The major obstacle to conservation of wildlife anywhere in the world seems to be people themselves.
Humans consider themselves more important than, or superior to, all other species of plants and animals. Because of this superiority complex, people justify their actions on what are considered lower forms of life.
On ethical grounds, other creatures should be allowed to co-exist with humans through proper conservation. But what often happens is that humans tend to overexploit or make use of other species without regard for the sustainability and survival of these species.
This has been the story throughout human history. Large mammals and some birds, for example, have become extinct or nearly extinct as a result of unrestrained human predation.
Perhaps, prehistoric humans may be excused because they probably knew less compared to modern humans. But we, in these times and age of global communication and knowledge explosion, should know better.
So when small groups of people dedicate their lives to caring for lower forms of creation, like that group in the Cameroons, West Africa, that was featured by the television program Animal Planet, we applaud them because they are exceptions to the general rule.
This group spends time and resources taking care of young chimpanzees and young gorillas orphaned by poachers who shot their mothers for sale as human food. It also provides medical care for wounded adults of the great apes.
One chimpanzee rescued as a baby of a few months and chained to an old car for 11 years in one village was freed by this group! After nursing it to good health, it was returned to the safety of the protected wildlife sanctuary to rejoin its own kind.
The group cooperates in maintaining the thousands of hectares of tropical rainforest that have been established as wildlife sanctuary by government authorities, as well as in going after animal killers.
In the Cameroons, the unprotected tropical forests abound in traps and snares designed to catch wildlife for sale as food, which is illegal. An adult chimpanzee could fetch up to a hundred dollars in the market. Hunting of large apes has become a lucrative activity in this part of Africa.
In the Philippines, there are no large apes; only the macaque is present. This species suffers from poaching, and so with the smaller mammals, especially the bats. Not much is being done about it.
Some species of fruit bats have been forced to occupy marginal habitats due to continuous poaching. The endangered spotted deer is hunted in the hinterlands of Negros. The tamarau on Mindoro has suffered from poaching, and a small population remains. The Philippine Eagle is also threatened by hunters in its natural habitats. A private bird sanctuary for migratory birds in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat is often invaded by poachers using guns despite efforts of volunteer wardens.
Our protected areas, whether marine or terrestrial, have poaching problems, with some exceptions. The exceptions are marine reserves established by local communities with unusually strong commitment to conservation.
It appears that poaching is a worldwide malady, occurring mainly in developing countries. If this assessment is correct, why is this so? What do developing countries have in common?
But the final question is, how do we solve the poaching problem? Is there a need for changes in people’s mind-sets?