount to every member state voluntarily surrendering its sovereign rights - to trade, internationally, in its own wildlife and wildlife products - to the whims of the CITES delegates. Those countries which DID trade internationally in wildlife would ONLY be able to continue with that trade in terms of a CITES permit. And all future international trade in wildlife could only be initiated and implemented in terms of a CITES permit. This put a stranglehold on every sovereign state that joined CITES.

Getting all CITES member countries to relinquish control of their sovereign rights to trade in their own wildlife, was an astonishing achievement; but it was to create challenges 30-odd years later (NOW) that nobody foresaw. Nevertheless, in 1975 every major country complied and CITES was on its way.

The way CITES functions is that each member state submits, to the CITES secretariat, whatever “issue” it wishes CITES to deliberate upon. For example, South Africa will soon, hopefully, submit a desire to trade, internationally, in rhino horn. This subject is then added to the CITES agenda for discussion at its next meeting. Meetings are convened, now, every three years.

Each member state (called signatories or parties-to-the convention) has one vote. All signatories deliberate the items on the agenda; and they come to consensus by casting their votes. Their majority decision is inviolable.

There are mechanisms to raise objections but, in effect, states have no effective and/or amicable comeback other than to accept the “sentence” meted out.

Now I want to draw your attention BACK to the fact that each and every delegate has been totally indoctrinated (since he was a very small child) with his own country’s wildlife culture. And remember the very influential Americans are mentally programmed by their “anti-market-hunting” attitude.

CITES now comprises 178 member states. So there are 178 different wildlife cultures in the mix. How on earth they ever reach consensus I have no idea. And how South Africa - a major range state for the white rhino – can expect CITES to amicably agree to an international legal trade in rhino horn, I don’t know.

But there is more to this strange conundrum. From its inception, CITES has invited NGOs of all persuasions to become ‘accredited’ to the convention. CITES did this to provide its delegates with the broadest possible spectrum of opinion - to help them when determining their decisions. As if having 178 different wildlife cultures in the mix wasn’t enough confusion!

These NGOs don’t have a vote, but they participate in every CITES function at all levels. They attend all the workshops and all the conference sessions. They are elected onto committees and they participate very actively in all the debates. Although they do not have ANY “voting power”, therefore, they do have TREMENDOUS “persuasion power”; and they use it all the time. And they have a lot of money!

Some NGOs wine and dine delegates every day and every night throughout every conference – trying to persuade their guests to vote in line with the NGO’s desideratum. And what do they gain from doing this? Potentially, it generates huge funds from gullible publics back home. Getting the elephant declared an endangered species in 1989, and having the ivory trade universally banned, for example, is STILL earning the NGOs that contrived these decisions, millions of US dollars every year. They tell their gullible publics that they need their donations to maintain the status quo.

And do you know just how easy it is to bribe a South American delegate to vote in a particular way about an issue “out of Africa?” or “out of Canada!”

In 1987, I questioned two different African CITES delegates who openly told me that all their expenses – return air tickets; ground transport; hotel accommodations; food and bar bills – even their ladies-of-the-night bills - had been paid by an NGO. The only cost had been their vote at the end of the day.

A large number of the NGOs are animal rightists – whose purpose in life, remember, is to ABOLISH all animal “uses” (including wildlife trade). This begs the question: Why do animal rightist NGOs choose to become accredited to CITES – the function of which is to REGULATE the wildlife trade? The answer is obvious… in order to sabotage the convention. The more success they achieve at CITES – at blocking pro-animal-use proposals - the greater becomes their monetary donations when they return home triumphant. They cannot and WILL NOT, therefore, be persuaded to support ANY “pro-sustainable-use” argument because for them to do so is financial suicide.

CITES came into being in 1975 with all the best intentions in the world; and most sovereign states honestly and openly aligned themselves with CITES because they genuinely wanted to help ‘make it work’. In the last 35 years, however, CITES has allowed itself to be corrupted by its NGO accreditation rules; and the animal rightists have made CITES the most powerful weapon in their arsenal. CITES is, now, a dismally failed ‘good idea’ experiment.

The Minister feels that she has laid the foundation for a successful bid at the next CITES meeting, for South Africa and a consumer country in the Far East, to open up a transparent international trade in rhino horn – and, I must add, hopefully, elephant ivory, too. Nobody would be more delighted than me if she can achieve this.

I have a feeling, however, that she does not fully appreciate the way CITES works. And, with her intentions now laid bare, she has given the animal rights NGOs three years to plan their sabotage. We must not underestimate their power to succeed.

The animal rights NGOs at CITES had the Secretary General of CITES, Eugene Lapointe, fired from his position in 1989 for “exceeding his authority”. And all he did was to warn the delegates that the only way they could declare the elephant to be an endangered species, and to have an international ivory trade ban imposed, was if they broke the articles (the rules) of CITES... which is exactly what they did!
Two years later, the U.N. exonerated Lapointe, but by then he had lost his job and the animal rightists had gained a major victory.

Now I have to discuss human population trends in Africa; and how this is likely to impact on your plans.

