From the EWT newsletter:

Hello EWT supporters

I am almost too nervous to write about rhino in this first edition of EWTalk for 2012. Not because they don’t matter but because, with the overwhelming amount of publicity and media exposure the rhino poaching crisis is getting, people may start to get fatigued and inclined to turn the page with yet another rhino poaching story…. So I am not writing about rhino as much as I am writing about an aspect to the human psyche that the rhino poaching crisis has revealed in us all. In recent months rhino poaching has mobilised civil society involvement in conservation in an almost unprecedented way – and this is good! Members of the public have been campaigning, blogging, lobbying, marching and raising their voices, demanding severe penalties for poachers, bans on rhino hunting, government intervention at the diplomatic level, boycotts on buying Chinese and Vietnamese products, and in general, making a great big noise about THOSE Asian folk who are decimating OUR rhino population. It has indeed become a masked attack on these other cultures and markets that demand our resources to such a degree that they will stop at no cost and have no ethical limitations to the levels of brutality they will apply in getting what they want. I have often been asked and have asked myself why civil society is so outraged by the killing of rhino for Asian markets and seem to not care one iota for the rampant killing of carnivores, birds, reptiles, marine species or a host of other creatures and plants that continues unabated every day in this country. And no, their deaths are not necessarily less brutal or less critical for the survival of their species… My personal theory is not that it is the rhino that matters more, but that the outrage stems from the fact that is not ‘us’ that is using the products, but a foreign nation whose beliefs we don’t share and whose practices we don’t understand, right or wrong. How much easier it is to attack a common enemy in the form of a foreign nation than to look within our own borders and lambaste the actions of a local tribal leader who illegally trades in Leopard skins, or a local hunter who illegally shoots caged Cheetah, or a local dealer who removes crane eggs and chicks from the wild, or a local pet store owner with a host of reptiles illegally caught and traded to often not-so-unsuspecting ‘pet’ buyers. How careful we must be to not be politically incorrect in saying what I have just said and demanding that our own people stop catching, selling and buying chameleons and tortoises on the road outside Sun City, or cycads with known falsified or absent permits, or destroying indigenous plants by the truckload in the name of ‘development’ or from poisoning, shooting and snaring thousands of animals every year in the name of the bushmeat trade, food provision or ‘conflict’ with humans. The EWT is also angry about the increasing demand for rhino horn from the East but we are equally concerned with the increasing illegal decimation of a variety of species that is perpetrated every day within the borders of this country, by ordinary South Africans, whether they know it or not. Come on South Africans, it is not just ‘them’ versus ‘us’. Please let this rhino crisis bring some much needed reflection back into all of us about how we treat our own environment and our precious wildlife heritage. Let 2012 be a year of cleaning up our own act and ensuring that our right to these animals we called ours is not a right to kill and destroy but a right to love and enjoy – matched by a responsibility to protect and revere. Let the rhino lead the charge for the other creatures we are often too casual about and let 2012 be a turning point for humankind’s largely destructive treatment of those with whom we share our earth. It starts with us.

Best wishes for a rewarding and uplifting 2012.

Yolan Friedmann

One of the easiest ways to support the Endangered Wildlife Trust is to sign up for a MySchool card with EWT as the beneficiary.

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