On Wednesday a former Fitz PhD student, who now works for WWF South Africa's Rhino program, came to give us a talk about WWF's new 5 point plan to reduce rhino poaching in South Africa. It was a depressing talk, in so much as the story of the rhino goes. Rhino's were far more widespread in Africa than they are today, now they are only really in the southern part of the continent. At the start of the century black rhino (Diceros bicornis) were also numerous and white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) were almost extinct, and now this situation has been reversed. South Africa has been pivitol in the conservation of the white rhino, but since 2007 poaching in the country has sky rocketed. However, this talk offered hope and inspiration, because WWF had plans to tackle poaching. One of the hopes that WWF and the department of environmental affairs had was to try to reduce the demand from the major consumer of rhino horn: Vietnam. In Vietnam it is used as a cancer cure, but more commonly among the nouveau riche as a hangover cure. But the first step in negotiating with Vietnam seems to have been snubbed, LINK. It is understandable why many poor Africans would engage in poaching, when horns are so valuable and they are so poor, but for a developing countries government not to see the error of its ways is unforgivable. If demand can be reduced then it will become less profitable, and there is one thing that behaviour ecology has taught me: individuals are far less likely to engage in risky behaviours if the pay-off's are low. I think that if we can change the consumers habits, make them see bloody pictures of poached rhinos, then we can make this awful trade unprofitable. This needs to stop, now.
I am a behavioural ecologist, my main interests revolve around familial conflicts and their resolutions. However, my scientific interests are fairly broad.