U.N. statistics tell us that in the year 1900 there were 95.9 million people living in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. By the year 2000 there were 622 million – despite the effect of HIV and AIDS. And by the end of this century the number will exceed 2,5 billion.

And there will be two-and-a-half times as many people in South Africa, by 2050, as there are today.

I now wish to refer you to the diagram entitled: MASLOW’s HIERARCHY OF HUMAN NEEDS. For those of you already well versed in Maslow’s hierarchy, please bear with me.

Maslow, a modern psychologist, determined that man strives constantly to satisfy various needs. These he arranged into two groups. The first he classified as being instinctive physiological needs - or lower order needs. Animal needs, if you like. They are associated purely with individual man’s survival. They are his basic living needs for air, water, food, shelter and warmth; and to satisfy his sexual urges.

The second group he classified as being learned or ‘higher order’ needs. He allocated to them a hierarchy of priority because he realised that it was not possible for man to satisfy any one of them until those that came before had themselves been gratified. This group comprises man’s need (1) for safety; (2) for love and affiliation; (3) for esteem – and the esteem of others; and (4) for self actualization. And the higher he ascends this scale so the quality of his life improves. This allows us to confidently conceive various patterns of human behaviour.

Maslow’s theory quite neatly explains what is happening within the rhino poaching saga in South Africa today.

A person who lives in the lower level of this hierarchy, will risk everything, even his life, to obtain food and water if, without them, his survival is at risk. And those who are hooked into this lower level of society are desperate people.

Only when man can satisfy his physiological needs, and when he is truly safe, will he seek to affiliate with other people. This is when he begins to satisfy what we might call his “social” needs.

And so he can progress up the scale. “Self-actualisation” is the pinnacle of man’s achievements. Self-actualisation for a person means to accomplish and achieve his dreams and his ultimate individual potential.

This human behaviour pattern is applicable all over the world, and it is culture based in every society.

My explanation, however, does not have to worry too much about the learned behaviour syndrome levels. I want us to focus on the bottom rung of the ladder – that segment of society where life is reduced to an instinct to survive.

In South Africa, currently, 4 adults out of 10 are unemployed. How they survive without a means of earning a living I have no idea. Most of them are desperate. In actual numbers, 20 million people in South Africa have been reduced to this lowest level of our society. And every year young adult South Africans add to this growing echelon of desperate people.

This is the root cause of the high level of crime in South Africa; of the gang rapes and murders of our young women; of the high rate of murders; and it is from this segment of society that our commercial poachers come.

Sure, there may be a mafia-type leadership to the poaching problem, too, but the mafia bosses don’t have far to go to find as many willing and desperate foot soldiers as they need to do the physical dirty work for them.

Kruger National Park is surrounded by rural communities that fall into this desperate category of people. There the mafia has no trouble finding willing helpers.

I find it encouraging that the Minister, Mrs Molewa, recognises this syndrome;
and that she understands that it is the poverty and unemployment of Kruger’s
neighbour communities that cause them to support the poaching mafia.

When we extrapolate these facts to the year 2100, if nothing changes in the employment stakes, there will 1000 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, who will comprise this same category of desperate people. South Africa’s population will then number 200 million of which 80 million will fall into this group.

What chance will anyone have, then, of ‘saving’ ANY of Africa’s wildlife – let alone our rhinos?

This is the second “proximate cause” of the rhino poaching pandemic; and it is the most important one. It is more important than even the high value of the horn.

The solution, of course, is to provide employment - to enable people to rise out of that physiological level of existence. This is something that you game ranchers cannot do a thing about. It is government’s job – NOT to provide employment - but to create the conditions necessary for the private sector to flourish and for the private sector to produce jobs.

Kruger National Park is in a different situation to YOU. By integrating the needs of the national park, with the needs of the people who live in the rural communities surrounding the park, poverty can be relieved and employment can be created. I have a formula for just such a development - AWIP - but this is not the time nor the place for me to expand on that now. Suffice it to say that I believe solving the rhino poaching problem in Kruger is potentially much easier than solving the problem on private game ranches. The solutions are very different!

I see the ultimate solution to combating the rhino poaching problem on game ranches as, simply, beefing up security. And the extra expense could be paid for by farming rhinos and selling their horns. If this is correct, it would not be in the best interests of the rhino owners to flood the market with South Africa’s stockpile of horns - and to thus reduce the price of rhino horn. You will need all the money that you can get for security in the future. These are the kinds of paradoxes - “alternate realities” - that you will have to ponder and make decisions about.

There is no doubt that South African game ranchers know what they are doing and, despite the gloomy picture I have painted - about the human population dynamics in Africa - you will still have a bright future if left to your own devices. You will not realise your potentials, however, unless government gives you more freedom of action; and unless the nature conservation authorities become holistically supportive. As I said before, there is a great deal of work to be done in this context.

You need to take full cognizance of the realities of national wildlife cultures; the fact that different nations will not understand or accept the way South Africans undertake their game ranching practices; and that subtle political and cultural pressures might already be afoot to undermine your efforts at CITES. Like CITES, the USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) has been heavily infiltrated by the animal rightists for many years. The UFSWS, therefore, is not your friend and could be a very bad enemy.

