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Chris Bakkes talks about Rhino poaching, hunting & good news from Namibia

Wildlife Extra has posed a few questions for Chris Bakkes about rhino poaching and hunting.

Chris Bakkes has a wealth of experience in the fields of conservation and safari leading. Most of this experience has been gained in South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Namibia. He worked as a ranger for the Kruger National Park but, following an encounter with a crocodile, which resulted in Chris losing an arm, he travelled through Africa and then went on to manage a conservation project in Namibia funded by WWF.

  • We all know about the problems in Zimbabwe, but there has been a desperate surge in rhino poaching in South Africa this year, how can this be stopped? - Effective community based conservation. Once the local communities are on the side of the wildlife, they will act as a buffer between wildlife and influences on the outside. When loacal communities see benefits from wildlife through tourism and when they are actively involved in the process of conservation and tourism, will they regard wildlife and natural resources as a valuable asset. Paramilitary anti-poaching operations has only proven effective in severe emergencies.
  • I have heard a story, which maybe apocryphal but came from a good source, about a large American gentleman being charged tens of thousands of dollars to shoot a rhino that was already dead. The hunter had turned up to shoot the best having paid a large amount for the perverted pleasure, but when the trackers found the animal it had just died from natural causes. Not wanting to lose their revenue, the company in question marched the pervert all around the bush until he was exhausted, before brining him to the spot where the already dead beast had been propped up slightly. This seems an ideal way to relieve these idiots of their cash which can then be put to a good cause. Of course the extension of this argument is allowing people to pay vast amounts to shoot old ‘useless' animals that are still alive. The sad fact is that when this wildlife has a price put on its head, it may well help its conservation. Should hunting be allowed at all? - I have no knowledge of such an incident. Hunting has its place. Certain rural areas are not suitable for non-consumptive tourism. If hunting is done ethically and correctly, and it's well controlled it can benefit local communities.
  • As wealth increases in the Far East, demand for rhino horn will inexorably grow. Do we either need to post an armed guard on every rhino, or remove all their horns, thus reducing the incentive to kill them while increasing the funds available to fight wildlife crime? - Every country's conservation authorities must be placed on alert. They must be properly trained, disciplined and mobilised. Community conservationists in the area should also be on stand-by. Every country must combat the problem from within.
  • Rhino poaching is the most publicised wildlife crisis in Southern Africa, what other major issues are there that we should know more about. - There are so many environmental issues that needs attention. The protection of rare and endagered species is definitely a priority.
  • Despite all the doom and gloom, tell us some good news. - Black rhino, elephant and lion numbers are on the increase in north-western Namibia.

Our Thanks the Chris Bakkes.