Letter: 'Wise use' alternatives to culling for Africa's rhinos

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Sir: Martin Booth's article 'Armed with a rifle and a licence to cull' (31 August) gives another chilling description of the horrors and consequences of rhinoceros poaching. But there is great strength in his advocacy of 'an untried solution' - 'a managed system whereby wildlife is given a value that may be realised by those who have a vested interest in it, namely the natives'.

In reality, this is the policy already being applied by countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, which have been so successful with the conservation of elephants that managed culling is a continuing requirement.

However, Mr Booth has been a little too sweeping in his condemnation of wildlife charities and the conservation movement. After all, it was the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, based in Geneva, that developed the concept of 'conservation through wise use'.

Incidentally, this concept is applied and supported in this country, most notably by The Game Conservancy Trust, the foremost research organisation into gamebirds. This organisation has stated that game conservation should be regarded as a valid use of sustainable national resources and valued as a prime example of conservation through wise use. The dependency of use creates a self- interest on the part of the user in sustaining the natural resource and in defending it from unwise use or destruction.

Unless there is 'game utilisation', as Mr Booth refers to it, the scope for successful conservation of game, big or small, is largely diminished. Furthermore, game conservation is the main cause of habitat maintenance and improvement in the wider countryside, to the benefit of all flora and fauna.

For example, in this country, in the moorland areas, it is interest in grouse that preserves heather from over-grazing and ultimate destruction; and it is pheasants and partridges that have been the source of protection from intensive farming, in the lowland areas, for hedgerows and all the flora and fauna they contain.

Yours faithfully,




1 September