Friday, March 22, 2013

Video: Hunting and Bubye Valley Conservancy (Zimbabwe)

A very interesting video that deconstructs the logic of incentive, land use priorities and conservation, in a very clear manner. Lions saving rhinos and a whole set of interrelated management symbiosis. It is seldom these stories that we see on social media and ones that should perhaps be occasionally inserted between the strident calls to save wildlife, the calls that appear to infrequently extend beyond cyberspace.
There is room for critical discussion here, of course, but the process is undeniably a useful one.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Controversy: Timbavati Rhino Hunting (South Africa)

This is an open letter from Timbavati Game Reserve Chairman Tom Hancock regarding the limited hunting of selected rhino in that reserve. A recent controversy erupted when it was ‘discovered’ (although it has proceeded quite openly for years) that amidst the current and alarming rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, white rhinos were being legally hunted in this flagship reserve along the western boundary of Kruger National Park. Accusations flew and social media exploded with vitriol.

1)      Should an individual’s personal revulsion to rhino hunting translate into ban or cessation? I understand someone’s personal aversion to hunting, or hunters, but do these sentiments equate to sound conservation polices? Ironically, some of the most respected and erudite conservationists say no, antipathy to rhino hunting should not translate into bans because properly conducted it is a tool that has served the species very well.

2)      It is clear that illegal horn traders have fronted as ‘legitimate’ clients with shady outfitters and there is no doubt that this ‘loophole’ is a serious threat to the industry and credible conduct. I agree that this is a serious problem, driving any current benefits towards a zero sum outcome.

The letter makes their case quite simply. Draw your own conclusions:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Myth Busting: Ammunition Impact and Fire Safety.

‘Sporting firearm ammunition is less of a risk to firefighters than many other household products’.

I had seen the short version of this SAAMI training video before (essentially the trailer) but not this highly informative version. Possibly the best antidote to the common myths that ammunition will create a ‘bomb’ if subjected to heat or impact is that in the absence of a chamber and means for a gas-seal, the effectiveness of ammo is massively reduced. Note how even a primer popping out in some of the examples is enough to prevent the bullet from exiting an unsupported, fired cartridge. This is not to say reloaders and shooters should not store ammo, powder and primers  lawfully and with care, but it is useful in understanding the physics of detonation and projectiles. They really did burn up a lot of ammunition!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: "Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada" by R. Blake Brown

The value in books like “Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada” by R. Blake Brown lies in their potential contribution to civic and political debates about firearm legislation and the civil discourse on ‘gun-politics’. For this reason I can highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to further arm themselves with a meaningful and coherent foundation in the history and development of Canadian firearm legislation. Obviously Canadians will primarily benefit from this book but many of the associated issues are universal and the legal details are similar to other jurisdictions.

Brown (Associate Professor of History at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, N.S.), has neatly collated a treatise of Canadian firearm law history from pre-Confederation through to the contemporary, ongoing debates subsequent to Bill C-68. The book is a research work and as such is not intended to be a source of ‘entertainment’. That said it is not nearly as dryly academic as one would expect from a journal article for example and is peppered throughout with interesting quotes, anecdotes and art from news media, citizens and politicians. He gives thorough treatment to varied issues ranging from state support for rifle skills through to the emergence of sophisticated gun-control and gun-owners lobby groups at work in Canada today. Along the way he deals with issues such as early state sanctioned firearm ownership, concerns over youth and firearms, early disarmament schemes that were xenophobic, racist and classist, Canada’s early forms of registration and the evolution of licensing and modern legislative requirements.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: "Game Changer- Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa's Wildlife" by Glen Martin.

They tell of the baby elephant that was saved in a specific locale, but they don’t tell of the scores of other elephants in the region that were killed because of crop depredation or land tenure disputes. IFAW’s methods have thus proved effective in saving individual elephants, and for this their strategy is sound. Setting up elephant rescue centres is doable. But the larger mission implied in their work – “saving” Africa’s elephants – remains unfulfilled and may in fact be sabotaged by IFAW’s own work. The lavishing of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the suckling of baby elephants while locals see their maize crops razed and their cattle stomped flat by irrate pachyderms sends the familiar, loud , and dissonant message to rural Africans: too bad about you; this cute little elephant comes first.(Glen Martin, pg 200).

Alongside biology, pecuniary incentives and conservation sociology are ever more important core foundations in wildlife management and in the efforts to conserve Africa’s – and the planets’- wildlife. In Game Changer: Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa’s Wildlife, Glen Martin provides a thought provoking analysis of what he describes as the ‘ascendancy of animal rights based conservation policy’ and how it is driving the decline of many of Africa’s great game populations. The apotheosizing of Africa’s mega fauna as ‘untouchable’ has had perverse outcomes in many areas once rich in wildlife. While the reasons for decline in wildlife can stem from poaching, Malthusian population expansion and agrarian conflict, Martin highlights exactly how and why a hands-off legislative approach further compounds these threats and often provides a disincentive for local-level conservation efforts. If the people that live with and share the landscape with wildlife are divorced from conservation decision making processes, denied compensation for wildlife conflicts, edged out of wildlife-based incomes and generally  shut-off from legal and sustainable use they not only lose conservation incentives but often see wildlife as a menace to other land-based livelihoods. Simply put, the old adage of ‘if it pays it stays’, albeit often bandied about a bit casually, often underpins the most effective conservation policy.