Protecting the greatest treasure of the world

Works of art are protected day and night by security guards, safeguarding our collective human cultural achievements in most of the world’s museums, art galleries, and memorials and yet when it comes to other works of art – those formed by nature – there is seldom a guard in sight.

For the past couple of decades the population of chimps, gorillas and other apes has declined in areas of the world where there is no security force to protect them. Meanwhile, parks and wildlife reserves, which do have a security force, have seen populations stabilize. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda are all examples of parks with security patrols that have not only stabilized the population of these animals but have also seen the population increase.

We, as human beings, need to train and deploy more security guards and patrols to protect animals from poachers. This need is greater today than it was ever before in history, last November the African Western Black Rhino was officially declared extinct. Half of Africa’s elephants have been killed since 1987 for the ivory trade. In South Africa, the number of rhinos poached since the start of the year is now at 210, with 127 rhinos lost in Kruger National Park.

The most basic and logical solution to poaching is constant patrols, and the involvement of the local community. Efforts to stop poaching in South Africa are showing some positive effects – the number of arrests is continuing to climb. However, the number is more of a reflection of increased poaching activity than more enforcement. More guards and more patrols cost more money and with many countries in Africa already struggling, their needs to me more international support. Currently, most support comes from nongovernmental organizations, private donors, and foreign state agencies such as the US Agency for International Development and the US Fish and Wildlife Service but even it is not enough. More governments need to increase their contributions to the global cause of protecting animals from poachers. One government in particular, the Spanish government, recently caught a lot of negative publicity for the accident that King Juan Carlos had while hunting elephants in Botswana.

60% of the rhino population was killed illegally between 2003 and 2005 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while 67% of the rhino population was killed in Zimbabwe. These rhinos were killed, and their horns made it to illegal markets in Asia and the Middle East where they are used to make traditional medicine.

South Africa has recently set up a wildlife crime unit to combat the rise of rhino poaching. This unit has the task of investigating the smuggling of wildlife and wildlife products but this is not the correct solution. This special unit is not protecting these animals, the unit only worries about catching smugglers.

We need to help provide the resources and money to secure the greatest works of art in the world. If we fail, countless more species will be extinguished from this world. The products of millions of years of evolution should not die off due to a lack of resources.


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