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Born Free USA Blog
Adam M Roberts

Born Free USA Blog

by Adam M Roberts,
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to animals, Adam Roberts not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk. Since beginning his animal advocacy career in Washington, D.C. in 1991, Adam's ambition, tireless involvement, and profound knowledge of conservation and wildlife issues have cemented him as a go-to voice for protecting animals — and he has elevated Born Free USA to the respected and impactful organization that we know today. Adam's compassionate, informed, and forward-thinking blogs will surely motivate you to join us in our fight to Keep Wildlife in the Wild.

The Wisdom (or Not) of Bob Parsons

Published 04/06/11

Bob Parsons – business guru or Neanderthal?

It’s a question that’s divided the country for the past few days ever since Bob’s personal poverty-reduction mission to Zimbabwe (which involved shooting an elephant) hit the headlines.

Mr. Parsons (the founder and chief executive officer of Go Daddy) has been to Africa six or seven times and claims to know what he’s talking about. I have been to Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa and others) maybe 70 times and I would never make such a sweeping claim, but I have a clue.

Bob is wrong on so many levels.

First off, he’s talking about Zimbabwe, a country that has been systematically dismantled by its own administration over many years under direct orders from its President, Robert Mugabe. Land reform, Africanization policies and brutal repression have reduced a country that was once described as the “breadbasket of Africa” to a basket case. Millions of its people are devastatingly poor, which is a tragedy – but elephants are not the culprits.

Secondly, Bob claims that there are too many elephants. How does he know? The state of Zimbabwe’s elephant population has been the subject of international controversy for years. Numbers produced by the government (usually to try to justify its efforts to re-start international ivory trading) are unreliable (based on data that is 10 years old) and have not been subject to serious, independent scrutiny and review. Furthermore, Zimbabwe has suffered widespread elephant poaching and the impacts of a major drought in recent years, so the plain truth is no one knows how many elephants there are in Zimbabwe.

Thirdly, Bob claims that by randomly shooting a bull elephant (at night) this will stop other elephants from raiding crops. The ”bull”, according to world elephant expert Dr. Joyce Poole, who has reviewed the footage, actually appears to be a young female. Is there an orphan calf now wandering aimlessly, waiting to die? The simple truth is that shooting one animal does not resolve conflict. Other herd members are likely to continue their raids until conflict mitigation solutions (such as the use of chili and bees, which repel elephants, and community fencing to help keep elephants and people apart) are implemented. Of course, bankrupt Zimbabwe has no money for such mitigation, but Mr. Parsons, who estimated his company to be worth a billion dollars, does. If he really wants to help, then investing in long-term, humane and non-lethal solutions is the answer, and he has the means to do so if he so wished.

Finally, the trophy-hunting of elephants or the killing of elephants as part of a problem animal control program (which should only be done by qualified, trained wildlife authority staff and not, in my view, anyone with a big gun) does not control elephant numbers and should never be characterized as a “population control” measure. Culling, the mass eradication of entire herds, was used in South Africa for many years until the 1990s, when this unacceptable and unsuccessful practice was ended.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Mr. Parsons’ (is he really a doctor?) pearls of wisdom (tastelessly accompanied by a scantily clad woman on his website) maybe you should take a look – they tell you a lot about the man.

He includes among his “Rules for Success in Business and Life in General” :

There’s always a reason to smile.

Never let anyone push you around.

Focus on what you want to have happen.

Never expect life to be fair.

Take things a day at a time.

Always be moving forward.

Solve your own problems.

Well, taking those words of wisdom into account, the grinning face of Mr. Parsons vaingloriously standing beside the carcass of the dead elephant he has shot may have consequences that he did not predict. People are taking business away from his company in their thousands. Go Daddy may be moving forward, but into an uncertain future as his competitors offer to save elephants instead of killing them.

Mr. Parsons says he doesn’t care what people think of him. Why then has he withdrawn his elephant killing snuff video-blog from his website and re-edited it from its original 3 minutes, 58 seconds down to 3 minutes, 16 seconds? What has he taken out? The drivin’ AC/DC soundtrack (did AC/DC object?)? The pictures of him standing over his fallen victim? The truly cringe-worthy, embarrassing stuff?

Something tells me that despite his bluster and “straight from the shoulder” talking, Mr. Parsons realizes that he may have taken a step too far this time.

Go Daddy – you have a problem!

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