|Public relations are a huge part of conservation work|
There are two groups of people that we identified as really important here - the general public, and the local population around protected areas. In many areas, poor relations with neighbours can be traced right back to the exclusion of people from their traditional grazing areas during protected area formation. This comes back to a point we've made before on the blog - that people were once part of these landscapes and the lack of current habitation is an artificial imposition of what is mainly a colonial-era romantic ideal of empty Africa. No wonder local people often feel hostile to the park, hostility which in turn leads to more illegal activity and a more negative perception of human-wildlife conflict. But equally, poor relations with the wider public mean that many Africans view their National Parks as rich white people's playgrounds, not for them at all. Such perceptions can lead to a widespread lack of support for conservation and, ultimately, a lack of political will to continue protection. In South Africa there's a lot going on to combat these problems - school visits are encouraged, entrance fees are very reasonable and accommodation is available for a variety of income groups. As a consequence, even in some of the areas where local hostility was historically high, tribal groups such as the Makuleke who have won back land they were disposessed of when Kruger was formed decided not to resettle the area, but to contract the park authority to continue to manage for ecotourism on their behalf. Other areas are allowing people to access the park to harvest thatching grass and medicinal plants, etc. And in Botswana's Okavango Delta, widespread antipathyto wildlife and tourism among neighbouring communities in the 1990s was reversed following implementation of a community-based natural resource management programme with revenues from tourism reaching community members (often through employment opportunities): poaching decreased dramatically and several mammal populations stabilised or increased by 2004.
|The only Tanzanians I usually see in parks like Manyara are guides like these!|
|Subsistence poaching is still a major problem for many Tanzanian|
protected areas - note the snare on this giraffe.
|Pastoralism is probably the wisest land use in many buffer areas|
In east Africa we're much luckier than that - although there is a rise in some land-uses that aren't so compatible with wildlife in the areas around national parks, in most places it's not yet gone as far as in southern Africa. And there are still significant populations of pastoralist communities, who are looking for some security of tenure for their grazing lands. In fact, the pastoralist vs agronomist issue is a rather hot one in TZ at the moment. Pastoralism can be pretty wildlife friendly, and would be the optimal land-use in many buffer areas, so it would be a great opportunity for conservationists and pastoralists to fight together for a sensible land-use plan. Who wants to do it?
And that's probably enough for now - quite a few lessons for conservationists, all relating to the human dimension. If you want to read about some really successful project implementation, I really recommend the study in Botswana, but can't find a free version anywhere, sorry...
Mbaiwa, J., & Stronza, A. (2011). Changes in resident attitudes towards tourism development and conservation in the Okavango Delta, Botswana Journal of Environmental Management, 92 (8), 1950-1959 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.03.009