Breeding of Wildlife Species as a Means to Sustainable Development
Author: Tazoacha Francis
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 02/04/2010
Human evolution has accelerated with environmental exploitation and degeneration. With the rapid growth of the world’s population, many societies have been demanding more from the earth’s resources and have affected land surface at an ever-increasing rate. Prehistoric evidence shows that in Palaeolithic times the early hunters and gatherers used fire to burn extensive areas of the forest.
In more recent times, the population explosion has increased pressure on natural resources. Human beings have destroyed enormous tracts of natural vegetation, excavated large areas of land, greatly modified the landscape and even created new land for development. According to Amartya (1999), Unfortunately, some renewable resources are being used at rates that exceed the speed at which they can be regenerated. Nowhere is this more apparent than the destruction and deforestation of the rainforests. A hectare of forest can be destroyed within an hour, but it may take several decades for the forest to regenerate itself (ECNC, 1997).
Just a few decades ago, the impact of the indiscriminate and wanton exploitation of the earth’s resources became a reality; ranging from vegetation and fossil fuels to minerals, water and even land use. These factors heavily affected the natural environment, both in terms of ecosystems and the aesthetic beauty of landscapes: the peril of these effects looms ahead. It is at this critical stage that there is a great panic to look for alternative ways to regenerate and rehabilitate the earth for its sustainable use: “while the parched eviscerate soil gapes at the vanity of toil, laughs without mirth; this is the death of earth” (ECNC, 1997).
One of these alternative ways involves the domestication of wildlife species. The main goals of this method are to reduce the exploitation of these resources on the one hand, and on the other hand, manage them sustainably.
The breeding of wildlife species is one of the oldest professions since the genesis of mankind. During this period, man hunted, tamed and domesticated animals into the domestic animals we use today for pastoral farming.
Animal captivity and the domestication of wildlife pioneered in Africa during the 1920s where many local species were caught and raised at home for food, traditional rites, rituals, etc. In the 1930s, these practices extended to New Zealand where wild feral were also domesticated. Also, in the 1920s animals like minks, sables, beavers, llama, vicuna and ostrich were domesticated in Russia for the production of furs and meat (Posewitz, 1999).
Today, due to the extensive exploitation of these wildlife species, they risk extinction. Today, we notice that:
conservationists rarely address the adverse socio-economic conditions, they are a driving force behind the massive techno-military build-up around African protected areas that have become the hallmark of fortress conservation (Igoe, Jim, 2004 pp73).
Yet, an alternative as to how these indigenous Africans can earn a living in place of their original source of livelihood remains to be given. Instead, a prominent conservationist Igoe, (2004) says:
Fortress conservation has become manifest in the institution of the national parks, which can be found in practically every country in the world. One of its central features is that it relies on the forced exclusion of local people in order to remain viable.
These current practices are not solving the problem and instead have pushed the local people to resort to using other means to poach the food species they have immemorially been living on.
The species that have been documented by bush meat market studies tend to be among the most abundant, as they are easier to locate and capture. However, in some cases, rodents have been locally exterminated; as in the case of giant rats in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central grass fields of Cameroon, as well as some parts of Nigeria. These cases involve areas where the human population is dense, the land fully cultivated (Stein, 2002) and other wildlife species over-hunted. Some species like cane rats (grass-cutters) are well below carrying capacity, or have become extinct in some areas due to over exploitation. Most African governments have laws requiring that hunters have a license to hunt unprotected wildlife (especially rodents). These types of measures could help to protect rodents from over-hunting, but are not frequently enforced (IUCN, 1996). Thus, knowing the importance of these resources to the communities, alternative ways have been sought to sustainably manage them. One solution is to domesticate and harvest these resources wisely.
REASONS FOR OVEREXPLOITATION
Since the 1600s, the worldwide overexploitation of animals and plants for food and other products have caused numerous species to become extinct or endangered (Elliot, 2000). These species have become extinct for a number of reasons involving the factors below.
