Zimbabwe's virtual dictator Robert Mugabe has been one of the world's most brutal, corrupt, and just plain evil leaders for 35+ years. I could list all the documented cases of Mugabe's genocidal acts, but that would take too long and its all easy enough to find on the reputable websites managed by the major international human rights groups. Sadly, too many of us are so numbed by the mass murders we read about every day that just one more name on the list of murderous leaders is beyond our ability to process properly.
But this time, Mugabe may have finally done something to get the attention of the mainstream press and the social media crowd: he ate a baby elephant. No, he really did. At his lavish 91st birthday celebration this past weekend, Mugabe ate baby elephant, a sable. Also, a lion and a crocodile were shot and mounted just for show. All this was just a small part of the party that cost at least $1 million in a nation where just about everyone ekes out a meager existence.
Again, we could go on and on about Mugabe's crimes against humanity but people have been screaming about that for the better part of four decades without much success. So let's focus on this other atrocity that's sure to grab headlines and get people talking.
Here's the context: elephant poaching has reached new epidemic levels. A study released last summer by the National Academy of Sciences showed that 100,000 elephants had been killed from 2011 to 2014 alone. The reasons are simple: economics and terrorism. The growing number of countries banning the commercial ivory trade has pushed black market prices to new highs. And roving Islamist terror groups in Africa like Boko Haram and al-Shabaab are often found using automatic weapons and I.E.D's. to hunt elephants for sport and profit.
The markets for ivory and other elephant products are primarily in China and other parts of Asia. Many world leaders and even Chinese officials have instituted measures and made statements to discourage poaching. But when local African rulers like Mugabe publicly indulge in the practice, the poachers in his country and the rest of Central Africa can't help but be emboldened to continue business as usual.
It says something particularly horrific about a nation and its leader when it seems like the only lucrative profession and export involves the mass murder of an highly vulnerable species.
Maybe this time, the world will listen.