In 1962, Rachel Carson penned the environmental movement’s cornerstone manuscript Silent Spring. The highly controversial book awoke America’s consciousness to the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Over 50 years later, the book has left an important legacy, but one that, sadly, has yet to make its full impact in Africa, where wildlife poisoning is a serious issue.
The use of highly toxic pesticides to poison wildlife can be best described as silent, cheap, easy, and effective. It is so effective that a number of species of African wildlife are in decline due to poisoning. These include lions, hyenas, eagles, and especially vultures.
Pesticides are also used to kill many other species including elephants, hippos, leopards, wild dogs, chimpanzees, crowned cranes, game birds, and fish. The list is endless. Poaching of elephants and rhinos is now done using pesticides. Poachers use pesticides that are very easy to obtain, the most potent of which can fell a large tusker within 30 minutes. Pesticides are also used to harvest fish and birds for food, to obtain animals for traditional medicine and witchcraft, and to kill predators that attack livestock.
Even though the use of pesticides to poison wildlife is illegal in most African countries, lax regulation, corrupt officials, and poor enforcement have resulted in widespread abuse. Carbofuran is the pesticide most widely abused in Africa. It is banned—or its use is severely restricted—in the United States, Canada, and in EU countries. Why not in African countries?
The evidence on the ground is sickening. However, a recent case illustrates that the situation can be tackled by African governments. The Zambia Wildlife Authority successfully prosecuted a local farmer, who was sentenced to 6 years in jail after he poisoned 4 elephants, 476 vultures, and 2 bateleur eagles. We need to see more examples like this in Africa. After all, the health of Africa’s wildlife and, by extension, the health of its people is at stake.
For further reading, see “The power of poison: pesticide poisoning of Africa’s wildlife,” published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.12405/abstract
To help end this devastation visit http://stopwildlifepoisoning.wildlifedirect.org/