The continuing dialogue on Africa’s wildlife

A large backlit signboard glared down on me as I checked in for my flight at the Port Elizabeth International Airport.

“How many green rhinos can you afford to help STOP the slaughter?” it asked in shouting red letters. The question was an obvious play on words linking the slaughter of rhinos in South Africa to the picture of a rhino on the country’s ten rand currency note.

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In the duty free section of the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, tall pillars towered over travellers as they walked into and out of the Big Five duty free shop.

Patterned with black and white cut outs of the elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard, these enormous structures boasted elephant heads as large as that of a standing man.

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They too employed a double entendre to push the same message home. That the Big Five are “still being shot and captured”: by tourists with their cameras using celluloid, and by poachers with their guns.

“Take only photos and leave only footprints” the last paragraph implored.

A part of me was relieved to find that the conversation about the plight of Africa’s wildlife had reached a national level. It was not just being spoken about in corner shops on the back streets of small towns. It had reached a national and a government level – a marked step closer to the policy makers.

But it was clearly still not enough.

I returned home to read with much sadness about China’s well publicised crushing of six tonnes of ivory and other wildlife products. But rather than talking about tonnage – an impersonal form of measurement – the media should tell us how many animals lost their lives for those products.

That would tell the real story.

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