Poverty: One of the root causes of overexploitation of wildlife species especially in the rural areas is poverty. The inability of the landless rural poor dwellers to earn a living forces them to resort to the indiscriminate exploitation of the available natural resources. Wildlife is seen as what is known as a “common property” resource: this concept means that no one person owns the animals, they are “free for the taking” (Bryan, 2002). When most of the population feels this way, pursuing his or her self-interest so thoughtlessly, though hunger stricken, the result can be very tragic. In addition, when a specific type of game becomes rarer, its value and price rises: consequently hunters are given greater incentives to hunt it. This spurs the poor hunters to search and hunt earnestly: it then becomes even more difficult for that species to survive. Also, some communities or governments do not have the capital to invest in the political debate. As a result,
Wildlife managers in these countries argue that controlled harvest, especially of elephants and sale of their ivory are necessary because they provide funds for the management and protection of other species (Borgerhoff-Mulder, et al, 2005).
Scarcity of domestic hoof stock: Due to the difficulty of raising domestic hoof stock in Africa (and elsewhere), lack of capital and disease, various sources of wild animal protein including rodents have been used for substitutes. As these animals are relatively abundant, easy to capture, preferred by customers, and not owned by anyone, rodents have been proposed by some as a potential alternative source of protein and income for many households. As a result, they are subject to mass exploitation. The effects of such great population decline are so extraordinary and dangerous that we may not realize our own folly until it is too late.
Hunting: This practice has been an important contributor to the extinction of certain species of wildlife. Many people hunt for recreation and adventure and thus some species hunted are “as flies to wanton boys – they kill for sport”, (Shakespeare, 1623). Many animals like crews, owls and monkeys fall prey, some killed without being eaten. Hunting does not necessarily need to be prohibited altogether, but certain sympathy for the animals should be kept in mind. These animals hunted for sport are wasted, while many people go without food.
Food Security: In most food insecure areas, overexploitation of wildlife species is the order of the day. This is because exploited wildlife continues to be used as a source of food supply. Up till now, some endangered species are still hunted for food, despite the laws passed. If the prey is rare, for example, the highly nutritive red dear in West Africa, the hunting becomes widespread and the population and species are wiped away forever.
Economic and Political Circumstances: Sometimes wildlife is affected by unusual political or economic upheavals. In 1979 for example,
The Ugandan and Tanzanian troops massacred wildlife in Ruwenzori National Park, one of Africa’s most bountiful game reserves. Ugandan businessmen then purchased the meat. About 30% of the park’s 46500 animals had been killed including 6000 hippopotamus, 5000 buffalos, 400 tapirs, 100 elephants and 70 lions. A similar thing occurred when the Islamic Republic in Iran was established (Elliot, 2000).
Recently the conflict between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula has also resulted in the massive destruction of wildlife in the area, where most of the animals were hunted for food.
Trade: International trade of wildlife is highly profitable and occurs at a level unsuspected by most people. A huge number of animals and plants are collected and shipped around the world for scientific and medical research. Also, animals are collected for display in zoos and gardens for products that can be derived from them. Sometimes exotic animals are offered up at high prices for what the seller calls “research purposes”. However, some animals such as the ostriches, geese, marabou and storks are sometimes traded, even though they serve little purpose in medical experiments. For that reason,
Science and conservationism developed hand-in-hand. Colonial conservation allowed resources to be appropriated, both for the use of private capital and as a source of revenue for the state itself, (Adams, 2002).
Collections of animals for zoos and laboratories have reduced the gorilla population towards extinction, especially when large numbers of the creatures are killed in the process of capture, or die in captivity before being displayed or experimented upon.
