Recently, Mr. President Sir, as I was deeply engaged in trying to unravel the mystery of our disappearing wildlife gems, I came across some startling revelations that I really feel I should bring to your attention.
Sir, as I crunched data, from sources I considered highly credible, I grew more and more concerned with every waking day that very soon, if we do not do something monumental about poaching, we might as well bid farewell to the mighty jumbos of Africa, like we did with their ice age ancestors millennia ago.
I shudder, sir, to imagine that future generations, in a time not too far away, will only behold the splendour and beauty of the mighty rhino and elephant in books – never again in the wild.
Allow me, for a few minutes to be your personal conservation adviser as I try very hard to find a solution to arresting this wanton destruction of our priceless heritage that you very well know has made us famous the world over.
It is Big Business that Requires Big Muscles to Stop
Wildlife hunting in general is big business. It is estimated that illegal poaching trade in Africa is worth USD 17 billion annually and it is not growing any smaller. The AK47 is the poacher’s weapon of choice, when he is not using watermelons laden with Cyanide. I have since established that most of the preliminary scouting for ‘viable stock’, is done by helicopter, so it is a game for the big boys.
It is a business well beyond the control of many that would want to put an end to it. We need big voices making big statements in big places if we are to put a stop to this. This is where you come in sir. You have a big office, a big voice and you visit big places where you can make big statements against poaching.
Poaching Makes No Business Sense
Mr. President, even if we were to shed our humanity for a moment and look at the situation purely from an economic point of view, poaching would still not make business sense. Data I have obtained indicates that for every tusk sold, the poacher only gets USD 240.00 while the same tusk fetches a staggering USD 2,000.00 in the east. This is a terrible Balance of Trade situation!
Mr. President, it will only keep us singing the same old primary-producer-state song we have sung over the decades for not adding value to our primary products. We toil and moil in the fields only to fetch poor farm-gate prices while the guys in the middle and at the top smile all the way to the bank.
I have a better suggestion sir – the life expectancy of a jumbo, ceteris paribus, is between 60 and 70 years. It costs, on average, about KES 1,800.00 per person to visit our revered parks, considering KWS’ 2014 conservation fees. After developing an extrapolation model for expected park visitor numbers for 2014, using numbers for the last 13 years since 1996 provided by our guys at the open data project, I arrived at an expected 2.6 million visitors this year, if all goes well.
This would give us an estimated KES 4.6 billion in revenue every year. Multiplying that by the average life expectancy of a Jumbo gives juicy figures that would make you and I, and many other Kenyans of goodwill, smile all the way to the bank. Clearly sir, it is better for our economy if that Elephant lived!
There are Local Myths that Need to be Rooted Out
I came across a recent study cited by The Times which found that of the 1.4 billion Chinese (WordPopulationReview.com, 2014) who are the highest consumers of ivory, less than a third surveyed knew that elephants are killed for their tusks. A separate study showed that 70% of them think the tusks grow back like fingernails.
The situation gets more absurd sir. I hear there is a common myth doing the rounds there that the tusks shipped to the east from Africa normally fall-off the jumbos naturally – in other words, a gift from nature!
If you can use your big voice to help demystify such myths in those big places you go to meet with those other big people, perhaps you could generate sympathy that would stop this slaughter as more Chinese become aware of the cruelty behind their priced jewellery.
Imposing Stiff Penalties Seems to Work
Mr. President, I have nothing to add on this except to say kudos on the new bill and to encourage you to keep up the good work. Is there a possibility of making the punishment slightly stiffer though?
It would also be nice if the prosecution figures went up a bit. A source I found indicates that of the 157 poaching-related cases detected in Kenya in the past 3 years, less than 5% have been prosecuted and only 3 of those convicted were sentenced to jail. If this information is true, that is not a good picture to convey to the world about our seriousness to fight poaching. Do you suppose something can be done to change the situation perhaps?
Setting a Fiery Example Seems to Send the Right Message
I think here there is not much to say as well since it seems a few good things we did a while ago when we first set 10 tonnes of ivory on fire in 1989, sent out a clear message to the global community about where we stood on the matter.
The act is actually now being emulated elsewhere with the recent one in November 2013 coming from the other big voice from the US when he (Obama) ordered that 5.4 tonnes of ivory in the country be destroyed by fire! That is really good!
But other wisdom I have also gathered around reminds me that prevention is better than cure. If we can prevent the deaths in the first place, then such huge ivory fires might not be necessary.
Your Excellency sir, this is all I have for now. I am very certain in my heart that all is not lost and that it is possible with the right voices spoken in the right places to the right people to once again grow our wildlife numbers to the glorious figures we enjoyed at the beginning of the 20th century when, for instance, a few million African elephants roamed our wild Savannahs.
Today, there are an estimated 450,000-700,000 African elephants remaining and these are being decimated at an alarming rate, mainly through poaching. It is said that poachers in Africa are killing between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants annually – meaning that about 104 die a day but with your big voice and big words that you normally speak in those big places, I have confidence in you that all shall be well and elephants are here to stay.