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In geographically remote areas of the world, consumptive tourism is fundamental in providing financial value for indigenous communities through their wildlife. This value translates to habitat protection leading to greater biodiversity. It also serves as a safeguard against terrorism.

Tom Opre, Filmmaker

 

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Over the last several years, animal rights organizations in the UK have pushed the government to ban the importation of animal parts. Interesting enough, the UK government has not sought testimony from conservation scientists researching these animals nor from the sovereign governments and rural indigenous communities that may be adversely affected by such bans.


In this Shepherds of the Wild vlog, listen as host Tom Opre talks about these issues with conservationists Nikolaj Bichel and John Shields.


Are you a wildlife conservationist?


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TRANSCRIPT:


Tom Opre:

Hey folks, this is Tom Opre, your host understanding everything related to wildlife and habitat conservation. I asked the tough questions regarding man's impact on the world's wildlife, raw and unfiltered. I strive to have you fully understand the real issues at hand. Our goal ensuring the world's wildlife and wildlife habitat exists forever. Sit back and enjoy another excellent discussion.



Hey folks, I'm Tom Opre here with the Shepherds of the Wild. We got an incredible discussion here today. Something that's in the news all over the world. We see it in both the British Columbia. We've seen it at throughout the United States, and now we're seeing a lot of headlines coming out at the UK. Well, what is that subject? Well, it's trophy hunting bans, seems to be all the rage of politicians this day. In the British Columbia three years ago, the NDP government came out and said they would vote for them.


And they would go ahead and enact a trophy hunting ban on grizzly bears. Here in the United States, we've seen politicians, governors so forth that have said, hey vote for me. And I'm going to go ahead and ban black bear hunting or some other form of hunting. In the UK right now there's [inaudible 00:01:14] this trophy hunting ban that will literally ban the importation of almost 7,000 species of animals into the United Kingdom.


I guess the question I've here is trophy hunting or what we need to establish is what is trophy hunting? I've got Nikolaj Bichel here. Nikolaj is currently in Hong Kong. He's just finished up his Doctorate at the University of Hong Kong. You're a social science guy dealing with a lot of the issues around trophy hunting. I also have John Shields from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. He is the Vice Chairman. So I'm hoping that you two guys can help teach me and our viewers about really what is a trophy hunting ban in particular what's going on right now in the UK. And what are the effects of these bans? So Nikolaj, tell us a little bit about what a trophy hunting ban is?


Nikolaj Bichel:


Basically what the UK has just done is they have this animals abroad bill, which details, how they could take care of both conservation and animal welfare abroad. Recently, they had a meeting with three witnesses, animal rights organizations, and also the campaign to ban trophy hunting. And they were heard the reports from these witnesses, which contained quite a lot of misinformation about what trophy hunting actually is and the about wildlife numbers and so on.


And following from this meeting, they recently reported that they were going to ban the imports of 7,000 endangered species or nearly 7,000 endangered species where they would ban the trophy imports for them. But it's quite unclear that we don't really have anything more than that. We don't have any timeline for when this is actually going to happen. And it's also very unclear what these 7,000 species actually are because the number 7,000 to me, it doesn't really seem to make any sense to ban the imports of 7,000 trophy species. Because as far as I know, if you look at the record books for trophies of the record organizations like Safari Club International for example. In their record book, they have less than 500 different species that are actually trophy hunted.


Tom Opre:

And you're talking about less than 500 in their total record book. So there's nothing anywhere close to 7,000 is what you're saying.


Nikolaj Bichel:

Less than 500 species can be set to be trophy hunted in any meaningful way. And furthermore, these 7,000 species are set to be 7,000 endangered species and the 500 species, less than 500 that I think are actually trophy under that's all species. So how many are actually endangered? That's considerably less. I don't even know. But no matter with the specifics of these numbers, one thing is for certain is that the number 7,000 doesn't make any sense at all. So I took a look at the Cites trade database for international trade in endangered species. And the UK has had trophy imports for 73 different species in the last 40 years, since 1981.


Tom Opre:

So what you're saying is that they want to ban the importation of almost 7,000 animals yet. There's literally less than a 100 animal species that have been brought in over the last 40 years. You brought up these experts that the government in the UK brought up. I'd say John, I mean, you're from the UK, who are these people?


John Shields:

Let me explain a little bit what the process is, the way that parliament passes a bill like this, the government will have a first two readings as they're called in the commons. When MPs have a discussion about the bill, it's then thrown into where we now, which is a committee stage. And during that stage, the relevant government department in this case, DEFRA has an opportunity to cross examine witnesses, receive evidence. The government has also done a consultation, and I know people have opinions about how even handed the government's opinion on that consultation. But in theory, this is put before the committee. Now I had an exchange with one of the civil servants responsible for this committee, following the government's announcement last week about proceeding with its plans regardless of apparently what inputs conservation scientists and local communities have tried to have in the consultation process.