Many animals continue to suffer for the by-products they can provide: Nature produces aesthetics that are very fascinating to the human eye; as a result, these resources are used for decoration and ornaments. For example, butterflies and beetles are commonly used for these decorations, as well as the skins of crocodiles, alligators and snakes which are made into shoes and handbags. Furthermore, millions of birds are killed so that their feathers can be used for hats and clothing and the elephant is highly priced as a medicine and aphrodisiac. These practices keep these species endangered.
- In addition, billions of plant species have been ploughed under or eaten by domesticated herbivores. Furthermore, the development and spread of agriculture is a much more serious source of habitat destruction. Sometimes an entire natural ecosystem is converted into fields, which raise only one or a few plants; thus, the diversity of the population is The rich tropical forests in Africa are also lost through fire in the course of shifting cultivation (DFID, 2002). The spread of agriculture over the world has also affected the distribution and abundance of animal species over vast territories. For example, the overgrazing and conversion of land, the use of farming equipment and cotton farming in Arizona are pushing the Gila Master lizard towards the brink of disappearance. Also, on the small Japanese island of Okinawa, the Iriomote cat is being extinguished by farmers, (IUCN, 2000).
THE IMPACT OF OVEREXPLIOTATION
The overexploitation of the wildlife species has left a great impact on the environment and human life itself. This process is like killing the geese that lay golden eggs.
Endangered species: Today hundreds of animal and plant species that were once found in our forests, mountains, water and grasslands have gradually disappeared, or are at the point of extinction due to the overexploitation of resources. In many countries it has been a big blow to the tourism industry, which is a great source of income. Species like the mammoth, which were once found in the mountains in India, are no more (Bielawskic, 2002). The great apes, elephants and some exotic species of birds, timber and medicinal plants are now endangered as well.
Destruction of the forest: A report published in 1991 by the FAO estimates that the current destruction of the tropical rain forest is occurring at the rate of 40 million acres per year, mainly as a result of human activities, (FAO, 1991). Some forest and grasslands are destroyed by fire during the process of hunting or collecting honey. Hunting in some tropical areas is done in a primitive way where a suspected area is surrounded by hunters and games are chased out of the area by the use of fire. This has resulted in the loss of farms, farmlands, ecosystems, and beautiful landscapes. There is, however a more complicated problem: the rapid degradation of the forest soils, deforestation and the depletion of the soil. This phenomenon has reduced food production amidst the perpetual population explosion.
Poverty and food insecurity: The impact of overexploitation of natural resources (the flora and fauna), in an attempt to benefit from their use, has been devastating. This is especially true in the rural areas where efforts to gather these resources have led to the destruction of the land by bushfires and chemical use. In the case of exploiting timber wood and medicinal plants (e.g. Prunus Africana which is cut down in an attempt to harvest the barks), the results include acute deforestation and the extinction of species. With such destruction, increased pressure is exerted on the land and this has led to the multiplying effects of poverty and food insecurity.
Loss of human lives: The exploitation of these animal and plant species is most often done in rural areas and in a primitive way that is dangerous to the exploiters. In the course of exploitation, hunters often shoot at each other or accidentally poison the water or the food they eat. Also, attempts of cutting down trees or climbing trees to harvest the barks results in many accidents. Furthermore, fire often consumes not only the property of the hunters but the hunters’ lives as well. These practices have resulted in too many deaths.
Use of chemicals in hunting: The disastrous impact on the social and cultural life of rural dwellers is increasing with the use of chemicals for hunting purposes. These practices have led to health implications due to the cumulative effects of chemical residues in the soil, water and general environment.
REDUCING OVEREXPLIOATION OF WILDLIFE SPECIES
There is no doubt of the necessity to improve our societies to become more sustainable; this is our greatest challenge for this century. The limited resources available on earth and the capacity of the natural ecosystem to cope with the damages imposed by human activities are becoming more and more apparent. With this in mind, many researchers have come up with many approaches to try and limit the degrading nature of the earth. Some of these ways include wildlife conservation and biosphere reserves. With these alternatives, researchers and international organizations have found some of the best options to salvage the extinction of some species. These approaches were suggested with the aim of protecting the endangered species and to increase the possibility of regeneration.
