As part of her project to develop a curriculum for primary & secondary schools and community education on aspects of environmental dilemma in climate change, degradation, conservation and deforestation for the African Continent, African Conservation’s Katharina Thelen-Lasser recently organized a conservation lesson on moral development at the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit Studies. During this lesson, she introduced a dilemma in the conservation world existing between rangers and poachers where rangers are posed to conserve species but poachers need the species for their welfare. After this presentation, she divided the class into two groups to debate on the ultimate conservation dilemma; Should Animals be Conserved at the Detriment of Human Welfare? Group A stood for the motion that animals be conserved while Group B was for the motion that human welfare is more important that wildlife conservation

This is how the debate unfolded:

Speaker 1 of Group A: The conservation of these species are very important because if we keep hunting and eating them, they will become extinct and our future generation will not see these animals or even knowing the kind of animals that existed in this area. Besides, it will inhibit research and knowledge transfer as far as these species are concerned. I strongly believe that wildlife are very important and should be conserved.

Speaker 1 of Group B: You talk of future generation getting to know the species that existed. We have camera men, painters and videographer; we can snap, paint or even produce a documentary on these animals and our generation to come will still watch and be able to know the kind of animals that existed in this area. We are the owners of the forest and the animals and resources therein. We need to kill these animals and consume; they are a great source of protein. So, I stand for the fact that these wildlife species should be killed for our welfare.

Speaker 2 of Group A: Wildlife species are not the only source of protein! You can establish fish ponds and cultivate fish, which will still give you the protein you so much desire. We have pigs and fouls, which are also a great source of protein, and can be reared and eaten. These animals and even plants have medicinal values which help you in treating particular ailments. We have some these plants that cannot grow unless they pass through the stomach of these animals. Imagine the animals are not they, where will you get these plants? Besides, the plants and animals have several ecosystem services of great interest to man.

Speaker 2 of Group B: You talk of alternative livelihoods; how alternative are these alternative livelihoods? Hunting is our culture and you cannot transform us into fish farmers or livestock rearers overnight. We need money for basic needs and these alternative sources cannot meet up with them. So we need to kill these species and take care of ourselves.

Speaker 3 of Group A: Your culture should be very stereotyped then! You need to be flexible. Talking of funding; the conservation of these species attract tourists and researchers from all over the world and the amount of money generated through tourism and carter for our welfare far more than the killing of these species. Tourism equally means infrastructural development, which the killing and selling of species can never provide. So keep aside your grid for the conservation of these species.

Speaker 3 of Group B: You must understand that it’s not our fault. We are merely respecting the order of God who created us and these animals. God created them and asked us to use them for food and that is just what we are doing. Just stopping us is a sin against God.

Speaker 4 of Group A: God did not ask us to kill and send them extinct in the manner we are doing. God even forbade Adam and Eve from eating from the tree in the middle of the garden. Meaning God himself understood the important of conservation. In destroying the earth, God even asked Noah to select all species and take with him into the Ark so they can be conserved. So if God Himself is in favour of conservation, who are you a common man created by him?

Speaker 4 of Group B: We understand the important of conservation and had even derived our own conservation systems traditionally like taboo, totem, and rituals. So while harvesting, we knew some special animals and areas are to be kept sacred. So stopping from hunting these species is out of place.

The visiting lecturer, who took important notes for the development of the educational curriculum was very impressed with the debate. She noted that conservation is not totally forbidden man from killing animals but greed has pushed man to do so indiscriminately that some species have very few of them left in the forest. She underscored the need for a balance between human welfare and species conservation.

Compiled by B. Shancho Ndimuh