28 September 2016
Protected Area Management Solutions
Interview with Wayne Lotter of PAMS - working to combat elephant poaching
Tell us about your job, your role and responsibilities
I am a founding director of a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Tanzania, which focuses primarily on wildlife protection. We support rangers, communities and governments to better protect wildlife from poachers and other criminals. We also collaborate with other like minded organizations to develop best practices and find solutions to challenges affecting wildlife. My primary strength is with strategy development.
Why did you decide to work to protect animals?
Since my first visits to a national park as a child my primary passion has been the preservation of wild places and the wild animals that inhabit these areas.
Why is the illegal trade in wildlife so prolific?
It is very prolific because there are way too few risks involved with the illegal wildlife trade compared with most other crimes. Enforcement strategies are unrealistic and woefully ineffective and almost all the focus is on the pawns and the footsolidiers, not the generals and main operators responsible for the carnage.
What are the common problems in Africa in tackling wildlife trafficking?
Corruption, at all levels, is the biggest problem. That includes every sector, even within conservation departments, NGOs, religious groups. Believe it or not, injudicious grant making is also a serious exacerbating factor for problems in several prominent wild areas. There are some sad yet spectacular examples of this, where donor funding has exacerbated wildlife trafficking rather than helping it because of not first ensuring that the corruption has been addressed.
How can the illegal trade in wildlife be tackled?
There are too many people in the world today, to allow continued international trade in endangered species of wildlife. Demand for wildlife products can no longer be sustained and wildlife products are not essential to human wellbeing so I would have to agree that “When the buying stops, the killing can too”. It is time to stop trading. Secondly, law enforcement and protection strategies are hopelessly inadequate. If or once we implement serious and comprehensive strategies to control illegal wildlife trade and these are shown to be working effectively, then and only then can we responsibly begin to consider reopening discussions on allowing limited trade in some species.
Tell us why meetings such as CITES CoP are so important?
Most big meetings are of little value, when comparing the costs against the benefits derived from them. Actions seldom match the amount of talking and years past with too little done to make a pracitical difference on the ground. However, some meetings are unavoidably necessary. CITES CoP meetings are one such example, because this is where meaningful decisions are made which affect the future of trade in endangered species, which is in most cases the single most important factor affecting their short to medium term survival. The main purpose that I am participating in the CoP 17 is to create awareness about the fact that protection measures are unrealistically simplistic and inadequate, and to share information about what is needed and does work.
When did you first meet Born Free?
I first met Born Free in 2012, during my first visit to the UK. I had wanted to meet for several years before that. Since then I have had the good fortune of meeting the staff at Born Free USA as well (Washington DC office).
Which is your favourite wild animal?
African elephants, and lions, are both my favourites because of their awesome vocalizations and due to the fact that I associate them with large and expansive wild places and ‘complete’ ecosystems with the full and natural range of species present. Where these animals are born free and roam freely, there are always many other wild animals living as well. I never tire of observing and being amongst any species of wild animal.
Do you have a special wild place?
It is so hard to pick one special place. There have been different times or chapters in my life when I have spent a lot of time in certain places that have made them really special to me. Kruger National Park in South Africa is one such place as it was my ‘first love’, but it is no longer as wild as it should be. Serengeti and Ruaha National Parks in Tanzania, Tsavo in Kenya, are also on my shortlist of favourites. Rather than one special place I would say I have a special habitat. African savanna is thus my ideal place, my preferred ‘home range’.
How could we all make the world a better place?
Always consider the situation and best interests of other people, and of animals, whenever making any decision which impacts upon them and on the world, from their needs and perspectives. The world will be a better place if we all could put ourselves in the shoes, paws, hooves, etc. of others whom we share the world with – and try to see things through their sets of eyes other than solely our own – with everything we do and decide. Secondly, if we could all tithe 10% of our time and resources on a monthly basis to a cause we truly believe in, the world will be a better place.