And she reiterated that it was purely a government or a political announcement that was made last week and the committee will be continuing with its job, which is taking evidence and that's going to continue in the New Year. So there are some absurdities about the announcement that came out last week, politically the UK, as people may know the government has had a lot of bad press in recent weeks, and it may well have been just trying to make up for that by coming up with a popular feel good announcement and the use of the number 7,000, I think maybe as informative, it smacks of a civil servant in a bit of a panic. He's been told to draft something quickly and has just gone on to Wikipedia and plucked a number that seems vaguely plausible based on IUCN data. And, they are going to scrutinize it, for actually what that means with regard to hunting specifically trophies, in particular, the kind of African trophies that are really the subjective of most press on this matter. So that's I think the current situation politically.


Tom Opre:

Being here in the United States, when I see our government come up, like what I saw that there's a press release on their website for the British government Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, who's in power there, but the names of these people, the campaign, the ban trophy hunting, [inaudible 00:07:48] society international, The Born Free Foundation. But, as a wildlife conservationist, myself in being on the ground and seeing what's going on, those three entities are the absolute diametric opposite of wildlife conservation, they are preservationists.


John Shields:

[crosstalk 00:08:06] absolutely. The Animal Rights Organizations and Carrie Johnson, the PM's wife is quite close to some of these organizations and a government that's already under scrutiny for a sort of rather [inaudible 00:08:24] meaty sofa government approach to legislation, and indeed to responding to the coronavirus crisis has perhaps done the same thing with this bill. It's gone to celebrity in crowd people from London who are well known to some senior conservatives, Zac Goldsmith, Carrie Johnson, and others. So, but I think that it is worth mentioning that one can hope that the committee's going to continue with this work and scrutinize the likes of Amy Dickman, the likes of Maxi Pia Louis and other people who can provide a conservation science and local development perspective on this because that's important and around.


Tom Opre:

And when mentioning, professor Amy Dickman, she's just announced, I think yesterday, the new director of Wild Crew, which is part of the University of Oxford's conservation work and research going down in Africa, [inaudible 00:09:30], I don't know if they're just in Zimbabwe Hwange National Park, but I know that they're very, very active in scientific research of wildlife and they do an incredible job. So it would be great to see that some of the things that I've seen bantered about from the government is just talking about this 60% decline in wildlife populations globally. I don't know where that comes from as far as what their benchmark is, but they talk about a lot about the loss of biodiversity. Nikolaj these hunting trophy, hunting bans, really what is their purpose and why do they occur in our society?


Nikolaj Bichel:

Maybe roughly speaking three different motivations on the politician sides for these bans. One person who may want these bans is the people who are ignorant of the conservation benefits that trophy hunting can actually provide. So they will think that they are actually saving wild life by banning trophy hunting imports, because that's what they are being told by all of these celebrities who are campaigning for the ban of trophy hunting imports. And then there's the second kind maybe who realized that, there is actually some conservation benefits to trophy hunting, but they just think that trophy hunting is so important that they don't think that the conservation benefits of trophy hunting can justify it. So they will want to ban it regardless of the damage that it can cause the conservation.


Nikolaj Bichel:

And then I think what is maybe unfortunately the biggest group is people who is politicians who may or may not realize that there are conservation benefits to trophy hunting, but who are mainly just doing what is popular with the voters and what is popular with the voters is unfortunately suggests want a ban on all kinds of trophy hunting, because the voters, the general public, they don't know, but they don't follow these scientific debates on Twitter. They don't read the scientific articles. They generally don't know anything about conservation hunting. So when they hear these celebrities Ricky Gervais and Peter Egan and the campaign to ban trophy hunting conservationist. The only thing they are here is these claims that we can save the lions if we ban trophy hunting thing. So that's what the General Public knows. The General Public is not properly informed of what trophy hunting actually also do.


Tom Opre:

So what you're saying is that the worst of these politicians are literally using trophy hunting bans to gin up their base to come and support them or vote for them. And that's what we've seen here in the United States. I think it was the Governor of Maryland, the current governor. I think it's Murphy said, hey, if you vote for me, I'm going to ban black bear hunting. And when you start to get into these individual bans, at least 300 states, we have a great history of wildlife conservation after we decimated it back in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Obviously that conservation ethos that was brought about by President, Theodore Roosevelt, like him or not, that's the reason why we have all these large numbers of species of wildlife existing on the land here in the United States and why we have all this habitat, these National Force and State Force that was all brought up by him and other smart individuals back in the early 1900s.


And so we have a lot to be thankful for. But when I start thinking about trophy hunting, I hate this word guys, trophy hunting, why throw an adjective? Hunting is hunting. I don't care what your background is, what your religion is, your culture is, whatever it is. I think we all of us all over the world can agree. As long as humans have walked on two feet, we've hunted and now we've got our thumbprint or our heel over all of the world. And, we're not being good neighbors.


