America supports Africa making its own wildlife choices

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Some Lions in South Luangwa National Park, Photo: Wildlife Extra

By Emmanuel Koro

The Star has learnt exclusively of the results of a just completed survey that Americans support a policy that lets African countries make their own decisions on wildlife matters. This follows a July 2018 survey on the US citizens’ feelings towards African wildlife management policy options.

The survey data clearly indicate that a large portion of the US population does not want US entities to use their power and influence to dictate how African countries deal with wildlife management issues. This result is in stark contrast to the current approach of major Western animal rights groups, according to the Ivory Education Institute (IEI), the sponsor of the survey. These organisations have repeatedly stated that concerted international effort is needed to impose Western wildlife policies on African wildlife range states to protect African wildlife from extinction.

Only 8.5 percent of the random sample in the American survey believes that Western organisations should attempt to advance their agenda on behalf of Africa’s wildlife.

More than two-thirds of Americans (69.5%) believe that “African nations should work together to make informed decisions about people and wildlife sharing land” on the continent. Interestingly, almost 39.5% of Americans say that their Government “should continue providing funding to save Africa’s wildlife” in areas where wildlife over-population is a major problem. American citizens would like their tax dollars to be devoted to either the sale of crowded species “to zoos or nature parks” (44.4%) or the purchase of “private lands on the borders of national parks.”

Elsewhere, 33.7% of survey participants said the “professionally-guided hunts” as well as “private for-profit ranching” of elephants (32.5%) were both sound ways to manage the problem of elephant over-population.

These survey findings come at a time when Africans are increasingly complaining that Western influence is negatively affecting their socioeconomic wellbeing and their efforts to save elephants.

IEI conducted the public opinion survey in order to try to determine what American citizens think about Western attempts to influence African wildlife policies. This is the first known effort to scientifically measure the feelings of American adults towards Western wildlife policy options in Africa.

The IEI survey revealed that about 15% of American citizens said that they “own something fashioned from or with ivory, bone or horn.”

“That suggests that about 50 million Americans — a huge number of taxpayers and voters — have a financial stake in whether all types of trade in any kind of ivory is banned for all time,” said Godfrey Harris, Managing Director of the IEI. “Almost half (46.5%) of American citizens said they are opposed to a blanket ban on all products made from ivory.” Less than 28.9% of Americans support the blanket ban on all ivory products while 24.5% are not yet sure how they feel about a ban.

“Our overall impression from the survey is that its information provides the IEI and other entities with a lot of new data to use in their continuing effort to improve the world’s understanding of the practical, decorative and cultural importance of ivory to the past as well as to the future,” said Mr Harris.

Citing other findings of the Survey, the IEI Managing Director, Mr Godfrey Harris, said: “A large number of Americans (45%) do not support the United States’ unilateral intervention to protect wild animals in Africa at all costs.” Another 38.6% believe that the USA should work together with the United Nations (CITES), in order determine how African nations should manage their wildlife resources.

The IEI plans to conduct a second survey focusing on the sharing of land between wildlife in national parks and the rural communities that border national parks and game reserves. This follows the findings that the American citizens surprisingly, do not have much understanding of the plight of human beings living in areas where there is a wildlife over-crowding problem that in turn results in increased human-wildlife conflict, posing a threat to the wellbeing of both humans and wildlife.

“This is an area in which Americans are not knowledgeable, and which could have a major bearing on future American wildlife policy in Africa,” said Mr Harris.

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