Furthermore, much has been done to improve agricultural systems in order to reduce the pressure on our forests; as a means to minimise the loss of natural habitats. Many international meetings and protocols have also provided other opportunities for alternatives, such as the Rio Summit of 1992 and the World Summit for Sustainable Development. However, even with these increasing alternatives, little success seems to be at the horizon. Most of these opportunities have been developed without giving alternative ways subsistence. Consequently, this paper is proposing the domestication of wildlife species as an alternative way to sustainable development.
BREEDING OF SOME WILDLIFE SPECIES
The breeding of wildlife species has carefully been observed and found as one of the best methods for protecting endangered species in a sustainable way. It is not only meant for protecting these species, but also for managing them in a sustainable way. Many governments in endangered areas have found this method most appropriate. The objectives of breeding wildlife species are:
To protect species from extinction: The exploitation of certain species has been too rampant and indiscriminate and their extinction is now at the threshold. Consequently, with the implementation of this methodology, many peasant farmers and hunters will be guided to own farms of these species. This will therefore make farmers manage these farms viably and in a sustainable manner. If this is done, it will reduce the rate of exploitation drastically.
To create a source of income generation: The species domesticated will not only act as a bulwark to those in the wild, but will also provide a source of income generation for the farmers. The domesticated species will be bred and sold as any livestock animal. Again, the farms will act as tourist sites to many people – tourism providing a vital source of income. This approach will therefore raise their income level drastically and the economy in the area as a whole will also be boosted.
To alleviate poverty: If wildlife breeding is encouraged in a large scale, it will serve as a source of income for subsistence in the community. Trade in wildlife has not only been seen at the local level, but also at the national and international levels. A large-scale sustainable production of wildlife products will alleviate poverty among the farmers and improve their livelihoods. Since these species are in very high in demand, a wide market for these products will be easily accessible.
To guarantee food security: One of the reasons for the overexploitation of these species is for local or subsistent consumption. In an area where poverty is the order of the day, with perpetual threat to hunger, the exploitation of these resources is acute. These poor and hunger-stricken people collect these resources as a means to eradicate hunger that lurks continuously in these areas. The situation of such an alternative method will create a sustainable food source in the area. Bush meat and the consumption of protein related food will also curb hunger-related diseases in these areas. If these projects are managed viably then the depletion of our environment will be rejuvenated and sustainable development will be guaranteed.
To divert attention: The poor landless peasants have dominated the overexploitation of these wildlife resources. If the domestication of these species is seen as an alternative way of ending the plight of these people, it is going to preoccupy them; thus diverting their attention from the species in the wild. They will then concentrate only on the animals they have kept for breeding and commercialisation. It will also be an alternative source of income for the peasant farmers who have been exerting a lot pressure on their farmlands at the expense of the fragile environment. With the introduction of such an alternative source of income, the pressure on the farmlands will reduce to a greater extent.
To reduce risk: The risk borne by these hunters or farmers in their expedition is very high. The fire used for hunting and harvesting honey; the risk of shooting at each other with a gun or arrow; falling from very high heights; cutting trees to harvest the barks; etc are very common occurrences among these people. With the introduction of this method of sustainable development, these risks will reduce.
THE SPECIES BRED
The domesticated species will range from one region or country to another. That is, in some countries or regions, some of this wildlife may not be available. This may depend on the availability of their food or habitat. In other areas, the species are not threatened, while in others they may be highly threatened and would be classified under the endangered species
For example, in Central and West Africa, the fauna species threatened are the most preferred bush-meat such as grass-cutters (cane rats), giant rats, porcupines, antelopes, hares, partridges, snails, honey, etc. these species are wildly eaten in these areas. Furthermore, the flora species exploited are Prunus Africana and aloe-vera (for medicine) “eru”, and are consumed as a staple food. The breeding of these species will increase the supply in the market as a means to reduce pressure on the species in the wild.
