You may have heard of Kaziranga National Park. It is located in India and is home to 35 species, including the endangered Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (pictured above). When compared with more well-known game reserves, such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park, it has neither the size (430 vs. 19,485 square km) nor the cachet that a diversity of species brings (Kruger has 150).
Nonetheless, unlike Kruger, Karziranga is achieving great and unique success in protecting its inhabitants. Easy perhaps, when it is so much smaller than Kruger. But even parks a fraction of the South African reserve’s colossal size have not managed to achieve a poaching free record quite as admirable as Kaziranga’s.
Their success, however, is not something that is globally applauded or emulated, as one might imagine it would be. Why? Perhaps because in dealing with poachers, Kaziranga operates a strict ‘shoot to kill’ policy; and thus far, it has carried out more than 50 extrajudicial killings.
Unsurprisingly, this statistic does not sit well with many authorities. Civil rights groups protest that the shootings are little better than summary executions. The poachers are being robbed of their lives without trial or meaningful purpose. Their families are left without means of support. Wives lose husbands and children lose fathers. Huge emotional distress is caused. Their families have no subsequent recourse to justice. There is no proof that those killed were actually doing anything wrong. The list goes on. And then, of course, there is the crowning argument that these were precious human lives that are being unjustly taken.
What if we were to see it the other way around?
When an animal is slaughtered by a poacher, it is a summary execution. The animal is robbed of its life without meaningful purpose. Their families are left without protection. Mates lose partners and infants lose parents. Huge emotional distress is caused. Their families have no subsequent recourse to justice. Those killed were not doing anything wrong. The list goes on. But the argument that these were precious animal lives that are being unjustly taken only seems to be relevant because the species were otherwise endangered, and supposedly under our protection.
The truth is that we blithely accept that animals are ours to do with whatsoever we please. We get upset when nasty poachers kill exotic species that they are not even killing for food. But we still place the value of human life well above that of animals. After all, the poachers merely wanted to stay alive and prosper.
But isn’t that what the animals wanted too?
I am constantly troubled by mankind’s decision that human life is so much more important than that of other beings. Is it because we believe that we are made in God’s image? (Don’t make me laugh.) Or is it because we know how important our lives are to us, and we imagine that animals aren’t really bothered about theirs?
I loathe the hypocrisy that if an animal seriously harms a human, we kill it; yet we could not possibly accept it if animals took that approach with us.
I despair that we believe and act in a way that assumes we are the only creatures who have any rights on this planet. We seem incapable of sharing and accepting anything beyond our own bullying supremacy and ruinous domination of the earth.
I wonder what type of person it is that places so little value on the life of another being? How far along their pathway do they still have to go before they recognise the sanctity of life and live according to a ‘do no harm’ philosophy?
I am puzzled and frustrated that if an animal is endangered, it suddenly becomes more worthy and warrants more protection than any other species. Yet daily, we feel it’s O.K. to slaughter millions of others?
So for what it’s worth, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Kaziranga’s policy. I actually feel that their stance is quite heroic. I’ve seen photos of the dead poachers, and to me, they are nowhere nearly as distressing as those of the mutilated animal corpses the poachers leave behind. I shed no tears or feel no pity for them. From my perspective, being dispatched from this lifetime merely provides them with a another opportunity to come back and try to not do vile things to harmless creatures.
But I also realise that I’m extreme in my views about animal rights and welfare. If you think I'm wrong, perhaps you can convince me why?
NB. Kaziranga is not the only game park to shoot poachers on sight. They’re just doing it extraordinarily effectively. Many parks, including Kruger, operate a similar policy. However, their ‘rules of engagement’ are somewhat different.