Managing Our Wildlife Heritage - Part Two

Foundation Principles (A)
One of the main problems associated with society’s perception of what most people nowadays call ‘wildlife conservation’ is the fact that few of us actually understand the foundation principles that govern – or should govern – wildlife management practices. This compounds the public’s proper understanding of what is a truly highly complex subject. Add to this mix the fact that managing our wildlife is often emotionally-charged and sometimes highly controversial, and we have all the ingredients for chaos in wildlife debates. This is exactly what we are experiencing today - everywhere. The biennial debates that take place at CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) are the most irrational and chaotic of them all – all be they very important.

Even though the subject is complex, when you have all your ducks in row, wildlife management is NOT difficult to understand. In fact, ANYONE who has a responsible, rational and open mind can achieve this understanding quite easily. The secret is to have some good basic knowledge about what makes the world of wildlife go round.

Misunderstanding is generated – and the subject is often blown out of proportion - when the people who participate in public wildlife debates try to resolve highly controversial issues on their personal, emotional and often irrational personal opinions, ALONE. Rational and responsible wildlife debate can ONLY take place when those who participate in such debates base their opinions upon a uniform and rational understanding-and-acceptance of the principles of wildlife management that govern the issues at stake. It is thus vitally important that, if our wildlife is to survive into posterity, if it is to be managed in a responsible and sustainable fashion, the general public must generate the uniform and rational understanding-and-acceptance of the principles and practices of wildlife management that is necessary.

High up on the list of foundation principles-to-understand is society’s wildlife management priorities. The word ‘priority’, of course, implies an hierarchy of importance. It comprises the following:

Number One Priority - THE SOIL
Society’s most important wildlife management responsibility concerns the protection and /or wise-use of the soil – because without soil no plants can grow and without plants life on planet Earth would NOT be possible.


Number Two Priority - THE PLANTS
Society’s second wildlife management priority is for the protection and/or wise-use of plants. Plants appear second in importance on the priority list - BEFORE ANIMALS – because plants are the ONLY energy (food) producers on planet earth. Therefore, if there were no plants there would be no animals.

Plants do a number of different things in the environment:

Plants provide cover for the soil, protecting it from the erosive forces of the sun, wind and (especially) rain, and from excessive heat and excessive cold;
Plants provide herbivorous animals with energy (food) – which is the first step in a range of energy transfers involving all the other consumer organisms that make up nature’s multifarious food chains; Plants provide cover for animals, too, protecting them from the elements and hiding them from their enemies; and Plants - coupled with the physical characteristics of their local environments - create the many different habitat-types that are the reason for the existence and for the survival of the world’s diverse wild animal species-spectrum.

Number Three Priority - THE ANIMALS
Society’s third, AND LAST, wildlife management responsibility concerns the protection and/or wise-use of wild animals.

There is a misconception in many segments of society today that our national parks – and the maintenance of wild animals anywhere and everywhere – should be primarily, even ONLY, for the promotion and for the maintenance of our tourism industry. In fact, tourism - if it were to be illogically placed on our wildlife management priority list at all - would come a poor FOURTH.

Sustainable wildlife-related tourism can ONLY be achieved if/when it is imposed upon a properly managed ecosystem that has its components parts – the soil, the plants and the animals – maintained in a sustainable state of dynamic balance. If these basic elements are NOT in a state of sustainable balance then sustainable tourism is not possible.

There are many, similar and equally easily explained principles of wildlife management that readers must understand-and-accept BEFORE they will even begin to properly understand the more advanced issues-of-debate that we are all concerned about. How, for example, can anyone really appreciate the niceties of the elephant culling controversy in Kruger National Park, without understanding the fundamental principles that govern society’s wildlife management priorities?