goal is to set an example of how wildlife can be even more valuable as a source of tourism than for sale on the black-market, providing a model throughout Africa. I was there to assess potential branding opportunities. Virgin Air had committed to a corridor for migrating elephants. Lewa hoped there were others.
One of Lewa’s initiatives is providing sanctuary for rhinos, an endangered species. The Conservancy took me to see to its community projects, from water pumps to schools to a visit with a baby rhino recuperating from a life-saving operation. All supported Lewa’s mission; all were inspiring.
But the talk I remember best was the one given by Lewa’s head of security. The ex-army leader opened his presentation with photos of a dead rhino, a large circle of dried blood on the top of its head where poachers had hacked off its magnificent horn to sell as rhino horn aphrodisiac.
The security chief went on to show how Lewa battles poaching with an army of sixty rangers trained in military communication and weaponry, some pictured holding semi-automatic weapons while riding across terrain in jeeps kitted out with sighting devices and machine guns.
These symbols of brutality were especially harsh after days spent in nature’s wonderland. But protecting what’s endangered is a war to stop criminals, and things inevitably get violent.
So it was a relief when I saw a photo of Brazilian soldiers standing on a clear-cut piece of the Amazon rainforest, holding machine guns, a show of force to stop the violation of forestry laws.
But just as bad as the local deforesters are the big agribusinesses and traders buying agricultural products grown on illegally deforested land and sold to American food companies.
In Brazil, most is bought by two American companies — beef for McDonald’s and soy for Cargill. Massive companies with massive demands.
Now Brazil has cut its deforestation by 80% from 2005 rates, well ahead of its original target of 2020. How? Yes with military enforcement. And even more effective, both American companies succumbed to pressure from the Brazilian government, its citizen-consumers, and most important, outrage from global consumers fueled by reports from environmental organizations. No big company wants to be caught breaking the law, and no big company wants to hurt its brand. After much negotiating千花坊