So this trophy, the word trophy, I hate it. People that go hunting, we're really talking about people that are spending money to travel to some place away from their home to go hunting, whether it be for ducks and geese or lion, somehow these people are being labeled by a very small group of people, which sounds to me, some of these folks that are being used by the UK is to justify their ban. But I guess John, this trophy ban, if it were enacted in the ones that we've already seen in these other states and other provinces here in Canada, what do you think the effect will be on wildlife and these rural indigenous communities if they can't see a benefit for their hard work and wildlife conservation?


John Shields:

Well, I think there's two orders of magnitude problems that could arise. If UK alone ban trophy imports, I think realistically the global impacts would be relatively small. There aren't so many UK hunters going around the world that it really would make [inaudible 00:15:08] difference, albeit that maybe in certain parts of Europe, it would be felt more keenly. But I doubt it in places like where I'm now in Zambia, hunting more widely banned. And that is part of the risk of the current UK proposal will be used as an excuse. People will look at it and say, well, look what the UK's done. That must have been properly scrutinized. And that's a good example to follow without people realizing how flawed the process has been, but were it to be banned globally?


Because the impact is massive, over 50% of land purposed for wildlife conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa has a hunting element, hunting fees can price a huge amount of the funding for anti-poaching activities in a place like Zambia. A huge amount of the funding for the wildlife services full stop. And as I think, as killing the Shepherd's shows very well, when it doesn't matter that it's trophy hunting or anything else. The fact is that wildlife and habitat is holding on by a threat in many of these slightly less loved places in the hinterlands where tourists don't go and any small change to the value of wildlife and trees, which can be very rapidly turned into charcoal as we know can lead to a huge effect.


Even in your film, you showed the precarious balance between gamekeeper and poacher. It takes very little for people to potentially cross that line and see that there is more value in these animals being dead than alive. There is more value in them cutting down those trees, they're not. About 50 kilometers South [inaudible 00:17:23] a couple years ago, I was talking to a headman in an utterly ravaged landscape where across an entire valley, the village had really cut down most of the sizeable trees to make charcoal. And it was tragic not only because of what had happened, of course, but it was because he knew what the impact of this was going to be long term in terms of soil quality, water resources, and so on. But his concern was not what happened next year.


It was what happens this year. He needed to get through a period of drought and the community needed the cash from charcoal to survive. People are living in certain parts of Africa, particularly very precarious existence. And if you weighed in with all of your lofty Northern and Western morals and say yes, I know we've got rid of all of our wildlife in Britain, but we know how best to do it. And we're going to impose on you. It takes very little to tip the balance. And we know what happens when areas lose that value. People have seen it in Kenya. People have seen it in Botswana. People have seen it here as well in Zambia, anywhere you look when that value disappears, so does the wildlife.


Tom Opre:

Yeah, now you kind of hit on a real key point here. I appreciate you bringing up the reference to killing the Shepherd. I spent over a hundred days in country over three and a half years documenting this story of this rural community, basically trying to survive. And they had destroyed their wildlife resources through poaching, well subsistence, but mostly for the commercial Bush meat, which is I think it's a multi like $2 billion industry, black market industry in Africa alone. So it begs me to ask the UK government, their leaders, a lot of people look at them, obviously the long history through colonial times. It seems to me like this almost harkens back these trophy hunting bans, specifically from the UK harkens to a more of a colonial mindset.


And we're dealing with colonialism and the problems all over Africa. I know you see that John, with just arbitrary boundaries that have been created for governments, for countries, and where wildlife preserves and parks have been created, they're great, but the people have been removed from the landscape. So they can't benefit from the resources there. And so they get shoved in the cities. And obviously that ends up being an issue, but isn't this UK ban more of a colonial racist view of how wildlife conservations exist and around the world and these rural areas.


John Shields:

No one obviously thinks themselves are racist or a colonialist for that matter nowadays. But, I think that there are echoes of it. If you take away someone's ability to harness their own natural resources that does have echoes of what Britain has done in this part of the world before. There are echoes throughout this debate of colonialism. People raise it with regard to try the hunting full stop. The idea of wealthy, mainly white people coming from the North and West shoot animals, does have a colonial ring, but so do a lot of the supposed alternatives. I've sat at a lodge having a sun downer in south Luangwa, and I was speaking to a guide watching some elephants cross the river. And there were loads of people sipping their gins and tonic and watching these elephants cross the river, where they were going to raid the village as they did every night to destroy all of the gardens in that village.


And that village gets as this guide pointed out to me, handsomely compensated by the lodge for putting up with this every day, every other day. Now that is profoundly distasteful. The idea that you can charge into someone's landscape cause havoc, destroy all of their livelihood and just hand them some dollars and then walk away with the gin and tonic in your hand. That is a very disturbing thing. And it does point to a number of things. It points to the fact that a lot of our interactions with this part of the world have that colonial ring unavoidably. It also points to the fact that there are only certain sources of funding available to these places. And it also points to the fact that it takes a huge amount sometimes, often people paying thousands of dollars a night in a lodge for a local community to put up with a high density of elephants nearby.


