INTERVIEW on POACHING in AFRICA BY LIV JAKOBSSON
Junior Researcher, Liv Jakobsson of Ellicott City, Maryland interviews HTAT Journeys Founder, Lori Souder on the consequences of poaching endangered wildlife in Africa.
POACHING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS by Liv Jakobsson
What is your position in this field?
I am a Conservation travel advisor to Africa. I started my company HTAT Journeys ( Here Today, Africa Tomorrow) as a way to get people up-close with Africa’s endangered wildlife and to inspire them through travel to Africa. HTAT safaris are designed to inspire & empower guests to become stewards of our natural world; and, to highlight the critical importance of community outreach, wildlife conservation and education that enable people & wildlife to thrive.
Can you state your opinion on poaching laws?
Poaching has a profound effect on wildlife across Africa. The international demand for ivory and rhino horn has resulted in catastrophic declines in the elephant and rhino populations in Kenya, Tanzania and throughout Africa. Therefore, the poaching laws need to have stiff penalties for convicted poachers. For instance, in Kenya poaching law may include $200,000 fines and long prison sentences. But, what may be making the biggest difference is having better trained patrols and wildlife rangers in the field to help deter poachers. Tourism actually helps with this too. The more tourists who visit areas with vulnerable wildlife means there are more eyes on the ground to watch out for the animals.
Do you think more coverage by the media and entertainment would help educate people about poaching and make an impact on reducing the purchase of poached items? Why?
Absolutely. WildAid does this very well, using stars as "AMBASSADORS".
For example: "WildAid enlists popular Asian, African and Western stars to spread the message about wildlife crime. Currently working with more than 100 ambassadors, WildAid delivers high-impact, culturally sensitive campaigns that reach hundreds of millions of people each year. WildAid ambassadors represent film, television, music, sports, politics, religion, business and more. WildAid programs persuade consumers not to buy illegal or unsustainable wildlife products, such as shark fin soup, ivory and rhino horn, and to make better transportation and food choices in order to reduce climate change impacts. They also build community support for conservation on the ground, and deploy new technologies to protect ecosystems."
Do you think poaching should be a unit taught in school? Why?
I think all schools should have different variations of Environmental Science Classes to help students to understand natural and human-caused processes in our environment that have positive and negative impact on our natural world. Poaching would be included as one of many ways humans have a negative effect on the environment. While humans greatly contribute to all sorts of environmental problems, education helps us to understand not only what those problems are, how we can solve them AND, BE A FORCE FOR GOOD!
How does poaching affect you and your community?
We are a GLOBAL COMMUNITY & poaching affects us all. We only have a finite number of animals on this planet... when they are gone, they are gone. Therefore, it is up to each one of us to care, to understand the problems and to think creatively about how we can help to educate others. Many individuals that poach animals are very very poor. They poach animals to eat because they are hungry. They poach animals because they are desperate for money to put their kids through school or to feed their family. Therefore, if someone offers them money to kill an elephant and collect the ivory they would do it to benefit their family. And, many times poaching happens because a wild animal is a nuisance. for example, a lion eating a herder's goat or an elephant trampling through a farmer's garden eating the vegetables that have taken so long to grow. It can be very frustrating to share your land with animals you are scared of or frustrated with.
Besides the animals and plants that are poached, what other types of animals and plants are affected by this illegal activity?
Elephants are considered a Keystone Species. "A keystone species is an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether." For instance, Elephants do a number of things that make life for smaller species easier. They make trails through dense jungles that other animals use. Their large footprints can create areas to collect water for small species to enjoy. During a drought, Elephants will dig holes with their tusks and trunks down to the water table, providing watering holes for many species like giraffe, lions, antelopes, zebras, birds etc... Elephants also act as nature's gardener, as they eat plants, then disperse their seeds in the poop and the seeds will germinate and grow into grasses or trees.
What made you decide to research and learn more about poaching?
I fell in love with Elephants when I saw them for the first time in Africa!
What kind of organizations do you recommend to donate or help?
There are many organizations that are doing good work in conservation. I especially like the work of Save The Elephants, because they not only study elephant behavior & focus on saving the species, but they support all sorts of programs that help people who live with Elephants, too.
What would you do to stop poaching?
I think one of the BIGGEST ways we can stop poaching is through education & supporting programs that give the local people who live with wildlife a better life, through providing jobs, educational opportunity for their children, tools to help them protect their land and livestock from predators and hungry elephants! It's important to remember we can not & will not save wildlife, until we meet the needs of the people who live with wildlife!
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