Paying our Way
A few years ago I was at a fund raising event in London, dining with a group of people who were all strangers to me. I’m not sure how the conversation came about, but the lady sitting next to me, who had an interest in wildlife conservation, declared: “It’s time these animals paid their way.” The time had come, she thought, for certain endangered species to be viewed as commodities, to be traded and farmed, in order to save them from extinction. I couldn’t quite believe my ears, but I kept my counsel and let her say her piece. I was reminded of this exchange when reading Julian Newman’s report in this issue of Wild Planet about South Africa’s efforts to gain CITES approval next year for a legal trade in rhino horn. Newman works for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and far from saving South Africa’s rhinos from extinction, he believes a legal trade in horn will have the exact opposite effect.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I do wonder if my children’s generation will be the last to photograph wild animals as they should be seen – in the wild. It’s bad enough that poaching, hunting, habitat loss, deforestation and climate change are accelerating the demise of so many species, without also hatching hare-brained schemes that consign wildlife to be habituated, impounded and traded.
So what are wildlife photographers to do? I strongly believe we are best placed to agitate and fight for the rights of the subjects that we photograph. All animals have as much right to live freely on this planet as we do. But our photographs cannot help if they aren’t also used to educate and inform a wider audience of the peril that so many species are now facing.
Keith Wilson, Editor