To save the elephants, learn about the people of Africa first
March 24, 2014
This letter is in reference to Mr. Steve McNallen of Nevada City.
Mr. McNallen seems like a great guy. He cares about the elephants and he cares about the people of Africa.
However, I do not think he understands what it is like to work in Africa. I have worked in many conflict areas and countries in Africa including DRC, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Angola, Zimbabwe and others of which there are too many to mention.
I have worked with presidents, ministers, generals, pirates, thieves, kidnappers and worse. I am well-acquainted with the corruption and poverty of Africa.
I believe Mr. McNallen's life experience will not be sufficient education to enable him to deal with the people in the illegal elephant trade.
The very people who are protecting the elephant may very well be the people making the money. Nothing in the bush goes unnoticed.
The poachers can only exist because the officials turn their heads and look the other way.
I am not saying all officials are corrupt. What I am saying is there is enough money and corruption to make it impossible to stop the poaching.
Mr. McNallen can write all he wants, he can talk to the villagers and he can explain the benefits and detriments. But in the end, the African mentality will prevail.
In Africa everything is about today. A hunter will shoot the squirrel in front of him rather than go after a deer he has heard about over the hill.
He knows if he shoots the squirrel, he has lunch. If he leaves the squirrel and goes after the deer, he may end up hungry. He will almost always take the squirrel.
The people of the village will benefit greatly by participating in the ivory trade. The majority will not concern themselves with the long-term.
They need to feed their kids today. They know that ivory sales will make that possible. Mr. McNallen and others like him are always "future" providers. Africans have heard every promise you can think of. Most are empty.
Even when concerned groups send money and goods to the village, most gifts and charity items are processed though the person with power and little gets to the people.
I am not saying Mr. McNallen should give up and do nothing. No, he should do his best. However, he should engage with people in the different organizations who are already working in this area.
His time and money will be better spent and I will not have to wonder if good ol' McNallen has ended up in some bush, shot in the head.
Louis Pearl, GG, lives in Grass Valley.