How to Guarantee that our Grandchildren will see Wildlife Roaming Free in Africa?
Can a continent with the highest birth rate in the world - and a significant economic growth - implement valid conservation policies which will preserve wilderness with thriving wildlife, for the generations to come? At the end of the day, with most African countries having to deal with arid or semiarid conditions, it is all about what pays off. Wilderness with wildlife need to compete with other uses of that land: agriculture, human expansion, intense ranching.
I did my thesis in economics on "Wildlife as a renewable resource: sustainable development and environment conservation in Kenya." My thesis is now more than two decades old, but the topic is still very actual.
Back in the late 80's, early 90's, it was considered that 75% of the Kenyan wildlife was living outside of National Parks and protected areas. In the ecosystem where I have been living since the mid 90's - Maasailand between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks - 90% of the plain game is known to live in private Maasai land, for the majority of the year. That's why I created a community ecolodge, Campi ya Kanzi, www.maasai.com, owned by the Maasai landlords of the 280,000 acres Kuku Group Ranch, and operated with and for them.
Nearly 20 years later we have proven successfully to the Maasai community that wilderness with thriving wildlife is worth being protected, as it produces economic benefits. For each that a guests spends at Campi ya Kanzi, $100 conservation fee is given to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust - www.maasaiwilderness.org - which now employs 250 local people, offering conservation, education and health services to the Maasai community.
|Luca & Family|
Once you leave your economist desk and live in Africa, as I did for that last 25 years, you might have a reality check and see that an economist theory is just a theory and it needs to be tested in the field before it can be deemed successful. Yes, it makes a lot of economic sense to have big game hunting and game cropping, but this concept is based on good management, with the ultimate goal of sustainability.
In my quarter of a century experience this sustainability and good management have been the exception, a very rare one actually, and not the rule. Hunting has been managed more by corruption than with wisdom, and without much of the nearby communities benefitting; game cropping has been abused, with game census done to inflate the assumed population numbers and get allocations of unsustainable cropping quotas.
Yet there are conservationists who will still consider hunting and game cropping as the way to go for very tough places where tourism is not viable. I do understand their argument, but I will still remain very firmed in my belief that proper management is the key for a sustainable consumptive use of wildlife.
All the above can be argued without too much heat, but if you allow emotions coming in, than the debate becomes a very boiling one. And the heated disputes are not, ultimately, in the interest of conservation, of the wildlife, of the wilderness, of the local people.
But non consumptive use of wildlife also needs good management and proper policies to be sustainable. Policies where forests and watershed are protected, for example... So we might be back to square one... wildlife, and the wilderness which is needed for the animals survival, need good leaders who are keen to leave this planet in good conditions to the generations to come.
Do you know any of this leader?
I actually do, and I could name an African one...
So, I believe there is hope!