Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Having been in Luanda for the last few days, I decided it was time to go to the local fish market, to find out what fish there are in the area. An Hours drive later (Through the most frustrating traffic you can imagine) I found myself at the Market. The first ting I noticed was Mountains of trash, right on the beach. Now don’t get me wrong, when I say Mountains I MEAN Mountains, You could load 20 Dump trucks and you wouldn’t have made an impact yet, I tried to snap a pic, but had some very upset policemen bouncing around and shouting at me in Portuguese, so I merely apologized and walked on down to the fish stalls.

There were a fair number of fish on display, from Large Cob and Tuna, right through to Sardines, And the Odd Squid as well. It was all very interesting, however the stench from the fish guts, used diapers, and beer cans was starting to get to me a bit. I tried once more to take a panoramic shot of the filth on the beach, and was again confronted (People in Angola don’t like having their photographs taken, And with about 200 people there, not getting someone in the shot was impossible, So I just took a pic of what was at my feet)

Large Tuna (Mambunda Market, Luanda Angola)

Garbage on the Beach (Mambunda Market, Luanda Angola)

That’s when i turned around and saw the one thing I’d hoped not to see, The head of a juvenile Mako Shark lying in the dirt, not 5 feet from where i was standing, I immediately went over and inspected it, my interest suddenly drawing a crowd, so some guy hoisted the butchered head out of the dirt, and put it on an up turned plastic dish, alongside what i can only assume to be the same sharks fins. I asked a few questions and here are the answers i got  (Answers in blue)

  • How often do you catch sharks? About 4 or 5 are caught each week.
  • Do you target them specifically, and if so what do you use for bait? No, they’re caught on our night lines we leave for Tuna.
  • What do you do with the meat? We Sell It.
  • Why do you cut off the fins? Who buys the fins? The Local Chinese people buy the fins, but don’t buy the meat, so we cut off the fins for them.

That’s when a Drunk local decided to butt in and start harassing myself and the people i was speaking to, so i moved on, As i continued my walk i found 2 more Mako Heads (No fins) and a Body that was being chopped up, but the guy doing the chopping refused that i take a photograph. At that point i was feeling a tad ill from the stench (and that’s saying something, because I rarely suffer from nausea) so i decided to conclude my wanderings, but stopped at the river which flows into the sea right next to the market for a quick snap of all the trash, not nearly as much as there was behind me, but the cops had their eyes on me the whole time, so that will have to do, next time i think i should use a spy cam or something, because these photographs don’t do it justice.

Mako Shark Head and Fins (Mambunda Market, Luanda Angola)

Mako Shark Head (Mambunda Market, Luanda Angola)

River running into the Ocean (Mambunda Market, Luanda Angola)

Just to finish off, Angola is a typical 3rd world country, war ravaged for decades and now finally at peace, however the way of life is genuinely poor, and pride in their country’s natural beauty basically does not exist.

The one Positive (if you can call it that) that I took away from my trip to the Market, is that Sharks aren’t targeted for their fins or their meat, they are a by-catch which is then used,  and as for the rumours that Dogs are being used as live bait in Angola, well there was certainly no evidence of that today.

Wish I could have reported better news, but unfortunately, This Is Africa, and the good news is that it could be worse…

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So lately there has been a fair amount of discussion taking place concerning various conservation groups, the methods they use, as well as their true agenda’s.

Basically in my humble opinion, they fall into the following categories, The Show Boats, the Sloggers, the Volunteers, The Public Media Conservationists, and then the Piggy Backers.

Lets start with the Show Boats Shall we? They are the ones who are in the lime light, in front of the camera’s and always in the public eye, they are the ones who make conservation “Cool”. They are also the ones who’s names are on everyone’s lips.  I will divide this category into two groups, “Famous Conservationists” and then “Fame Hunting Conservationists” The “Famous Conservationists” are truly dedicated to the cause, they are the ones who have gained fame through their life long conservation efforts. A few names come to mind here, but i intend not to mention names in this Post so that you can make up your own minds. Now onto the “Fame Hunters” whom are more interested in the fame than the goal of making conservation a reality. They come up with clever marketing methods, catch phrases and self promotion. Yet when looking at their actual achievements, you will notice they have very little, if any success. There is an argument that the “Air Time” those interested in fame get is actually a positive thing since it does fall under the banner of “Conservation” and since they have a following, it brings the message to the masses. I don’t buy into that way of thinking though. If someone is seen as a role model, or rather a “Poster Child” for conservation, yet all they are interested in is lining their pockets, then all they manage to achieve is give Conservationists in general a very bad name.

The Sloggers are the ones who have dedicated their lives to conservation, yet do it below the media radar, they get very little if any camera time, and most of them get no funding. They are the ones who day in and day out wade their way through countless amounts of red tape, as well as passing through numerous government offices, for years on end, just to protect a certain species, or have a specific area legally protected. This usually involves sleepless nights, strain on their relationships, and serious financial pressure since it all comes out of their pockets.

The Volunteers are very similar to the “Sloggers“, however most of them link up with the “Show Boats” and work behind the scenes, without them the “Show Boats” would never be able to achieve what they do, they work under the banner of an Organisation or Foundation. And they do it all in their own time and on their own dime.

The “Public Media Conservationists” are the ones who scour the internet, keep their fingers on the conservation pulse, read endless news articles and send out countless petitions to keep us all up to date on the latest conservation news. They , just like the Sloggers and Volunteers, do it all on their own time and dime, also resulting in sleepless nights, and a lot of criticism.

Now we move onto the Piggy Backers. These are the people who wait for the “Sloggers” to do all the work, and then they swoop in at the last moment, and claim the fame for themselves, this has happened quite a few times already, and has caused a lot of friction in the world of conservation, the “Piggy Backers” usually have serious funding behind them, and have a huge public following. In their eyes, and the eyes of their faithful followers, they are the be all and end all of conservation. And if anyone dare speak out against them they are viewed as “Trouble makers”, the “Piggy Backers” can be likened to the “Fame Hunters” since all they care about is fame, and in my opinion they couldn’t care less about conservation if they tried. They are nothing more than parasites, sucking their hosts dry, before moving on to the next host.

Now i’m sure you are sitting there reading this wondering what the point of this blog is, well other than being a way for me to get this off my chest, i hope it will make you sit back and say “Ok…. Well what are we going to do about the fact that all the money is going to those who don’t deserve it, and none of the money is going to those who do….” Well, that is exactly the thing we need to figure out… And i would suggest that you look into various conservation projects in your area, and then figure out who you feel deserves the money the most, instead of just going onto some multi million dollar organisation’s website and clicking the “Donate Now” link…..

And lastly, to all of you Sloggers, Volunteers, and Public Media Conservationists out there, i tip my hat to you, and thank you all for your dedication and hard work, Conservation wouldn’t be possible without you. Keep fighting the good fight!

Views, comments, and opinions are more than welcome