When it comes to saving African wildlife, all conservation is local

“At night, we are prisoners in our huts,” said an elderly Zambian woman who served as chief of a village of about 100 souls. “We can’t get out… the lions are waiting for us.”

I was there five years ago to film a series highlighting the ongoing struggle between people and wildlife, a story that most in the West have ignored as they pontificate on how best to save Africa’s cast of charismatic megafauna, with little or no regard for the fate of the peoples of the continent. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that there is no path to a sustainable future for the continent’s wildlife unless Africans have a seat at the table.

Most of the villagers we interviewed had harrowing stories to tell, with one woman recounting her daughter being kicked out of her hut by lions who then ran her over as she tried to escape to another shelter. Several men from the village used torches to drive the cats away from the woman’s half-eaten body, which rested just 75 meters from the village. The crocodiles and hippos had also carried off the members of the village as if they were scenes straight out of the woodwork. ghost and darkness. Wild animals prey on communities in Africa, so an increasing number of so-called African wildlife experts are waking up to the fact that most indigenous peoples focus first on their own survival rather than to worry about the animals with whom they fight daily for food. string.

Already this year, some 60 Zimbabweans have lost their lives to elephants alone, and more than 50 have been injured. Elephants killed another 70 people in 2021. The battle between man and beast is not a distant notion, but a daily reality for families in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the disconnect between the fears of many Africans and the wishes of environmentalists in the West is a chasm that some say may be too wide and too deep to bridge. As the debate heats up, Africans continue to trap, shoot and poison all manner of wildlife to feed their families and protect themselves, livestock and crops from leopards, buffalo, lions, elephants and other animals.

At the heart of the debate is the role of trophy hunting in the future of African wildlife management. What is clear is that removing recreational hunting from the equation removes much of the incentive for most Africans to tolerate wildlife in the first place. Without the jobs, meat and funds for communities that foreign hunters provide, not to mention the significant private donations made by those hunters to schools, orphanages and clinics, an African views a lion the same way a rancher does. Westerner sees a coyote. If an animal does not add value to Africans, it is often expendable.

For conservation thought leaders, corporate media bosses and politicians who live comfortable and safe lives in places like London, New York and Washington DC, if they want to be relevant to the future of African wildlife, it would be wise talk less and listen. more… especially when Africans speak.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.