There are a lot of things that play here. And I don't think me, Nikolaj, anyone would say that trophy hunting is somehow this panacea. In lot of these places, it is the only thing. When you go away from one of these big ticket lodges, where the tourists don't go, there's nothing else. It is tragic. And the idea that someone has the right, as I say to [inaudible 00:23:19]. I think it [inaudible 00:23:25], it is questionably ethically, this should be up to those local communities as they did in your film to invite people in to do something according with their wishes, be that tourism, be that hunting, be that farming, be that whatever it is, it is up to them to figure out how they want to live with these animals. And it is if we want to preserve those animals, it's up to what's the step in with the funding that they may need to get there.


Tom Opre:

That's a great point. And Nikolaj, just in closing this. Is there a solution do you see from your perspective as social scientist?


Nikolaj Bichel:

Well, can I add something else to that first? So apart from the colonialism aspect of these trophy bans, there's also just a hypocrisy aspect, because what about trophy hunting in Britain? They're not talking about that as all. The Scotland has a huge red deer hunting industry, and they export thousands of red deer hunting trophies every year. And if they want bans on moral grounds, they're not just talking about conservation issues here. They think that trophy hunting is morally reprehensible. Then why are they still not talking about trophy hunting in Britain at all. If they should forbid it in Britain first of all before they start bordering African countries and others.


Tom Opre:

That's a good point. Here in the United States, our native American peoples, first nations in Canada, native Americans here in the continental U.S. and Alaska, some of these tribes do incredible conservation work on the reservations. For instance, the White Mountain Apache's, they have people coming from all over the world because they've done such an incredible job growing American Elk or wapiti to the point where it takes the waiting list to go hunting, there is multiple years and it's tens of thousands of dollars to go there and have that privilege. And they make a lot of money doing that so. We have some of the similar issues here with our politicians matter of fact in one of our appropriation bills in Congress right now. There is quite a few elements of the [inaudible 00:25:36], which is basically the ban of all the big five from being able to be imported into the United States from Africa.


So with that, we're running out of time. I just wanted to say, thanks guys for being a part of this great conversation. At the end of the day, we either need to make sure we leave this plant better than we found it. And I really hope that folks will listen to this, listen to the two of you and your thoughts and provocative comments. At least I think I was probably the provocative one here, but it's the end of the day. Let's make sure that we've got plenty of wildlife, which means we have to have plenty of habitat. So if you want to find out more information about wildlife and habitat conservation, go to the shepherds of wildlife website @shepherdsofwildlife.org. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook until next time, ask yourself, are you truly a wild life conservationist?


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Are you a wildlife conservationist?*


Conservation means "the wise use of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect."


In contrast, laissez-faire preservation tends to result in exploitation, destruction, and even extinction of wildlife species and habitats. ​ A wildlife conservationist actively works as a steward to carefully and sustainably manage earth's natural resources to ensure biodiversity and maintain them for generations to come. ​


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Updated: Jan 11



Between 1990 and 2010, Tanzania lost 19.4% of its forested land—around 8 million hectares.

Today, Tanzania has approximately 39.9% forest cover, and its current annual deforestation rate is 1 percent—about 400,000+/- hectares each year.


That's twice the world's current annual deforestation rate of .5 percent.


Without wildlife habitats, we won't have any wildlife.


Mike Angelides of McCallum Safaris has been tracking deforestation in hunting concession blocks where no safari companies are currently operating. The rates he's tracking should alarm anyone interested in wildlife conservation.


WATCH THE VIDEO to see how essential wildlife habitats are being slashed and burned to make way for marginal farmlands.


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FULL TRANSCRIPT:


Tom Opre:

Hey folks, this is Tom Opre, your host to understanding everything related to wildlife and habitat conservation. I ask the tough questions regarding man's impact on the world's wildlife. Raw and unfiltered, I strive to have you fully understand the real issues at hand. Our goal—ensuring the world's wildlife and wildlife habitat exists forever. Sit back and enjoy another excellent discussion. Mike, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you guys do.


Michael Angelides:

Right. I'm the managing director of a hunting and photographic safari company in Tanzania. I'm a second generation professional hunter.


Tom Opre:

I saw some of the photographs that you've been posting on some of the wildlife conservation user groups on Facebook. I'd love for you to kind of give me an idea, historically, what was Tanzania like for wildlife when it comes to habitat?


Michael Angelides:

Tanzania is one of the truly wild countries of Africa. There are no ranches and there's no game ranching. There are no fences as national parks. Roughly, I think about 80% of its land is set aside for wildlife and wildlife protection. It has a bunch of national parks—22, I believe now. People don't understand the kind of sizes that we're dealing with, with the national parks and the country itself. All the boundaries are very hard to police. Tanzania has a rapidly growing population. Top 10 in the world, currently. The battle now is, it's not so much where do animals go—what areas do animals have,—but where do the people... where's the boundary between the two and how do we sort that out? And being able to police those boundaries is a big issue for the government, especially.


