Latest Lion Aid News
Sunday 12th September 2010
It seems to be a fait accompli. African wildlife is up for sale to the highest (or most persuasive) bidders.
Putting aside the illegal practices that see rhinos and elephants and lions poached for financial gain, and bushmeat trade, this article is about wildlife utilization through tourism and hunting ventures. Tourism has been held up as the best “green” solution, and trophy hunting as a necessary concession to preserving land for wildlife as an alternative to rapacious agricultural expansion. Both camps claim to have wildlife conservation as key to their activities, but where does the truth lie?
It is clear that African governments have based their wildlife conservation policies on finance. If it does not pay, it must go. Few countries have actually adopted any conservation dedication – they will all say this is our national heritage, but at the end of the day they still see zebras and giraffes and lions and elephants as dollars and not as national obligations to conserve. The governments have been aided in this attitude of course – NGOs, western governments, private investments, and tourism and hunting companies have all donated to the national coffers in the name of wildlife.
DOES AFRICA BENEFIT?
Wildlife is money. Big money in fact. But where does all this money end up? African politicians are an easy target to blame, and doubtless many have individually profited. There have been many calls to ensure that African communities benefit from wildlife, as the communities are seen to be key in terms of wildlife conservation. If the communities see wildlife as a better source of income than agriculture, then wildlife will remain according to the mantra. However, this attitude is based on a concept of tolerance aided by finance rather than an intrinsic conservation ethic. Pay us and you will keep it, say the communities, don’t pay us and we will eat it. Is that a harsh statement? Perhaps so, but it is realistic in terms of attitudes of people attempting to make ends meet under very difficult African conditions.
So in step the tourism and hunting companies. Both profess to conserve wildlife by acknowledging community needs and rights, and both, if I might be so bold, take a colonial attitude. Under colonial rule, the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Portugal, etc took African resources to benefit their economies. Now, instead of governments, it is companies that do the same. Both tourism and hunting companies bank their profits overseas. Both tourism and hunting companies claim to benefit African wildlife conservation, and say they benefit communities by building schools, clinics, and establishing water supplies.
A bit of explanation here – companies and taxes are like oil and water – they do not readily mix. The larger tourist and hunting companies generally run two operations – their booking and marketing overseas, and their local ventures at the destinations.
An article in the Economist (September 4-10, 2010, Horns Claws and the Bottom Line) advocates privatisation as a possible answer to the overall failure of governmental conservation. Rich local and overseas investors could provide the break-through according to the Economist. But this does not address the basic issue.
A REALIZATION NEEDED
Who is winning hearts and minds in terms of conservation of wildlife in Africa? What business (tourism vs. hunting) is more effective? I would say neither.
Picture: weblogs.cltv.com/news/local/chicago/Money stacks.jpg
Posted by Pieter Kat at 00:00
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