Thanks for taking the time to view this site and my efforts to bring conservation initiatives to a more accessible and wider-reaching medium. The objective of Red Hawk Adventures is to showcase my past and future opportunities volunteering with conservation groups on the front-lines of wildlife protection. As well I'll document my own adventures in between volunteering opportunities while also bringing people closer to the natural beauty of our world. Educational wildlife clips and articles on animal species, overviews of high-risk countries, and links to additional resources will add an extra layer of value and stimulate curiosity.
I also want to raise awareness of opportunities that you can take by participating in amazing hikes, volunteering with rangers half-way around the world, or simply leading a more active lifestyle.
So please join me in 100% real hiking excursions, lessons in survival, and when possible on patrols or joining in on other activities with rangers and volunteers just like myself.
Why Conservation Matters for Humans
With the aid of technology and instantaneous communication we have a unique perspective as we watch the world change. We can watch as nations fight for changes in leadership or succumb to chaos. Especially in developed nations we pride ourselves on being able to keep track of so many critical topics and events. However it has also become harder to remain aware of these topics as they evolve and become more complex.
Our environment is important to the long-term sustainability of humanity, but for many it's difficult to identify with the needs of future generations when current human needs are so pressing. However the situation can only become more complicated, expensive, and toxic if we turn a blind eye to the stability not only of our ecosystems, but also the economies of developed and developing countries around the world.
South Africa is estimated to rank #33 in Gross Domestic Product (2014) according to the International Monetary Fund. Tourism and travel has been growing steadily the past few years and accounts for around 10% of employment and contributed 102 Billion South African Rand (more than $12 Billion) to the country's GDP in 2012. Much of that tourism is the attraction to the largest and most diverse wildlife in the world. Kruger National Park is home to more than 600 species of birds alone. Populations of tens of thousands of impala, one of more than 60 species of antelope native to Africa, roam the massive territory. Despite South Africa's economic strength its conservation efforts aren't reducing the slaughter of animals in their country, nor do their land owners feel safe when heavily-armed poachers are capable of slipping in and out of the country with relative ease.
Many African nations suffer from problems that come along with poachers killing endangered animals. But the effects are even more profound for countries that economically rely on the ability to share their portion of the African ecology with tourists. Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique all offer different perspectives on African wildlife, geology, historical heritage, and tourist activities. But poaching and regional instability due to violence threatens to take away some of the natural splendor of this region of Africa as well as endanger the jobs and even the lives of the people that work there and are supported by tourism.
Poaching of animals and violence against humans in north-eastern regions of South Africa are driving away owners of private reserves from properties with high-value targets such as rhino or elephants. This in turn affects the nearby game reserves and agriculture industries (agriculture provides around 10% of the country's jobs nationally) which can no longer rely on their neighbor's upkeep and defense of the land creating a divided defense against incursions. This violence may also impact housing values in an already weak national market where more than 12% of property owners cite safety and security as a primary factor and more than 14% cite financial pressure as reasons for selling.
It's important that we remain aware of the changes to our world environment, especially as ecosystems in one part of the world slowly decline and threaten the prosperity of entire nations. In a world linked by international trade, tourism, and cultural exchange the affects of poaching in far-away Africa can have on the global economy, especially as countries loan billions of dollars in equipment and manpower and provide multi-million dollar aid packages to destabilized regions -- a problem that should have been curtailed early on.
Spreading awareness of the problems that our economic allies face is important in maintaining interest and funding in order to improve conservation, stop poaching, and reduce the effects of black market sales that strengthen warlords and criminal syndicates in Africa and criminal syndicates in Asia.
Improving awareness in Asia, particularly in China and Vietnam, is one of the areas that needs to be improved in order to reduce poaching. Education, reasoned explanations that respect their cultural and philosophical heritage and traditions, should be a primary goal for all groups interested in reducing poaching throughout the world, improving international relations, or protecting a species. This is especially important as China increasingly establishes influential economic relations with African countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Kenya -- all of which also have problems with poaching and illegal trade in animal parts.
If you'd like to assist Red Hawk Adventures by translating subtitled video into Chinese, Vietnamese, or any other language, please contact us.
Poaching in Africa & Asia
Poaching has already taken a huge toll in Asia. A wild cheetah hasn't been seen in India since before the 1960s and few remain in Iran. Populations of leopards and tigers throughout Asia have been culled to extreme levels that the animals may not bounce back from even with human help. And China's killing of sharks is another widespread problem that shows little understanding of the finite supply of animals and the harm to the environment by using them in traditional medicines or cultural dishes. It's imperative to increase the existing conservation efforts and put additional emphasis on educating the people that participate in the trade of animal parts.
Black rhino populations are reaching a critical point in Africa, just like tigers in Asia, and it's estimated that fewer than 4,000 exist in all of Africa. Populations of all sub-species of white rhino have also been reduced by more than 90% due to hunting and poaching over the last century with an estimated 14,500 left in all of Africa. Rhino poaching in South Africa alone has accounted for more than 600 rhino confirmed killed in 2012 and over 1000 killed in 2013. This is despite the efforts of numerous anti-poaching groups and the South African National Defense Force which operates in South Africa's portion of the 19,485 square kilometer (7,523 mi2) Kruger National Park.