Forgive me for being cynical. Animal rightists and their fellow travellers do not care for the truth. They also do not truly care for the African elephant - except that it has served as an excellent meal ticket. The plight of the rhino is now their next big meal ticket; and you can count on them vigorously opposing any action that threatens the public perception they wish to spread - namely that a legal trade in rhino horn will be the death knell of our rhinos.

In a world dominated by animal rights duplicity, the perception they contrive and project is all important to their programmes; while the truth is – as Al Gore once said – inconvenient.
I believe the game ranching industry, the hunter associations, AND the nature-loving people of this country, have no idea what the animal rightists have been doing here over the last 30 years. Everybody has tended to laugh them off. A grave mistake! In blissful ignorance, we have not understood that they are at war with us and that their aim is to destroy everything that we believe in. Furthermore, they are winning.

We have ALL been wrong in not working, collectively, to remove this canker from our society; and now our day of reckoning is upon us. We are beginning to understand … now that we feel their bite.... particularly through CITES. And we will feel it more acutely at the next CITES meeting.

CITES has never supplied the benefits it promised in 1975; and its systems are NOW too corrupted for ANY responsible nation to WANT to continue to let CITES control its wildlife trade. CITES is an impediment to responsible wildlife management practices world-wide; especially in South Africa.

The only way that CITES can redeem itself, is by changing its NGO accreditation rules; thereby to purge itself of all animal rights influence. And this, I believe, is something that Minister Molewa should be encouraged by YOU to initiate. Canada, Norway, Iceland and Japan – all serious victims of animal rights abuses at CITES (and elsewhere) – will support us.

The Minister has set in motion a chain of events that she believes will, ultimately, bring about the international rhino horn market that we deem, rightly or wrongly, to be desirable. I believe she should, at the same time, demand of CITES that all its NGO accreditations be reviewed; and that only those NGOs that agree to endorse their support for the World Conservation Strategy be allowed future accreditation. The IUCN has used this procedure, in 1986, to weed out these same undesirable animal rightist elements from becoming members of the IUCN. They also have no right to be members of CITES.

Recently British Airways advised us that the airline will no longer carry hunting rifles into South Africa. Make no mistake the hand of an animal rightist was at the helm of this development – even though the official reason was ascribed to economics. And if other airlines follow suit, THIS blossoming industry - in one fell stoke - will become defunct.

Whatever we “sustainable-wildlife-users” do we have to contend with animal rightists putting spanners in the works. And each year they get stronger.

I have been sent extracts of face-book pages, blogs, twitters, and other arms of the social media that tell me the animal rights activists are stretching their tentacles into every walk of life all over the world. And they are WINNING the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Why? Because they have no opposition!

If we are to have any chance of winning this war, then we have to enter this fight – RIGHT NOW! There are many things that we can and should do. My hope is that we will all put our collective heads together and produce some clear-thinking strategies. These strategies can be enacted through an organ I am promoting – an NGO I call “TRUE GREEN.”

TRUE GREEN will be there to serve YOUR interests, and to marginalise animal rightist opinion within our society. It will, however, need investment and it will need your support as individuals, both financially and in terms of your drive and passion to make it succeed.

The best investment you can make, as individuals, and as an organisation, would be to create this TRUE GREEN NGO – and for YOU to use that organ to expunge this scourge within our society.

WRSA has had sight of the proposed manifesto!

TRUE GREEN’S motto, will be:
- Caring for our Country -
A strategy for sustainable living and a return to common sense.

My vision for TRUE GREEN is:
(1) PRINCIPALLY: to re-educate all South Africans towards understanding and embracing the concept, the wisdom and the desirability of sustainably using all our living resources – both domestic and wild; and

(2). To explain the iniquities and inappropriateness of the animal rights doctrine.
Within this body would reside the game ranching and hunting industries as part of the greater whole. It would also include the Red Meat Producers Association; Rainbow Chickens; Irvine & Johnson; Pick ‘n Pay; Checkers; and a whole lot more. I believe the majority of black South Africans would give it their moral support – because as livestock-owning, animal-using, meat-eating people, they will realise that THEY are targets just as much as you are.

TRUE GREEN would operate independently but within the parameters laid down by its Board of Directors; and on that board would be representatives of this industry. The NGO, therefore, would be an arm of your industry and it would be commissioned by you to operate in its best interests.

TRUE GREEN would not “fight” the animal rightists head on. It would negate their every utterance, and preempt them with sound scientific fact and wildlife management principle. Their opinions, therefore, would become worthless in the eyes of society. This, of course, would require education - for which we would call on government for financial support.

In this country, the animal rightists have had an open playing field on which to play, unopposed, for more than three decades. As a consequence, they are most definitely winning. We can change that. We can turn it around. We have the resources and the capacity to make this happen. My question to you is: “Do we have the will?”

Ron Thomson,
P.O. Box 452,
Kenton-on-Sea 6191.

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