Rancher David Hopcraft reckons the best way to save Africa's wildlife is to eat more of it.

An appetite for zebra chops or eland stew might also help stop Africa's soil from blowing away at its present alarming rate.Hopcraft says wildlife is dying out in most African countries because it is not put to economic use except, in a few places like Kenya, as a tourist attraction. Even in Kenya, the teeming wildlife he recalls from his youth is now found only in national parks.

A third generation Kenyan, Hopcraft has conducted experiments at his ranch near Nairobi, stocking adjacent plots with cattle and gazelles.

On land occupied by gazelles the grass thrived.

On the other plot vegetation became sparse.

The key, he says, was a hormone in the indigenous animals' saliva, feces and urine which acted as a catalyst to boost vegetation growth.

By contrast, the cattle caused a big loss of grass cover, especially around water holes where they - unlike wildlife - need to drink frequently for relief from the heat.

The cattle also lost much energy and body weight simply by trekking to water every day.

As a young cattle ranch manager about 25 years ago at Sabatia in Kenya's Rift Valley, Hopcraft saw dust storms that were the first local signs of the process that came to be known as "desertification."

Studies for a master's degree in wildlife science at Cornell University in New York, and later tests on his 20,000-acre ranch on the Athi Plains 25 miles from Nairobi convinced Hopcraft that wildlife was good for the land and livestock harmed it.