Tom Opre:

Can you give us some size perspective of maybe not only the total area that is in concession that's available for hunting, but also maybe some idea of the sizes that maybe your area is, just so we could have some idea?


Michael Angelides:

My area is... I currently work in three contiguous concessions and that is just under 2 million acres.


Tom Opre:

Okay.


Michael Angelides:

So three concessions. So you're looking at one to one and a half million acres per concession in Tanzania, and there are currently 114 hunting concessions.


Tom Opre:

And so we're talking about a lot. A huge, huge block of land. It's not a small country.


Michael Angelides:

My concessions, to give you a size reference, the size of Houston, of greater Houston. Or if you are from overseas, it's the size of greater London and surrounding areas.


Tom Opre:

And wildlife wise, you guys have a large selection of different species. Of course, you have the big five in Africa, but you also have a lot of... Give us some idea what this habitat actually holds and takes care of.


Michael Angelides:

Well, Tanzania is unique, whereas we have the north of Tanzania known as Maasai Land, the Maasai Steppe, which has very unique species to that. The gerenuk, lesser kudu, Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle. There's Coke's hartebeest, fringe-eared oryx, which is specific to the north of Tanzania. Almost throughout the middle of Tanzania, there's a terrain of vegetation change to Miombo forest. And there, you find species like sable and roan, of course, buffalo and waterbuck and other species. And then of course, in the west, specifically in Selous, you've got the Nyasaland wildebeest, which is also kind of specific to Northern Mozambique and the Selous only. And there's also, if I go into little species, like Kirk's dik-dik. There's a Harvey's red duiker, there's Livingston suni.


Tom Opre:

So you guys have it. It's an immense number of animals that are living on the landscape. Not only just numbers of animals, but numbers of different species. So the biodiversity of this habitat is incredible.


Michael Angelides:

Yes. Yes. And of course, each species requires a different kind of level of habitat. Some are very delicate on what they can actually feed on and where they can feed. You wouldn't think of something like a sable antelope as being very threatened—too threatened by encroachment. They are kind of a common animal really, in the Miombo forest. But if you have herd species, a lot of herd species, which would include cow or cattle as a herd, coming through, they actually really quite disturb the land and the foliage to extent that the sables really are not happy with that kind of thing.


Tom Opre:

Well, I would assume that the domestic species you're talking about here, and these cattle, these aren't wild cattle or anything.


Michael Angelides:

Yeah, domestic cattle.


Tom Opre:

So what you're talking about, is just competition for the same resources I would assume. You guys have been there on the ground in the country for three generations now. And you've seen a lot of changes in the last couple decades, I would assume. Kind of explain to folks what's going on, on the ground. You have all this wildlife, originally. You've got all this habitat. We have huge areas. We're talking about areas that are the size of maybe multiple states in the United States. What's happened over the last two decades?


Michael Angelides:

The same thing's happened all over the world—is technology basically. You've got indigenous tribes that now are farming where they used to farm by hand, or by with cattle, are using tractors now, and they can afford tractors. And Maasai Land is very fertile land. The devastation to habitat is very evident with the farming that's going on. And the thing is that, they're not good farmers. Their yield per acre is very poor. If I move out to the west towards my areas, what I've seen in the last 10 years or so, the expanse of people, is that a little farm will pop up in the middle of nowhere. And this guy will have an acre, he'll clear an acre by hand. And he doesn't have a tractor. He doesn't have machinery. So he clears by hand, then he fells the trees. And once a tree's dry, he'll burn a tree. There's photos you'll see of burning land.


Tom Opre:

Now is that for charcoal production or is it just strictly to move it out?


Michael Angelides:

No, just to get rid of the tree really. It's not really a hard wood. It's not a hard enough wood for charcoal production. So once he's got his... Until that tree can burn, he'll sort of farm in between where that tree has fallen. So once he can burn a tree, now he's got a full acre to be able to farm and he'll do that for a year. But now the following year, he doesn't have all the hardship of having to clear any land. So all he has to do is actually plow it, even by hand. And it may take him a couple of weeks to turn the land with a hoe and plant it. So now he's got some extra time, so he clears another piece of land and so on and so forth. So three years later, he suddenly has three or four acres, which is actually too much to sustain him and his family.


So now he becomes from subsistence—he turns into a commercial farmer. And nowadays, when I drive out west, it's a two-day drive out there. So I'm spending 10 hours a day on the road. I'm seeing, as I drive in these—way out in the middle of the bushI'm seeing all these bags of corn on the side of road, where these farmers are selling their excess. And it continues to grow as his farm grows. Until now, when he sold enough corn, he can afford a tractor. And that tractor that he buys, he'll also lease to other people. And so their farms grow. And again, it's not great farming out up there, so their yields per acre... The lands are not very fertile for a start and their farming methods aren't very good. What a commercial farmer would need per acre, they need two acres.


