Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Human Exceptionalism: Stopping Ivory Poaching and Culling Elephant Herds Part of the Same Project

Animal rights advocates and their emotionalist allies often wail, "They're killing the elephants!" when castigating needed culling in the African wild animal parks. They are wrong about that. Failing to cull would result in destroyed environments and possible elephant starvation, not to mention harm to other species.

But there is a form of elephant hunting that is wrong--ivory poaching. And that needs to be prevented--which was the laudable purpose of the legally enforceable international ivory trade ban.

Tanzania and Zambia tried to weaken the existing ban--for understandable reasons--but the UN decided to maintain existing law. From the story:

Conservationists scored a rare victory at a U.N. wildlife meeting Monday when governments voted to reject contentious proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to weaken the 21-year-old ban on ivory sales over concerns it would further contribute to poaching. The heated debate over the proposed sale of the two countries' ivory stocks divided Africa, as it has in years past, at the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Nearly two dozen central and east African countries came out against the proposals on the grounds that they would hurt already declining African elephant populations. Southern African countries, in contrast, argued the two nations should be rewarded for the conservation efforts undertaken and should have to right to manage their herds as they see fit. "People born in 100 years, they should be able to see an elephant," said Kenya's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Noah Wekesa, whose country opposed the sales and had called at one point for a 20-year moratorium on such auctions.
Elephants don't have a "right" not to be killed. Only human beings possess such rights. But with our unique rights come concomitant duties, such as properly managing the environment--we are the only species so capable--and protecting endangered or threatened species, as we also promote human thriving. It's all a huge balancing act, which as the story illustrates, is rarely easy.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, with regard to African elephants, both culls--which kill some--and poaching bans--which save some--serve the same overarching purpose.

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