Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: "Game Changer- Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa's Wildlife" by Glen Martin.

They tell of the baby elephant that was saved in a specific locale, but they don’t tell of the scores of other elephants in the region that were killed because of crop depredation or land tenure disputes. IFAW’s methods have thus proved effective in saving individual elephants, and for this their strategy is sound. Setting up elephant rescue centres is doable. But the larger mission implied in their work – “saving” Africa’s elephants – remains unfulfilled and may in fact be sabotaged by IFAW’s own work. The lavishing of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the suckling of baby elephants while locals see their maize crops razed and their cattle stomped flat by irrate pachyderms sends the familiar, loud , and dissonant message to rural Africans: too bad about you; this cute little elephant comes first.(Glen Martin, pg 200).

Alongside biology, pecuniary incentives and conservation sociology are ever more important core foundations in wildlife management and in the efforts to conserve Africa’s – and the planets’- wildlife. In Game Changer: Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa’s Wildlife, Glen Martin provides a thought provoking analysis of what he describes as the ‘ascendancy of animal rights based conservation policy’ and how it is driving the decline of many of Africa’s great game populations. The apotheosizing of Africa’s mega fauna as ‘untouchable’ has had perverse outcomes in many areas once rich in wildlife. While the reasons for decline in wildlife can stem from poaching, Malthusian population expansion and agrarian conflict, Martin highlights exactly how and why a hands-off legislative approach further compounds these threats and often provides a disincentive for local-level conservation efforts. If the people that live with and share the landscape with wildlife are divorced from conservation decision making processes, denied compensation for wildlife conflicts, edged out of wildlife-based incomes and generally  shut-off from legal and sustainable use they not only lose conservation incentives but often see wildlife as a menace to other land-based livelihoods. Simply put, the old adage of ‘if it pays it stays’, albeit often bandied about a bit casually, often underpins the most effective conservation policy.