Tom Opre:

And this ground we're talking about, this farm ground, was wildlife habitat. It did have these animals on it that we spoke about earlier, in many cases. Rainfall has become an issue in Southern Africa. How is rainfall affecting Tanzania, as far as are they having enough rain? Down in where I'm at in Zambia, it's no longer consistently happening at the end of October in the rainy season or early November. It's now happening later in the year and ending earlier, so it's a shorter period of time. What's the situation like with rain with you guys?


Michael Angelides:

The last two years, actually, we did have quite a lot of rain. This year, the rains are very light. Norms are very, very late. The rains, normally, would expect them around the 15th, middle of November. Now we're at the 24th of November, and there hasn't been any rain, but the clouds are building.


With the Miombo, and I speak about Miombo because that's kind of where I am. Having the rain and not having proper drainage off these farms, also washes away a lot of top soil, which is also bad for the crop. But also when you have these cleared farms, to rehabilitate that, it will take three or four times as long. Or it may be even impossible because if you don't have the foliage from the trees that have fallen on the ground to protect the land, it's very heat sensitive, and the trees are very heat sensitive growing, so you've changed the soil temperature. And so a Miombo tree to grow back, you can't just leave it and think everything's going to come back as it was. It's going to come back very differently.


Tom Opre:

We have a great, beautiful land. We have people moving into this land. And so we're talking about, they're moving into these areas that have been set aside by the government for wildlife, which would be these concessions that you're talking about. Yours and others. But there's also an issue where there are many concessions that aren't being utilized at all. As I understand it, that there's a large percentage of the concessions in your country that don't have a safari operator utilizing them. Explain to me kind of what's happened with that and why that happened.


Michael Angelides:

In Tanzania, we have-


Tom Opre:

And I'll just stop you. And just so people understand, when people are on the ground utilizing it in the safari business, you guys are out there watching for not only the poaching of wildlife, but also the destruction of the habitat. You're protecting these forests and this habitat that's out there for wildlife, from illegal logging and from other uses, encroachment of human villages and whatnot. I would assume you guys are kind of like the environmental cops out there at the same time, aren't you?


Michael Angelides:

Absolutely. Yes. The illegal stuff that goes on creates more damage than even if you would allow it. If you're allowed to control, for example, tree felling or logging because they're indiscriminate. And a major problem in the west of Tanzania is honey. Honey hunting, which you wouldn't think is a big problem, but of course, when they do it illegally, what they do is search out a hollowed tree that has a hive in it, and cut down the whole tree in order to harvest that little bit of honey. And they're not doing it sustainably because they'll take all the honey and they won't leave... Killing the queen and actually probably killing the whole hive, whereas if they could do it properly... I've learned recently that you can harvest half the honey, keep it, and then go back and harvest and get the other half later once they've rejuvenated.


Tom Opre:

I think they call that conservation.


Michael Angelides:

That's called conservation. Yes, exactly. Conservation of bees. But of course, so we stop that. Any destruction in the area is detrimental to the wildlife and we need wildlife to make a living. Conservation and looking after the wildlife is paramount in everything we do. If the better the area that I have, the better it's looked after, the easier I can sell a safari. It's really heartbreaking to see that there's countries and people who don't know what actually happens on the ground and want to stop what we do. But they don't realize the effect of when we move out of that area, there's no reason to protect that area. Even for the government. The government obviously wants to protect an area because of the habitat, because of the wildlife, because of conservation, but they also make money from that area. So it's utilized and it has a value.


When we leave, there's no value for that land apart from farming, or grazing, or logging, or mining, or putting a village there. That's the other option. And we're not dealing with national parks. Those are always going to be protected because they have a value for photographic tourists. We're dealing with areas that are marginal, which are good enough for a hunter, but not good enough for a photographic client. There's not enough game. A hunter is happy to climb up a hill and sit for hours to wait to see something and stalk it. A photographic client generally needs to see an animal every 20 minutes, every 10 minutes. They need to be on something and they want to see the big five in one day and all that sort of stuff. They come on safari for five, seven days, ten days maybe, whereas a hunter is coming out for a whole month.


Tom Opre:

So what you're saying there is that in your areas, which are the hunting concession areas, there are factors that are causing these areas not to be utilized, as I understand it. So what are the factors? You kind of alluded to that just a minute ago. These incredible, beautiful lands with lots of wildlife on them, initially, they're now having human encroachment on them with farming and illegal grazing because there's nobody on the land anymore. Why?


Michael Angelides:

The trophy bans a lot of Europe. There's a lot of areas that have laid to waste, especially because they've stopped elephant hunting.


