Africa, Africanists, and Wildlife Conservation

By Rogers, Peter J. | African Studies Review, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Africa, Africanists, and Wildlife Conservation


Rogers, Peter J., African Studies Review


AFRICA, AFRICANISTS, AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION Rosaleen Duffy. Killing for Conservation: Wildlife Policy in Zimbabwe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. Published in association with the International African Institute, London, xii + 209 pp. Bibliography. Index. $19.95. Paper.

David Hulme and Marshall Murphree, eds. African Wildlife and Livelihoods: The Promise and Performance of Community Conservation. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2001. xvi + 336 pp. Figures. Tables. Maps. Bibliography. Index. $26.95. Paper.

William Weber, Lee J. T. White, Amy Vedder, and Lisa Naughton-Treeves, eds. African Rain Forest Ecology and Conservation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. xii + 588 pp. Figures. Tables. Maps. Bibliography. Index. $65.00. Cloth.

The African studies community has generally been unsure how to think about the project of wildlife conservation in sub-Saharan Africa. It is almost as though we Africanists, with our social science and humanities focuses, are embarrassed by the importance of this part of the historical and contemporary African experience and the degree to which Africa is popularly and internationally associated with wildlife and wildlife habitat. We would rather portray a more human Africa, an Africa similar to the other continents of the world, not the Africa of the John Wayne film Hatmri! or its more recent cousins shown daily on Animal Planet and other cable channels. While there have been some exceptions to this trend (e.g., Gibson 1999, Marks 1984, Neumann 1998, Showers 1994), research and writing on wildlife conservation in Africa have, for the most part, been dominated by natural scientists, international NGO staff, and journalists (e.g., Sinclair & Arcese 1995, Adams & McShane 1992, Bonner 1993).

This is unfortunate because of the spatial and economic importance of wildlife conservation, protected areas, and the associated tourism in many African countries. For example, in Tanzania, protected areas for wildlife and forests take up 27 percent of the country's land area (Brockington 2002:xxi), and wildlife-based tourism has become Tanzania's number one source of foreign exchange as well as being seen as an important engine for economic development (Africa Business 2003, CHL Consulting Group 1997:1). Clearly, the project of wildlife conservation in Africa is of major importance to biodiversity, its international protectors, African states, and, most important, to the African peoples who live in and around wildlife populations and protected areas.

The three books reviewed here provide a wide variety of perspectives on issues of biodiversity and wildlife conservation. In many ways, they help fill holes in our discussion of these issues and correct some of the problems noted above. At the same time, each in its own way reflects existing problems in the study and practice of biodiversity conservation and protected area management. While each is a valuable contribution on its own terms, taken together they present a complementary whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The thirty-two essays in African Rain Forest Ecology and Conservation (ABFEC) make two important contributions. First, they cover a truly impressive amount of material on the moist tropical forests of western, central, eastern Africa, and Madagascar. second, the authors represent a broad cross section of contemporary mainstream conservation, writing from the closely linked perspectives of academic research and applied conservation. African Wildlife and Livelihoods (AWL) is also valuable for two reasons. It offers extensive coverage of a wide variety of "community conservation" projects in eastern and southern Africa. Like ARFEC, AWL illustrates another broad trend in current thinking about wildlife and biodiversity conservation in Africa. Its emphases are more social than ecological and generally make more of a case for the economic dimensions of wildlife conservation. …

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