American wins award for book on African wildlife politics

By Emmanuel Koro

As the politics of African wildlife continues to play a major role in ongoing media debates, some Western writers are using the subject to help educate the public on the possibility that racism is impacting on much of what is proposed by the West.

Last week, Godfrey Harris won recognition for his hilarious and educative book “Credit the Crocodile” (2017). The book was selected as a finalist for the Book Excellence Award, which is sponsored by Canadians. Harris is an American author and a keen follower of African wildlife politics.

His book, “Credit the Crocodile”, beat hundreds of other entries from around the world and won this comment from the judges: “. . . this book was selected for its high-quality writing, design and market appeal.”

With African wildlife politics deeply embedded in the story that Harris tells of two American teenagers, who run afoul of South African law, recognition of the book puts Africa once again in the middle of the world’s cultural map.

As part of giving back to Africa, the continent whose wildlife politics inspired him to write the book, Harris lectured at several universities and a primary school in South Africa in May 2018.

As part of his presentation, he gave free autographed copies of the book to attendees as well as to the school’s library.

His book, “Credit the Crocodile”, beat hundreds of other entries from around the world and won this comment from the judges: “. . . this book was selected for its high-quality writing, design and market appeal.”

With African wildlife politics deeply embedded in the story that Harris tells of two American teenagers, who run afoul of South African law, recognition of the book puts Africa once again in the middle of the world’s cultural map.

As part of giving back to Africa, the continent whose wildlife politics inspired him to write the book, Harris lectured at several universities and a primary school in South Africa in May 2018.

As part of his presentation, he gave free autographed copies of the book to attendees as well as to the school’s library.

This must-read book mocks the animal rights groups’ continued patronising attitude to Africans and their wildlife.

Incidentally, its international recognition comes at a time when the “temperature” for the pro and anti-wildlife use debate is becoming hotter.

The reason seems to be the impending UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna Species (CITES), meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from August 17-28, 2019.

The book also exposes incidents where personal rewards for politicians can outweigh national interests of a country.

“Credit the Crocodile” is designed to open the eyes of adults through the fresh perceptions of their kids, particularly to the possibility of saving a species, while maintaining trade in its parts.

The book raises a key question: Does the world appreciate the reality that sustainable use of wildlife products, such as ivory or rhino horns, actually creates an incentive for conserving wildlife?

One of the world’s leading environmentalists who has read the book is former CITES secretary-general (1982-1990) Eugene Lapointe.

He and his wife now run IWMC World Conservation Trust, a leading sustainable use organisation.

They issued a joint statement reacting to the book’s meritorious selection, “What a great honour and a well-deserved one! We are thrilled for (Godfrey Harris).”

One of the key lessons that I drew from the book when I read it (and have also experienced through my 26-year interaction with poor African rural communities as an environmental journalist) is that stopping elephant and rhino poaching lies in allowing controlled trade in these animals and their products.

Without meaningful benefits from their wildlife, poor African rural communities are forced to consider wild animals as a nuisance.

But with the benefits that wildlife can bring to rural communities, locals no longer need to collaborate with poachers.

I strongly recommend “Credit the Crocodile” to anyone who has a desire to become involved in saving wildlife in Africa and worldwide.

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist, who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

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