By Luckmore Safuli
Wildlife-rich rural communities in Southern Africa joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2021 World Wildlife Day on Wednesday at a time there are strong calls for communities to unite and take the fight against Western animal rights activists to the International Court of Justice.
Many rural communities continue to bear the burden of living alongside often dangerous animals. On the 3rd of March each year the world observes World Wildlife Day but for the villagers each passing day is Wildlife Day as they have to endure the fear of being killed by wild animals. If they survive the attacks, their crops might not be lucky after all as crops in fields are invaded by animals regularly.
While the villagers play a cat-and-mouse game with dangerous animals just for the right to survive, their fate is decided across oceans in countries whose people abused and exhausted their own wildlife resources by the end of the 19th century.
Animal rights activists in Western countries are not concerned about the lives of the poor villagers; in their own eyes the African villagers are lesser mortals and their role is to die so as to save animals. The so-called animal rights groups are eager to deny the communities the right to derive benefit from the wildlife resources by campaigning for the banning of trophy hunting and trade in ivory.
Fed-up with the injustice and harm being caused by Western animal rights activists, Limpopo Province-based natural resource-rich Makuya hunting community has appealed to other communities in SADC to join hands and take the fight against the animal rights activists to the International Court of Justice.
“We invite the SADC communities including the South African communities who have already approached us, to unite so that we can take this case against animal rights groups at CITES and United Nations level.
“Should we take the issue to the level of CITES, UN and International Court of Justice and fail, we will be left with no option but to turn our national parks into farming or mining areas,” says Esther Netshivhongweni of Makuya Hunting Community.
Johannesburg-based Environment Journalist Emmanuel Koro strongly believes communities’ rights to sustainably utilise their land and wildlife resources which are enshrined in international and national laws should not be undermined by the powerful animal rights groups.
“In a way it’s the poachers and the animal rights activists who are benefiting from in an anti-wildlife trade environment that we are in right now. Therefore, all African governments, regional conservationists, African NGOs and the public should support Makuya Community’s call to take the fight against the animal rights activists to the International Court of Justice, United Nations General Assembly and the UN wildlife agency, CITES,” said Koro.
Painted Dog Conservation Chairperson Mr Jerry Gotora says it is immoral for animal rights activists to deny impoverished African communities the right to exploit their God-given wildlife resources.
“The proposed move to take animal rights groups to International Court of Justice is justified. The communities who intend to take the rightists to the International Court of Justice are using morals not emotions, because it (wildlife) is a God-given resource which no one should tamper with. Animal rights activists are trying to use emotions and there are failing to recognise that there is both science and morals,” said Gotora.
As the wildlife-rich Southern African communities deliberate on the proposed move to take animal rights activists to the International Court of Justice and as the United Nations member countries observe the World Wildlife Day the sad reality is the ban on wildlife trade coupled with the COVID-19 induced resource challenges have made the task of conserving Africa’s iconic species and habitats at difficult one.
It is a task Africans have to pay with their blood and poverty in the midst of wealth.