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  • Writer's pictureGrant McLachlan - Stuff - Column

Endangered species need war

If world leaders are serious about eliminating poaching of endangered species then they need to declare war on the poachers.

Conservation is about killing. Protecting habitats and animals is often about pest control and prevention of human encroachment. Poachers and illegal logging are the worst offenders.

The survival of many of the most endangered species – from gorillas and orangutans to rhinos, elephants, tigers and lions – rely on the limited resources of rangers from the poorest nations fending off heavily armed poachers and armed criminals.

Poachers hunt animals, but fight rangers with guerrilla-style methods. Often they use hi-tech motion sensors, sniper rifles, and large-bore rifles to hunt their prey, but are equipped with automatic weapons and explosives to fight law enforcement.

The problem should not be left to the developing countries where these species live. Nor should it be left to non-government organisations to promote conservation. The World Wild Fund for Nature is a charity organisation and does not have a mandate to enforce international or domestic laws.

Poachers are a criminal, militarised network that terrorise rangers. Last year in Kenya hundreds of park rangers were shot, resulting in 13 deaths.

In Tanzania, where more than 1000 rangers were killed in the past decade, the war against poachers has reached the point where a government minister has urged that poachers be shot.

Clearly, park rangers need the support of other countries. The United Nations should be the obvious choice to help. But it doesn't.

The United Nations Environment Programme, whose role is "environmental governance" of "marine and terrestrial ecosystems," is more concerned with promoting electric cars in Africa.

Unesco can declare the national parks as World Heritage Sites but won't protect the flora and fauna.

In short, there needs to be a United Nations ranger service staffed by UN-mandated military personnel. Special forces, who are trained in guerrilla warfare, are ideally suited to track down poachers.

We can no longer cower behind the argument that the demand for poached animal parts is the key. Education programmes won't re-educate those who believe in mystical properties of wild animal parts.

The eradication of poachers, illegal loggers, and the illegal trade in endangered species can only be achieved by overwhelming enforcement. The global community needs to get serious by declaring war on poachers.

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