Conservation and Wildlife

Heidi G. Frontani

in African Studies

Published online October 2012 | | DOI:

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Conservation in Africa, as elsewhere, involves decisions about the allocation and use of resources, including scarce ones, and, as such, tends to be highly politicized. Many human activities have had a conservation effect while serving a different primary purpose. Respecting sacred areas can create “no-take” zones that form biologically diverse “islands” in time. Indeed, virtually all modern techniques for resource conservation, including wildlife conservation, such as zones of limited or no access, closed seasons, size restrictions, and limited off-take, have been in use for millennia. Pharaohs in ancient Egypt set aside lands as hunting preserves to protect diminishing wildlife populations, reducing lands available to common people. Similarly, colonizers, especially the British, set aside lands in Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for hunting. New ideas about wildlife management came with colonial rule and some species, namely large predators, were designated as “pests” or “vermin” and their populations greatly reduced to protect colonial ranchers and farmers. Indigenous hunting was often banned at the same time that settler communities were paid for their kills. Colonial land and labor policies changed people-environment relationships. Communities became more sedentary, easier to tax and police, by moving them to indigenous reserves or reservations. Communal and customary land rights were weakened or lost with the increasing privatization of land. Mass relocations had a twofold effect, namely, to free the most productive lands for use by white settlers and for game parks, and to create overcrowded indigenous areas with a ready supply of labor. Colonial interpretations of environmental change generally involved mismanagement on the part of Africans and a need for corrective conservation measures that were generally based on best practices for European lands and often did not result in environmental improvement. Conservation during colonial rule rarely included respecting ancestral grounds, but became associated with fines and imprisonment for hunting, forced relocations without adequate compensation, and the creation of no-take zones for the leisure activities of outsiders. Independent regimes continued top-down colonial conservation approaches into the 1980s before reevaluating the cost effectiveness of trying to protect resources from people. By the 1990s many countries were looking for more people-friendly approaches to resource and wildlife management that included community development and local participation. In the early 21st century, wildlife conservation challenges have focused on how to move beyond community management rhetoric to more genuine and meaningful involvement of local people.

Article.  10204 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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