Wildlife: Killers and victims on the rise
Considering that 80 per cent of Africa’s wild animals live outside game reserves, antagonism between humans and wild animals leads to thousands of people being killed annually. Who are the victims?
Book review: Save me from the lion’s mouth. Exposing human-wildlife conflict in Africa. By James Clarke. Struik Nature, 2012. R160,00.
Lions, elephants, hippos, hyaenas, crocodiles – these are known to kill man. Conflicts arise because those who live in the wilds often compete with Africa’s precious wildlife for the same habitat.
The author, James Clarke, is one of the three founders of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. He writes: “And it is well to remember that the Kruger National Park and, no doubt, the Selous Game Reserve and perhaps nearly all the others, were set aside because the leaders of the day could see that the 19th-century wildlife overkill would wreck their favourite pursuit – game hunting.”
Conservationists face the challenge of saving our wildlife heritage while winning the hearts and minds of those who live outside the reserves so that they feel safer and receive tangible benefits from the presence of wildlife. The banning of hunting in Kenya, for example, has rendered the life of lions useless to rural dwellers and they are killed like vermin. Their numbers have never been so low in that country.
Then there is the matter of rising tourist casualties. More and more people seek to walk in the wilds and the rapidly growing demand for adventure tourism has to be matched by sufficient numbers of game rangers with the necessary experience to handle fraught situations.
The book describes the human suffering and growing resentment, and looks at government policies, which are all too often directed by donour countries. Since many of Africa’s richest wildlike areas are economically handicapped, overseas funding will remain crucial, but the money must be spent wisely.
Each particular man-eating and marauding species is treated in a separate chapter that provides fascinating information about their specific behaviour. Literally scores of incidents are recounted, making for spellbinding reading.
For anyone interested in wildlife, the book offers insight into a controversial subject. I was captivated.