Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poaching and the conservation story in Ghana

Photo courtesy of: Chicago Tribune
Travelling to a remote village in the Western Region of Ghana I saw some children walking out of the bushes with sacks over their shoulders. They were tired at the time and so they stopped to rest. Noticing me, one of them walked over to ask if as a traveller I was interested in buying bushmeat. I asked what animal it was and behold it was a monkey mutilated beyond recognition. Usually it is easy to determine the type of monkey by the fur but the boys had cut and burned the fur off of the monkey to disguise its species. In doing so it makes it more difficult to ascertain the species and be punished for the crime of hunting the protected animal. I asked how they got it and they responded that it strayed into the bushes near their farm. Well, in the end I did not buy the meat knowing it was illegal to do so but kept wondering what it takes to protect animals whose home range fall outside protected areas.
With the current rate of loss of forest cover in Ghana at 2.0% each year a lot more animals are being exposed to the weather and adverse forces within their environment. In some cases they actually have to travel over longer distances to find food exposing them to greater risk of being poached. 
The problem here is that some people think some animals are only not to be killed within the protected area. Others will use self defence as an alibi to excuse their poaching activities. People actually appreciate the need to protect our natural resources but have a lot of difficulty knowing the extent to which these resources should be protected and in turn we see the wildlife suffer as a result.
Our wildlife preserves a delicate balance in an ecosystem in which humans have viciously interfered in some of life’s processes. To what extent should we protect wildlife to compensate for how humans have destroyed and encroached on this precious land? Are we overlooking those aspects of our existence that hold the answers to future problems? What form should wildlife education take in our societies? Should it only be in communities fringing resources and parks or should it be an integral part of education at all levels?
The answers are for everyone to think about.

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