Asian countries are the primary importers of illegal rhino horn and elephant tusks. China and Vietnam need to continue to fight myths about mystical uses for rhino horn. However every country has a role in educating its people about the utility of animals and that while there are many things to gain from animals, baseless traditions of showing off one's wealth by eating shark fin soup has no place in modern society.
There are many breeding and habitat adaptation programs to accelerate growth of tiger populations, and even efforts to introduce tigers into Africa which may prove a perfect habitat for them. But a concerted effort is also needed to pursue and prosecute illegal hunters as well as deal with the insurgents crossing country boundaries and targeting civilians.
Part of putting a stop to poaching and insurgencies, especially in Africa, is remaining civilized. If we, as a civilized world, want to right the wrongs in the world and create a better place for all of us, then we have to abide by morals and principles that build the foundation of our diverse societies. In some African countries "shoot-to-kill" laws are in effect against poachers -- or any trespassers -- but this isn't true universally, nor is it a practical solution in every country.
Shooting to kill is also a dangerous mindset to develop if we want a stable African continent free of rebel governments, free of armies of child soldiers, and maintaining the peace and prosperity of some of the largest economies in the world. Fire can fight fire, but we have to be careful in our methodology and that we respect other nations' civil law so that we leave the right kind of lasting impact. Africa already has problems with uninhibited violence and some countries are still recovering from long civil wars and large regional conflicts like the Rhodesian Bush War, so anti-poaching efforts need to choose carefully the most effective methods of dealing with these threats that not only suit conservation efforts, but benefit the citizens of the country. And well-trained units in South Africa have seen success in arresting poachers in some of the world's highest-risk national parks.
The first step in that process is understanding the laws and working with the local peoples of each country directly affected by poaching and foreign insurgencies. It's imperative to establish a good relationship with the people, empower them, and help them to defend their own homes and their own resources. Many of the local African people already take great pride in protecting the animals -- more so than their fellow citizens that live affluent lives in the cities and economic hot spots that share the wealth of modern industrialized nations. However this appreciation for the environment, as well as the burden of responsibility, needs to be effectively communicated to all demographics because everyone is adversely impacted by poaching.
As with many things in the developed world technology plays a crucial role in the advancement of conservation efforts. Its importance is even more profound in the case of anti-poaching efforts, where rangers are boots on the ground in areas with many of the most dangerous animals in the world. Southern Africa is home to a couple of the most venomous snakes in the world; the Big 6 (lion, African elephant, African buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus), the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa; as well as a host of other animals that can't determine if a ranger is friend or enemy and may react unpredictably to defend itself.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also called drones, provide several advantages for the anti-poaching ranger. The drone can be deployed kilometers away from a high-risk area, fly via auto-pilot, and then survey specific areas of interest for hours without tiring. If rangers are deployed on the ground the UAV can remain in the air providing real-time intelligence on animal movements, terrain conditions, and even send back live video feeds in true color or infrared.
Modern GPS systems are even more robust and useful than when the Global Positioning System was first envisioned. They're also much easier to use and more convenient than navigating by paper maps. Handheld GPS units can be stored in a vehicle or carried in a pocket and be used to chart ranger patrols, mark signs of intrusion on a property, or identify a watering hole. All of this information can then be uploaded to internet-based mapping systems, charted in 3D, and shared across the world to help other rangers stay on the trail of a band of poachers. Or head them off in an ambush. A much more recent implementation of GPS units are collared units for use with animals that can assist in tracking tagged game such as rehabilitated and recently released lions. These collared units provide real-time location data, speed of travel, and can help conservationists better understand wildlife habits after successful rehabilitation.
Conservation efforts in Africa are reaching a critical period as rhino populations are beginning to decline faster than rhinos can reproduce. Now is a very exciting time to be on the front lines of conservation in southern Africa and parts of Asia. There are fun ways to get involved, such as with eco-tourism and volunteering with conservation groups. Perhaps you want to bolster your academic record by spending a month or two at a center that reintroduces endangered animals at a Namibian nature reserve.
But conservation efforts are more than just about animals. Getting involved in a humanitarian project that reduces the environmental impact of rural communities is a great way to help out the environment and a community. Consider getting involved in building a solar-powered school in Kenya or teaching English to disadvantaged youths.
There are many worthwhile ways to break out of your comfort zone and experience new things without getting too extreme. If sweeping through the bushveld looking for snares left by poachers and going on patrols in some of the most beautiful -- and dangerous -- areas in the world aren't things you can consider doing right now, then consider a safer way of giving back to the community, volunteering, raising funds, or donating your professional skills to a charitable organization. The Get Involved page has some ideas of how you can get started on a new adventure -- or join an existing one. If you'd rather make a financial commitment to preserving our wildlife please take a look at the Conservation Organizations & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers featured on the Conservation Groups page for organizations you can support.