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Liz Bennett, Wildlife Conservation Society

What we’re essentially doing is creating what’s known as the empty forest syndrome. And this means that we’re getting forests, which look fantastic.

They’re full of wonderful trees but they’re losing their wildlife from inside them because it’s being hunted out. And that means that we’re losing pollinators, disperses, browsers and that’s likely to have a domino effect within the forest and will cause other species to go too, including species which are very important for medicines, for timber.

So if we lose those animals the wider repercussions for the whole ecosystem could be very significant indeed and we don’t know the full ramifications of it.

Steve Osofsky, Wildlife Conservation Society

We asked farmers who want to participate in this essentially a cooperative approach to agricultural marketing to forego snaring and to forego poaching.

And since we’ve done this we’ve had over 30,000 snares turned over. Hundreds of guns have been turned in because farmers have seen that by new ways of managing their agricultural output and new marketing strategies they don’t need to poach.

Poaching is a food security issue. And even the term poaching is a loaded one. It’s something people need to do when they’re’ starving,when they need to feed their families.

As temperatures rise across this landlocked southern African nation, pastures for livestock dry up and rural villages begin to suffer. Human migration into cities intensifies and unemployment and poverty deepen.

Animals suffer too — hungry elephants invade farms in search of food, bringing them into conflict with desperate farmers. But the heat and drought is not the only challenge Africa's wildlife face. Their biggest threat comes from poachers — even those who turned in their guns in the Luangwa Valley of Zambia.

Luangwa Valley of Zambia

Elephants in Luangwa, Zambia

The nightmare of slaughter is global. Animals captured or killed in Asia or Africa can find its way to buyers in New York, London and Shanghai within hours. It’s an endless cycle of death driven by hunger, poverty and often anger.

When drought and famine overwhelmed the local farmers, the valley became less like a wildlife preserve and more like a war zone.

Fortunately there are glimmers of hope. In the African nation of Zambia, there is a model program that demonstrates how small initiatives can lead to global solutions.

Thirty-five years ago, the Luangwa Valley was rich in wildlife — a 3,000 square mile protected sanctuary for about 90,000 elephants. But when drought and famine overwhelmed the local farmers, the valley became less like a wildlife preserve and more like a war zone. Within a few decades, the elephant population was poached down to fewer than 15,000. And as unemployment and poverty deepened, elephants continued to be slaughtered at the rate of over a thousand a year.

To stop the illegal sale of body parts, organizers from the Wildlife Conservation Society realized that the rural poor needed economic incentives before they would give up poaching. But there was one condition; they had to turn in their snares and guns.

Farmers in the Luangwa Valley

Farmers in the Luangwa Valley

The results are impressive. In three years 16,000 farmers have achieved food security, wildlife is coming back and the elephant population is increasing. The economic benefits of eco-tourism are on the rise as visitor flock to the valley to experience the rebirth of one of Africa’s most bountiful wildlife habitats.


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Read more about The State of the Planet’s Wildlife:
Introduction | Montana | The Everglades | Zambia

 

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