Tom Opre:

The folks that come out to hunt, they like to bring home a trophy or the skins and the hides and the skulls. What you're saying is, they no longer... They can't do that in Tanzania.


Michael Angelides:

They can't do that. We can't export at all. There are a few countries, America being one of them, that you won't allow the importation of the trophy hunted ivory. Somebody who's not a hunter is not going to understand why somebody wants to keep the memento of its hunt.


Tom Opre:

So your clients can't... because of different laws that trophy bans that are being enacted potentially in the United Kingdom, United States, and other different countries in the Western world, which have large populations of hunters that like to hunt internationally. And these folks are bringing money into your communities by hiring people like you to go on these hunts, or even as you guys do, you even do some photo safaris. And some of the other operators I know in Tanzania have some extensive photo safari businesses, but the reality on the ground is that some of your clients can't because they can't export, they just don't come.


Michael Angelides:

Exactly. Yes and they'd rather go somewhere else or even just stay at home in America. You're not going to stop people hunting by stopping them importing their trophies. We're seeing a huge decline in the number of hunters that want to come to Tanzania. Specifically, elephant hunting is all but gone, especially for the Americans. But what's happening is you get some other countries that are allowed to import the elephant, that are coming. The problem is that they know that there's no competition and they want to do it for even cheaper, which we are not able to do. It's not sustainable.


When Cecil was shot and they stopped hunting, they stopped the importation for several years into America. Essentially, very few lion hunts were sold and that caused many operators to go out of business because they didn't have the income to sustain the area and sustain communities and anti-poaching. So they handed back areas and really haven't been able to get off the ground to go back into those areas anymore. And those are the areas that have lost so much habitat. Because you want to harvest a lion, or an elephant, or a buffalo, or a leopard, you're looking after the habitat that's looking after animals as small as dragonflies and damselflies and dung beetles and all sorts of insects and everything else that you're looking after, as well as the honeybees because I think it's documented that without honeybees, humanity ceases to exist.


Tom Opre:

Yeah. No, the great pollinators of our planet.


Michael Angelides:

Yeah.


Tom Opre:

You've shown me some photos and I'll show some of these to the folks on while you're watching this. It's a stark... It's unbelievable what you see here and I've seen it myself personally in Zimbabwe... I was in the Save Valley a couple years ago. We took a charter flight out, and as soon as we got past that demarcation of the boundary of the Conservancy and then the communal lands, I didn't see... You couldn't put two sticks together enough for an antelope to live in, let alone the big five, all the way to Harari, the capital, which was, I don't know, a two-hour flight. And what I'm seeing in some of the photos that you've taken, aerial photos here, it's the same kind of harsh darkness of this beautiful wildlife habitat. And then there's just a straight line there and then there's nothing there, because it's all been slashed and burned and I would assume, these grounds also get overgrazed. Is that correct?


Michael Angelides:

The people that are doing this, obviously they want their cattle and their farm. So now they're overgrazing what they have because they've even got less land because they've got a farm—an eighth, two, three acres of farmland and they want 500 head of cattle as well. And that head of cattle is not contained to a ranch; it's free to go wherever it wants. And so they are constantly moving and just moving backwards and forwards to even to water. All that land between wherever they're grazing and the water is completely destroyed, which is a huge problem.


Tom Opre:

Well, the broader public here in the Western world, as they watch and listen to this conversation, are going to ask this question though—why can't these people have a farm? Why can't these people have 500 head of cows? Why can't they have these opportunities?


Michael Angelides:

Well, they can, but the problem is managing it. Somebody can have 500 head of cattle if he has 500 acres to look after them on. But we haven't got to that stage. You're talking about a third world country where the education hasn't reached some of these rural areas on how to manage your cattle, how to manage your farm, how to farm better. New York, Central Park, people are told, "Okay, don't go on the grass there. You know, because it's not good for the grass. Go around it." And they go around it because you're taught to obey that and you understand why you shouldn't walk on the grass. Now you tell an African in a local village, way out that's never seen electricity, "No, you can't go in there. Don't. Leave that. That's for wildlife." And he thinks, are you nuts? I've got to survive here. I'm going to go in there, because out here is full and I still want my 500 head of cattle.


An animal means very little to him. The word for an animal in Swahili is mnyama. That's all it is. And when they look at an elephant, it's not a thing of beauty. It's not. When they look at a lion, it's not a wonderful lion and how beautiful is that? And look at it beautifully walking across the Serengeti. Is just mnyama. It's just a thing. They're still in survival mode and living day-to-day.


Tom Opre:

What the real problem is are the areas that don't have safari operators. And those are the ones that are depicted in the pictures you've sent me and the video, correct?


Michael Angelides:

I do have villages within my area, but we are able to control how they expand as well, because they all are going to be expansive. The population's increasing. But instead of one guy having a farm here and then the next guy going five kilometers away and opening his other farm and then everything between him and his neighbor is void of game because of the movement between him and his farm and his other farm and whatnot, we can say, "No, don't farm over here. Just butt up to the other guy and at least you're containing it." And I have even a video of the same timescale of that Google Earth thing that shows how the village is growing, but it's just growing in its own little nucleus, if you like. It's not just spreading all over the place. And again, because we're trying to tell him, leave some wildlife, leave the habitat.


