The probability of mankind being able to maintain the diversity of wild animal and wild plant life – for which purpose these national parks were set aside – is now highly questionable. Finally, if wildlife in Africa is to survive this generation – let alone the next one – then satisfying the very real needs of the African rural communities on the boundaries of national parks must become a principal ingredient of future national park management policies.
Man has been left out of Africa’s wildlife management equation for far too long and the result is clearly evident: poaching to the point of extinction in many cases of commercially viable elephant and black rhino populations that once thrived with the “protected” boundaries of most major national parks. The message is clear. Without the emotional ownership and support of local rural communities, national parks cannot protect Africa’s priceless world heritage – its wildlife.
As human numbers increase (they now are doubling every 20-25 years in Africa), so the pressures on Africa’s wildlife resources will increase, too. It is imperative that the people living on the boundaries of Africa’s national parks – cheek-to-jowl with dangerous wild animals that constantly threaten their lives and their livelihood without compensation – be given realistic and tangible benefits from the use of “their” wild animals. And the best way this can be achieved – with the least impact on the non-consumptive tourism use of these national parks is by way of selectively hunting the trophy bulls, even within national park boundaries.
There is a conflict of interest in this regard, however, because gameviewing tourists like to see the big tuckers, and these are the elephants that are most sought by safari hunters. Nevertheless, there are many solutions to this problem, and it can be resolved if there is genuine communication between national park authorities and leaders of the safari hunting industry. The alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. There will be an increase in poaching over time, resulting in the gradual elimination of all big-tusked elephants in Africa’s national parks, as has happened in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. And there will be a major reduction of even small-tusked animals.