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IFAW column: World Rhino Day


Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), mourns the attitude that conservation is only a matter of numbers.

The Earth is not a warehouse.

And living, breathing animals are not inventory stock.

Rhinos are individual sentient beings that can feel and suffer. They are members of family groups and important parts of ecosystems.

It is true that each animal is a member of a species, and we need to conserve species.

But it is disturbing to hear pseudo-conservationists argue that we should focus solely on numbers, that only the size of animal populations matter. They largely ignore the complicated dynamics of ecosystem health, habitat range, and biodiversity.

It saddens me when I hear arguments that private management of farmed rhinos, elephants and lions constitutes an acceptable vision of conservation. Farmed wildlife is no longer wild, no longer an integral part of a diverse wild habitat.

Sadder still are the arguments that trophy hunting of these species is the only way to raise money to conserve the species.

Whether wild animals are farmed for trophy hunts or wildlife trade, killing animals to raise money to protect animals is not a conservation strategy. It is a lack of one.

Abandoning endangered animals to private owners who kill them to raise money is an utter abdication of government responsibility to uphold the common good. 

With rhino poaching in South Africa alone increasing by almost 10,000% since 2007, and an elephant killed every fifteen minutes for its ivory, it is time we look at comprehensive measures to stop poaching, stop trafficking and stop the demand for illegal wildlife products and trophies.

If we accept a vision of the world in which we, as people, are willing to share the planet with other species, I am confident we can find solutions for wild animals that also respect the legitimate rights of people.

If we reject the notion of sharing the planet, then we are headed towards an Earth as an inventoried warehouse.

In that moment, we will know that we have lost the battle.

World Rhino Day will be held on 22 September 2015. For more information go to www.worldrhinoday.org

For more information on IFAW go to www.ifaw.org