Where previously poachers were subsistence or small-scale operators, now, organized groups engage in ruthless killing sprees. Poaching in Africa today involves militias, crime networks, and even terrorist groups motivated by the demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asian countries predominantly. The illegal killing of wildlife is more efficient than ever before — the syndicates equip poachers with gear such as military-grade weapons, helicopters, and night-vision goggles. In one of the worst events on record, armed poachers on horseback in Cameroon’s Bouba N’djida National Park slaughtered as many as 650 elephants over three months in early 2012.
People often ask why a conservation organization builds schools. For me, it’s an easy answer. Education is one of the primary ways to develop consciousness about how our actions impact the environment — both locally and globally. It is one of the most important means of empowering youth, engaging communities, fostering concern for wildlife and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources.
Uganda sits pretty as the pearl of Africa. It is beautiful, green, and fertile, and it is the region’s biggest producer of tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, and avocados. The country’s serene protected areas and iconic wildlife species add to its beauty and attract both local and international tourists. Tourism is a major driver of the country’s economy and makes a significant contribution to its GDP.
Encompassing diverse ecosystems, Africa’s network of protected areas is home to rare species facing a combination of threats — habitat conversion, poaching, and bush meat consumption are just some of them. While the challenges vary across landscapes, many national parks and reserves struggle to meet their budgetary needs. The financial shortfall is vast — according to McKinsey Group, the budget gap is estimated upwards of $1.7 billion annually for all developing nations. Uganda, for example — despite being one of the top 10 most biodiverse countries in the world — has a $15 million funding gap for protected area management.
Botswana’s Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (or the Wildlife Act) enforces the protection of wild species and natural habitats, with a particular focus on keystone species slaughtered for the illegal trade in wildlife products. Offenses against rhinos attract both the highest fine — BWP 100,000 ($ 10,000) — as well as the longest prison term of 15 years. Other offenses involving the illegal killing of wildlife, hunting without permits, trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and dealing in wildlife trophies carry high prison terms ranging from five to 10 years.