Want to protect wildlife? Assign property rights and turn it into a commodity
Yet wallowing in self-righteousness following the destruction of her ivory stocks, Kenya will be in the vanguard at the forthcoming CITES meeting in Johannesburg of those supporting the intensification of the ban on both the international and domestic ivory trade and for the iconoclastic destruction of all stocks of ivory.
Wildlife conservation policy in international forums like CITES has been highjacked by an extremist, almost religious, alliance of animal welfare lobbyists who oppose any wildlife utilisation or trade. This will lead to an inevitable further decline of wildlife throughout Africa.
Like it or not, there is compelling evidence that wildlife in Africa flourishes, and more land is made available for it, where there are wider rather than narrower opportunities for economic utilisation; where ownership and user rights are more, rather than less, devolved to landowners and users; where wildlife-generated revenues are shared equitably and transparently between producers and consumers; and where the wildlife conservation authorities adopt an enabling rather than a purely enforcement and regulatory role.
In South Africa, where wildlife became fully fungible (in de Soto’s terms), wildlife numbers increased more than twenty times over the same period of time that protectionist Kenya lost 70% of hers.
It is indeed extraordinary that despite her totally abysmal record in conservation, Kenya is hailed as an exemplar by the international conservation community, while the South Africans, who have so successfully conserved and succoured their wildlife, are treated as pariahs.
These Ivory Wars championed by Kenya simply cannot be won: the required resources will never be mobilised, neither is there the political will, while the collateral damage within Africa becomes ever greater and more onerous. The only way forward is for an Ivory Peace: if Africa’s Asian friends and partners are willing to invest millions in infrastructure and natural resources development, they will also invest in elephant conservation and ivory production, so long as they are guaranteed in return a dependable, transparent and legal supply.
Both sides want the same thing, lots of elephants and lots of ivory — a very good starting point for meaningful negotiation. No peace process is easy, but if it can be achieved in South Africa then it should not be beyond the whit of mankind to achieve the same elsewhere.