By giving Elephants Without Borders (EWB) P600 000 to nurse three baby elephants which die and come to life in a controversial all-purpose picture, the government helped the NGO contradict a conservation doctrine it subscribes to.
Conservation groups the world over subscribe to the view that humans should not interfere with wildlife. To that end, safari tour guides often find themselves having to explain to tourists that they wouldn’t, for example, rescue buffalo calves about to be devoured by prey because they would be interfering with nature.
A fortnight ago, the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Unity Dow, told a press conference that in March this year, the government forked out P600 000 for the care of orphaned baby elephants. EWB is providing such care but those familiar with said conservation doctrine say that such care is unnecessary.
“Nature has a way of balancing itself and the universal conservation doctrine observed by conservation groups like EWB is that people should not interfere with nature,” says a government veterinary surgeon, speaking anonymously because he was not cleared for an interview. “If those baby elephants were orphaned, they should be allowed to fend for themselves in the wild. That is what not interfering with nature means in practical terms.”
EWB also fell short on this doctrine last year when it took in a baby elephant that was found dehydrated by motorists along the Nata-Kasane Road.
“We discovered the calf was mauled by a predator and has septic bite wounds on her legs, rump and tail, and is now being treated by EWB and wildlife veterinarians, Drs. Mark Bing and Larry Patterson,” the NGO posted on its Facebook wall on March 17 last year. “In addition to her wounds, she is still traumatised by the events that have caused her separation from her mother and family. She is drinking a special milk formula and we are diligently monitoring her health. This is a critical period of survival, and we are giving her all the love, care, and attention she needs as she fights for her life.”
While most of the visitors’ comments were laudatory, a few made the same point that the government vet makes. Mogotsi Ben: “It’s a good initiative yes, but I feel we shouldn’t intervene a lot with nature. Let wild animals be ‘wild’ without much of human intervention”; Laone Kagiso Kentse: “This doesn’t prove how much we love our animals… we should let them be animals…”; and Witness Kasanga: “Those that helped are meddling in the affairs of nature, let nature take its cos, u simply have to empathize n not sympathize n let nature take of the rest. Or u thot of lil kids back home n u felt the connection?” In agreeing with the latter sentiments, Hommann Ramotesela Radipudi introduced another point ÔÇô that EWB was interfering with ecological balance: “Nonsense! If u interfere with nature in this way, how/what do u expect vultures to feed on?again, this is a natural way of controlling elephants population,u waste money that could be used to uplift the quality of life for the poor!”