SCI Foundation’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, senior government officials, professional hunting association leadership, community-based support organizations, international policy experts and wildlife biologists for this key African leadership conference.
Anti-poaching efforts are always an important topic at AWCF, including at last year’s forum in Mozambique. Anti-poaching was spotlighted through a presentation led by Greyling Van der Merwe, the anti-poaching manager at Mayo Oldiri Safaris in Cameroon. In addition to being a unique and important hunting destination, Cameroon is the most engaged of the central and western African countries with AWCF sending representatives almost every year. Greyling’s presentation highlighted the immense poaching issues in their areas and their diverse ways of tackling them – describing his efforts as “a daily war”.
Mayo Oldiri Safaris, owned by the Reguera family, is the largest hunting company in Cameroon and thus at the forefront of anti-poaching initiatives. Throughout their hunting area, they face illegal loggers and crop farmers destroying plants and animals; cattle herds destroying valuable vegetation and habitat; fishermen poisoning water sources to catch fish; loggers, illegal settlers, and gold prospectors poaching meat to survive in the bush; and organized commercial meat poachers supplying local markets. This is only exacerbated by the abandonment of many hunting areas, leaving them unguarded and vulnerable to exploitation. Based on his experiences on the ground, Greyling estimates only 15% – 20% of animal offtake in hunting areas is hunted legally, the rest are illegally poached.
As with many areas in southern Africa, the root cause of poaching is catalyzed by the struggles of local people to find employment and food security. One way that Mayo Oldiri Safaris tackles this complex issue is through strong collaboration with cultural and traditional authorities, local authorities, and national parks. It is important to use a multi-pronged approach that includes both direct counter-poachingf (e.g., law enforcement) and addressing the root causes of poaching through community engagement. In order for local communities to value wildlife – and in turn, lead in reducing poaching – they must benefit from the sustainable use of wildlife. Mayo Oldiri Safaris has in turn focused on the betterment of the communities, by focusing on healthcare and education through projects such as building a hospital with most-needed care capabilities and education campaigns with local leaders and in schools focused on the value of wildlife. Their armed anti-poaching teams remove traps and snares, destroy poaching camps, and conduct vehicle and foot patrols; in addition to the benefits to habitat and wildlife, this provides employment to and personal investment from the communities. If local people are helped, and not harmed, by wildlife and habitat, then they will protect it.
Hunting provides the resources, food security, employment, anti-poaching teams, and conservation efforts desperately needed in these areas. Resources and funds are scarce, the areas are vast, and poachers outnumber anti-poaching teams. Without hunting, there is no one to protect the ecosystem and no incentives for local people to value wildlife. The realities on the ground are far different than many Western views of wildlife and developing areas; it is our responsibility to support proven conservation strategies and listen to those closest to wildlife.
For more information on Mayo Oldiri Safaris’ anti-poaching efforts, subscribe to PATROL – a newsletter featuring the anti-poaching work of safari operations across Africa and read the article by Raquel Reguera here: https://www.patrolling.org/mayo-oldiri-anti-poaching-operations-in-cameroon/?ref=patrol-newsletter
Information on next year’s AWCF to be held in Namibia coming soon!