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From the editor.

Noted hunter and conservationist Ron Thomson has given a lot of thought to a new initiative which we mentioned in the last issue of African Hunter, called AWIP--the African Wildlife Initiative Programme. I n a published prospectus, Ron basically outlines a strategy lo protect Africa's national parks and wilderness areas from human encroaclunent and habitat loss, environmental degradation, and themselves. The current trends in rhino and elephant poaching are high profile, and have garnered their fair share of media attention, and these are the focus to illustrate the evils of commercial poaching; but how many of us sit back and complacently believe that the custodians of our natural history heritage--organs like CITES and the various government parks and wildlife departments--are not only doing their best to protect nature, and are obviously on the right track as regards their goals and objectives? I'm not so sure I do.

As Ron says "Nobody can rely upon CITES any more to provide responsible solutions to the world's wildlife problems". He believes this is because "it has allowed itself to be corrupted by its own defective accreditation mies", and he's right. In his model for AWIP, he chooses Zimbabwe as the ideal pilot country because of its changing political direction, and also of course it has an established, if somewhat tarnished, infrastructure and plenty of wilderness and wildlife. And. unlike South Africa, the national parks authority is not firmly in the hands of the animal rightists and related special interest groups. CITES' problem as well.

President Theodore Roosevelt will be most remembered for his soft speech and big stick, but he will always be credited with his efforts to promote conservation and expand and develop wilderness areas in the United States. And his name will be forever associated with the concept of sport hunting as a conservation tool. How many today remember his controversial term "nature fakers"? Even back in 1907, Roosevelt knew the difference between sound wildlife management principles and the overly-anthropomorphic view of nature promulgated by many of the day's most widely-read authors, and he coined the tenn in a public criticism of Jack London's sentimental natural history prose. Roosevelt marked such writers as objects of "derision" to true scientists and nature lovers, and--in character--was not shy about expounding on how he believed they deceived the well-intentioned but ignorant public. Sound familiar? Teddy Roosevelt vs PETA would be a thing of beauty to watch. Especially the "big stick" part. Trouble is, in South Africa and increasingly within CITES, the nature fakers are the power behind the conservation throne, and are oft the most conspicuous voice of "nature" in developed countries because of their sheer vociferousness, ludicrous public antics and the complacency or naivete of the general public who should know enough to research their own facts if they want lo hold an opinion. Oh, and their money, of course.

Bruce Thornton, in a recent essay for Stanford University's Defining Ideas comments "The 'nature' the sentimentalists described was not the real nature, but one conjured from old myths and imaginative projections of human ideals onto an inhuman natural world. Unfortunately, a century later 'nature fakers' are still promoting their sentimental myths about nature, only now with serious repercussions for our national interests and security."

Anthropomorphism is a facet of man's character. Our own feelings being the only reference point we have, it is only natural that we will ascribe them to other, less sophisticated, creatures. A koala bear is terminally cute, but the cuteness evaporates if you get close enough to let him rip your face off. A black mamba is one of the few snakes that is territorial in nature, and within its territory it will not back down. The biologist thinks in terms of territoriality and the nature faker thinks in terms of emotion--so the mamba now becomes inimical, aggressive.

I may laugh when PETA talks about a robotic groundhog for Groundhog Day celebrations in the 'States, and I'll be convulsed when they go on about the right to self-determination in fishes, but I will never doubt their sincerity--or that of the millions of folk out there who accept such philosophies as the right thing to do. Sadly, because of the way the rhetoric is presented, it is like as not confused with science.

All too many concepts of environmentalism that are taught in schools and adopted by governments and lauded by the media are nothing more than nature fakery, made all the more dangerous --to wildlife and wilderness areas--by the flawed varnish of science they are presented in. Lamarck, for example, held that as giraffes strived to feed on higher branches, they developed longer necks and this characteristic was passed on by heredity. In the next generation, Darwin concluded that random variation occurs within all species, and this variation produces individuals which are better suited to survive. Given that if I breed ten generations of bull mastiffs, and dock their tails, the eleventh generation will still be born with tails, Lamarck was wrong. But in their day, both Lamarck and Darwin were at the forefront in their fields, and the true science of evolution wasn't elucidated until genetics was well enough understood lo be seen as the mechanism. Bui Lamarckian principles are still being used as "science" today by the nature fakers lo justify their concepts of wildlife management.

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If PETA shows a gallery of photos of baby elephants--and there are few things in nature I would rather spend an hour watching--the dialogue will be punctuated with words like "adorable" and "cheerful", and will elucidate comments such as "Animals should NOT be held in captivity. Circuses (sic) or Zoos". And yet real science tells us that captive breeding projects are the only hope many species have for survival. Ron Thomson tells us that South Africa's national parks are carrying way over their sensible quota of elephants which is having a deleterious effect on natural vegetation and a ripple effect on most other species. Bui the only science known to the nature fakers behind the South African National Parks Board is that of gleaning financial support from the public with an anthropomorphic doctrine of "aww, ain't they cute. " Oh yes, in the end, it boils down lo the almighty dollar. And politics.

Al Gore's net worth, Thornton points out, has increased from $2 million (no wonder he lost in 2000) to $100 million. His advocacy of environmental issues has created a government-subsidised industry in green energy, and all the attendant investment opportunities. And many of the PMCs in Iraq were criticised for using US taxpayer funds as venture capital! Combine this with the fact that environmental issues, like gun control, are fairly safe political footballs, and the stage is set for all manner of unreasonable, unscientific wildlife management policies. What you have to remember is that it is the wildlife that suffers in the end. Ron Thomson's idea of culling elephant to maintain a realistic quota doesn't dovetail with "adorable baby elephants", but it is based on sound science.

Perhaps Zimbabwe is the best choice for a pilot AWIP programme, and perhaps it will be adopted across Africa in time. It may well be the only chance some species have for survival. And one of its cornerstones is sport hunting.

The African Hunter Magazine is published six times per annum as a service to the world-wide hunting fraternity. The magazine is dedicated to the conservation of the wildlife resources of Africa through practical management and sustainable utilization. We are committed to promoting ethical hunting practices based on the concept of fair chase, and the fostering of goodwill among all beneficiaries of these resources.

I. J. Larivers
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Author:Larivers, I.J.
Publication:African Hunter Magazine
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:May 1, 2012
Words:1277
Previous Article:On this cover: vol 17 no. 6--2012 Mwena Issue.
Next Article:On target.
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