Tom Opre:

So what really, Mike, is the solution? At the end of the day, what do we want to see occur? Do we want to see more wildlife on the landscape? Do we want to see more habitat? Because without the habitat, we don't have the wildlife. What is the solution in Tanzania?


Michael Angelides:

Yeah. The way they think—the Western world think—is very different from the local African on the ground, the villager. He's looking at Africa and wildlife and habitat in a very different way. He needs to benefit from it in some way. And that's what hunting does. You can't just have land vacant. It will be used for something. The African government will use it for something—they need to. Of course, the African government's third world don't have money to look after that. Just a big chunk of land without having income from it to look after.


Most African countries are struggling to put in schools and hospitals and infrastructure, so that's their priority. Looking after land is not their priority and their way of conserving it is to say, "Okay, who's going to look after this for us?" And so we don't, so it can look after itself basically. So when a hunter is in there, they're getting half a million dollars off that piece of land into their conservation—80% of it goes back into that area.


Tom Opre:

The real problem, though is, I've seen this all over the world, is people, humans, because we're all over the place. And it's of course the population of Tanzania. I'm familiar with Ethiopia, at over a hundred million people. I'm not sure what Tanzania's population is, but I would assume it is growing exponentially, correct?


Michael Angelides:

It's 60 million right now. Yeah.


Tom Opre:

And so what you're seeing is, is it's not only growing in the cities, but it's also growing in these rural areas. And so you're seeing these people proliferate into these areas where this habitat obviously has a value because it has honey on it, it has wild game on it. It has grass that can be grazed, trees that can be cut and harvested. So these areas, they're not being conserved by these people, because there's no real conservation ethos in their mindset because you're utilizing the resource—you're protecting it. And so, you guys want to make sure it's conserved properly. So hats off to you guys. And Mike, I appreciate your time here today and it's great to hear a viewpoint about what's going on in Tanzania, right on the ground with somebody who's dealing with it every day. Thank you very much.


Michael Angelides:

Thank you, Tom. I enjoyed that. Thanks a lot.


Tom Opre:

Folks, if you want to find out more information about wildlife and habitat conservation, go to the Shepherds of Wildlife website at shepherdsofwildlife.org. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Until next time, ask yourself, are you truly a wildlife conservationist?*


________


Are you a wildlife conservationist?*


Conservation means "the wise use of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect." In contrast, laissez-faire preservation tends to result in exploitation, destruction, and even extinction of wildlife species and habitats. ​ A wildlife conservationist actively works as a steward to carefully and sustainably manage earth's natural resources to ensure biodiversity and maintain them for generations to come. ​ Help us educate others about the global significance of genuine wildlife conservation efforts!










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Wildlife and their habitats are severely threatened as never before, and biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate. But why should we care?

As it turns out, what's bad for wildlife is also bad for people. The film Killing the Shepherd reveals why, especially for indigenous rural communities. It takes a realistic look at conservation that most documentaries gloss over.

The relationship between humans and wildlife


Humans and wildlife have a delicate, interdependent relationship that isn't always evident until one or the other suffers large-scale harm and the scales are tipped. We're experiencing those negative effects now.


As recently as the 1980s, Zambia's Lower Luano Valley was the home of healthy populations of "Big 5" wildlife populations—elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard, and cape buffalo. It was known as the crown jewel of the safari industry.


The realities of poaching


Government safari hunting bans in the 1980s and the early 2000s ushered in the wholesale slaughter of wild game by greed-driven poachers. Nearly overnight, jobs and incomes the safari industry provided disappeared. No one was around to regulate poaching.


This severely impacted the Soli people who had occupied the valley as subsistence farmers for more than 500 years. Drought, floods, famine, and human-wildlife conflict followed in rapid succession. Within just two decades the region was declared game-depleted. The Soli people struggled to find enough to eat, much less pursue education. Soli families sold their young daughters as child brides to stay afloat. Something had to be done.


The Soli woman chief reached out to a local safari operator to collaborate on game management efforts. Her ideas were remarkable. She understood that what was good for the wildlife was also good for her people. Both the Lower Luano wildlife and the Soli people are now thriving once again.



What you do matters


This type of situation isn't unique to Zambia, but the story of what happened there reveals the importance of collaborative wildlife conservation efforts by humans everywhere.

By being better stewards of the land, we all can ensure greater biodiversity and a richer existence for humans and animals for decades to come.

WATCH Killing the Shepherd for the full story.

FIND OUT MORE about the film and Shepherds of Wildlife Society.


WATCH A SNEAK PEEK of the film and find out why it's such an important story for this generation.

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