METHODS OF BREEDING
The methods of breeding differ from one species to another. Most animals have different methods of feeding, various habitats and breeding seasons. Consequently, while in considering undertaking such a project, we must first of all take into consideration the following conditions:
Habitats: This is one of the most essential conditions we should consider if we want to breed these games for food and commercial purposes. We should first of all study their habitats or their ways of living in the forest, before taking a step in preparing one at home. For example, if porcupines live in holes in the ground, we therefore need to construct a hole in the ground that will be similar to that of their natural habitat. This condition will allow them to live comfortably with their privacy guaranteed.
Feeding: This is also an essential element for growth and breeding of any living organism. In this case, we need to look for the kind of food that this particular animal has been adapted to. This is because if their food is changed, they will starve to death. Therefore, substituting food sources will be doing more harm. We need to carefully study what each species feeds on before making an attempt to domesticate them.
Breeding: Our main reason for domesticating these animals is to multiply them for subsistence and for income generation. In order to get enough for food and market, we need to breed them for production. Breeding them is relatively very difficult, because we need to make these animals adapt totally to their new environment. Therefore, we need to make a careful study of each species. In doing this, we need to know their breeding season, food, and habitat. These conditions are the prerequisite for effective reproduction. If animals feel as if they are living in captivity, the environment will not be conducive for reproduction.
The expected results of such an alternative way for environmental management for sustainable development will be measured with the short and long term effects. For the short term, the results will include the following:
Guaranteed food security: When this alternative way will be employed in a large scale, it is going to increase the supply of meat in the area and beyond. The abundant availability of meat will be a great source of protein. This will increase food security with a constant supply of meat at a cheaper rate, thus reducing protein deficiency diseases.
Alleviated poverty: The commercialisation of these products (bush-meat), which is always in very high demand, will be done at the local, national and international levels. This will therefore boost the local and national economies. The projects will again serve as a tourist centre, which will also generate income and those endangered species in the wild will have time to regenerate naturally.
Source of employment opportunities: The many poor and landless peasants who have been toiling helplessly will see this opportunity and as a gleam of hope. The viability of their projects will sustain a constant source of revenue that will enable them break the vicious cycle of poverty and will allow them to grow beyond the poverty line.
Reduced environmental pressure: The concentration of the peasants on the exhausted land resources, especially the soils and the forestland, will extensively reduce. This is due to the involvement of these peasants in the domestication of the wildlife. Supervised by the stakeholders, this opportunity will divert their attention from intensive and extensive land use. While the land is eased of this pressure, the occupants will sustain life in an alternative way. In the long run, this alternative will give the endangered species an opportunity to rejuvenate; thus, recreating a healthy ecosystem. On the other hand, the economy will regenerate, the income level of the poor will rise and their livelihood will improve. Thus, these areas will spontaneously stand to face the challenges of globalisation for sustainable development.
Clearly, in recent times, humankind has radically altered the earth’s surface with an accelerated impact. There is a need to understand the natural systems and interactions between the various earth surface processes and the impact of human activities. This is in order to be able to predict the consequences of human actions and to manage the resources in sympathy with the natural environment (UNEP, 1997). Many stakeholders have come up with alternative ways of solving these problems, but have been presented with many shortcomings; and the process of overexploitation continues. The breeding of wildlife species has been initiated as an alternative solution to these problems because it produces a sense of environmental management for sustainable development. If this method is employed, we shall pass the earth on to other generations greener than we met it.
Bio: Tazoacha Francis is an MA student in Natural Resources and Peace at the United Nations Mandated University for Peace. He holds a BA in English from the University of Buea, Cameroon. In 2003 he participated in International Courses in Environment & Sustainable Development and International Cooperation & Development in the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Tazoacha Francis has worked with NGOs and written and presented research papers in national and international conferences.