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Will Travers

Will Travers

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The "Wisdom" of Bob Parsons

Posted: 04/ 7/11 03:41 PM ET

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 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) at least 70 times and would never make such a sweeping claim, but I have a clue.

Bob is wrong on so many levels.

First off, he is 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 real culprits.

Secondly, Bob claims that there are too many elephants. How does he know? The status of Zimbabwe's elephant population has been the subject of international controversy for years. Numbers produced by the government (usually 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 truth is that shooting one animal rarely if ever resolves 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 Bob Parsons, who estimates 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 an animal control program (which should only ever 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. It isn't.

What kind of man is Bob Parsons? If you haven't had a chance to listen to Bob Parsons' pearls of business wisdom I encourage you to take a look. They tell you a lot. 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.

It seems pretty self-centered stuff. Clearly he doesn't care what people think of him. Or does he? Why has he withdrawn his elephant killing snuff video-blog from his website and re-edited it from its original three minutes, 58 seconds down to three 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, Bob Parsons realizes that he may have taken a step too far this time.

Go Daddy -- you have a problem!

By the way, I welcome the opportunity to meet Bob Parsons face-to-face on a national television news program to discuss elephants -- or anything concerning wildlife conservation and animal welfare. He certainly has a lot to learn and I am happy to try and help.