Did you just get another email with an emergency appeal from a wildlife organization needing your help to rescue baby elephants or rhinos — because poachers got their mamma?
Did you donate? Did it make you feel like you are making a difference in the world? Does it? I’m not sure. It’s such a sad, demoralizing and backward process, isn’t it? At least it should be seen that way — even though some of these baby-elephant appeal pictures are very cute, and the babies really do need our help. The sad reality is that these normally independent and wild animals are being extinguished, and we’re left with a bunch of vulnerable orphans.
What will that picture look like in 50 years, or even in 10 years?, I ask myself.
I wish I had a magic wand to turn the poaching crisis around. But I don’t. I, do, however, have a metaphorical pen (my computer and this blog) — as well as my passion and storytelling skills.
So I thought I’d use this mighty weapon today, to post about how we can change our messaging and mind-set toward turning this crisis around — through our storytelling about it.
I write to you from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I’ve been working as a photojournalist on the African continent for more than 10 years. So, I take my examples from here, but I bet they apply in many other places on earth too.
In addition to the cute, (and albeit) dire and worthy emergency baby-elephant appeals — here are three big problems in Africa causing wildlife deaths, including poaching, that deserve our attention. These are issues that we, (journalists, photographers and conservationists etc.) need to be able tell more stories about (and hopefully also about some of the solutions):
1) Unemployment, poverty and lack of alternative livelihoods;
2) Lack of available land, and animal-habit loss; and
3) Human-wildlife conflict due to lack of limited resources, with wildlife sharing space with humans relying on land for subsistence farming and cattle grazing.
If money was no object, I’d deep-dive into these topics right away — in words, pictures and video, galore.
Very sadly though, many experienced journalists and photographers don’t have the funding to do such quality storytelling anymore. Many of our employers, including reputable newspapers, magazines and agencies have folded. So we have to find new ways to do this work.
Isn’t it time that some of the donor funding was prioritized for this? To me, educating the public — along with lawmakers, and others with influence — is what could help turn the tide around. And it’s urgent.
Wouldn’t you like to donate to a cause where you feel a sense of hope that your contribution could make a difference — and possibly help safeguard a future for both humans and wildlife on earth?