Poisons are silent, effective and cheap, making the especially dangerous in Africa where they are used for both pest control and illegal poaching. However, as a new study in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reveals, they also kill un-intended wildlife.
Africa has a long history of using poison, both for early tribal warfare and for hunting. Synthetic poisons however were introduced, like so many things, by European colonialists in the 19th century. In southern Africa colonial administrators sanctioned the poisoning of predators and scavengers, a practice which would continue far into the 20th century.
Dr. Darcy Ogada, from The Peregrine Fund, Nairobi, explores the impact of these campaigns and the proliferation of wildlife poisoning in the 1980's and 1990's as the commodification of Africa's natural resources continued to rise. The study reviews legislation across the continent, but finds that legal loopholes and lax enforcement remain barriers to wildlife protection.
After reviewing a breakdown of species whose populations have been ravaged by poisoning, Dr Ogada calls for the establishment of regional pesticide centers across Africa that can identify pesticide hotspots and hold a mandate for chemical testing, education and public engagement.