Africa's wildlife is what sets the continent apart from the rest of the world. It is their best resource. With many areas tormented by political dispute, poverty and an on-going battle with the demon that is HIV, it seems that the people of Africa need to realise the significance of what remains. So why is it then that they can so easily be seen as passive in its destruction? On the 20th June the Department of Environmental Affairs for South Africa issued a press release that announced the total number of rhinos poached this year has risen to 428. Of these, a staggering 267 rhinos have been lost to poaching in Kruger National Park and at least 30 were poached in the province of Limpopo alone. The simple answer, in my opinion, is that most are not aware of the range of ways in which they can take advantage of what they have; to know and realise the importance of what remains of their indigenous wildlife.
The term conservation has many negative associations. Not all conservationists are occupying treetops with Greenpeace or splashing red paint on fashionistas brazenly wearing fur at London Fashion Week. In fact, most will more likely be caught checking mammal traps before dawn or lurking silently for days at a time just to photograph a migratory swallow that in 20 years may never be seen again on the British mainland. These are the people that for the entirety of their academic careers will conduct the research necessary to protect and preserve the flora and fauna that the rest of us seem so intent on destroying.
There is a limited amount we can teach African Bushmen about the animals that their forefathers have been tracking for centuries. Their approach is not so deeply rooted in science as ours, but a knowledge that stems from the early explorations of Livingstone cannot hope to compete with an affinity that dates back beyond living memory. Their knowledge and, in the most part, sensitivity is incredible to witness. On a continent where you are far more likely to own a mobile phone before having access to clean drinking water, some things do seem to be the right way round.
However, we can encourage the business acumen so intensively honed in our privileged Western world; a sense of ownership and responsibility over how they may invest themselves in the opportunity to save struggling species so synonymous with the World conservation effort. Above all, along with condoms, vaccines and water, we can collaborate through science. Lovingly cultivated in first world countries, science that is evolving and advancing at a frightening but completely inspiring pace; science that may so easily be seen as a vanity project if it has no eventual real-world implications. In order to achieve this, the rest of the World must realise that the value of nature goes far beyond its monetary value once dead.