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Classroom Resources: A Witness to Violence

By J. Michael Fay
April-June 2008 / Vol. 9 No. 2

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Discussion Questions

  1. What is the connection between war and biodiversity? Does this article show that the Darfur genocide was foreshadowed by the elephant massacres in the northern Central African Republic decades earlier? On a broader level, does how humans treat Nature mirror how we treat each other?
  2. What do you think of Fay’s argument that legal trade in ivory creates the markets for illegal trade? Is CITES correct in allowing some trade now, especially to reduce “overcrowded” elephant populations? Why? What causes elephant overcrowding?
  3. Fay makes an argument at the end of the article (page 34, second column, 2nd  paragraph) that “if you live on the landscape day after day, year after year, you realize that you do not need the absolute proof of science to act.” How can science help conservation, and how can it get in the way? What examples does he use?
  4. Humans as predators are generalists and switch prey according to availability. Once wholesale hunting is allowed with modern weaponry, is there any way entire fauna will not be decimated? In Manovo-Gounda-St. Floris Park, what other species besides elephants fell prey to the Janjaweed? How can strong governmental regulation help? Have other elephant populations recovered with better protection?
  5. Think about Fay’s career from field botanist studying elephant foraging, to a senior conservation scientist speaking out about international policy. What events along the way changed him? Why does he now think broadly about humans and nature, and take an active stance about international wildlife trade? What transformational events in your life have focused your interests?

Websites for Further Information

Ivory in the News

Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to the citations listed in the article)

  • Barnes, R.F.W., Agnagna, M., Alers, MPT, Blom., A. Doungoube, G., Fay, M., Masunda, T., Nkoumou, JCN, Kiyengo, CS and Tchamba, M. 1993. Elephants and ivory poaching in the forests of equatorial Africa. Oryx 27: 27-34.
  • Fay, J.M. 1991. An elephant (Loxodonta africana) survey using dung counts in the forests of the Central African Republic. Journal of Tropical Ecology 7: 25-26.
  • Hoare, R. 2000. African elephants and humans in conflict: the outlook for co-existance. Oryx 34: 34-38.

Key Concepts

  • War and biodiversity
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
  • Science and policy
  • Impacts of legal trade of wildlife products on illegal trade
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