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Can African Wildlife And Forest Be Protected?
October 16, 2007 – Presently, the desire to protect our environment sounds as though, it is a cheap trend that will soon go by. Environmental protection has become so popular that, even politicians who have the capacities of acting like chameleons and salesmen at the same time have jump onto the wagon. And this question: Is it a good thing, for such a noble course, that seems to have succeeded to transform a section of humanity into culpable people, to now be hijacked by politicians and other opportunists? This is another debate entirely. But in the current campaign to protect and also preserve our environment, in particular the wildlife and forest of Africa, it seems Africans are not interested or are kept at arms length by those leading the show. This is so because, it has been observed that, all those at the forefront in the fight to protect and preserve the forest and wildlife, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, are: Western Europeans, North Americans, Japanese, Australians and New Zealanders.
Why? There are many reasons why the latter mentioned groups are leading the fight, while Africans seem to be passive observers. Some fundamental reasons often advanced to justify the reasons why, people from the parts earlier mentioned are leading in the show are that, they are wealthier and thus more environmentally conscious, whereas Africans are too poor and have their heads elsewhere. It might be correct, but does one need to be rich, in order to become environmentally conscious? The answer is an emphatic no, for there are many Africans who are poor, but who are also interested to preserve and protect the environment.
The case of Mrs Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan Noble Peace Prize winner, who began the green belt re-forestation project in East Africa, contradicts claims that, poverty may be a deterrent for Africans to play leading roles in the protection and preservation of African wildlife and forest. Furthermore, in the East and Southern African zones, there are several cases of successful protection and preservation of wildlife and forest. And in West Africa, it has also been noticed that, in Nigeria, the epicentre of epic environmental destructions, since the return to multiparty democracy in 1999, progress have been made in the raising of awareness on the necessity to protect and preserve the environment. Environmental destructions lead invariably to social and economic break down.
Nigeria ’s Niger Delta Region is a case in point. Because of environmental neglect and destruction, the area has not only witnessed economic decline, she has also registered a surge in social break down, that has produce an intriguing mix of criminality and the resuscitation of real environmentally conscious population. The flagships of the environmentally conscious Nigerian regions are Bauchi and Cross River States, respectively located in the north and east of the country. In these regions, the respective local administrations have made efforts to protect the existing wildlife and forest. They also seem to have discovered that, preservation and protection of the environment, goes well with economic development. It may also explain why, these two states are at the forefront of ecotourism in Nigeria’s burgeoning tourism industry. There is also the little known case of Somaliland in East Africa. The government of that country, even though surviving on self generated finances, because she is barred from external aide, has made tremendous efforts to protect and preserve the ancestral history of the country and also her wildlife.
This therefore means that, the reason why Africans seems to be unconcern by the fight to protect their forest and wildlife must be looked elsewhere. For history and contemporary experiences have demonstrated that, Africans were pioneer environmentally conscious people, before it became a trend.
The cases of the pygmies in the equatorial forest of Africa and the Hadzabe people in East Africa are solid examples. People from these two nations (tribes if you wish), who have not yet appropriated the dominant so-called modern culture of greed and destructions, are not poachers and more, they do practice organic agriculture.
They take from the wild only what they need. The environmentally conscious attitudes of the Pygmies and the Hadzabe people supports the view that, the reasons why in some African countries, the forest and wildlife are in danger are simply because, most African people have lost the links that tied them to the environment.
Disagreements on the causes
But some specialists disagree with this view. They instead claim that, poverty and the fact that some African states are either too weak or constantly at war, are the real reasons why African wildlife and forest are in danger. But it is not enough or it is simply too easy to accuse weak states and poverty as the only reasons why African wildlife and forest are in danger. For in countries that are relatively at peace and with relatively strong states, one still see the killing of Monkeys, Antelopes and other animals for commercial purposes. Animals killed in Africa and in African forest and who are even in danger of extinction are generally known as Bush meat in English-speaking countries or Viande de brousse in French-speaking ones.
It is heartbreaking that, in Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and Nigeria, all states that are strong, spectacles seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which is a failed state and at war, are equally noticed. Hence whether Africans and non Africans wants to admit it or not, there is a fundamental crisis in African countries today, that goes beyond weak states, poverty and wars. For people from the regions concern and who are presently feeding on what they call “Bush meat”, used to have respect for the animals and the forest that they are now destroying. For example, in the Nkam division of French-speaking Cameroon, Leopards and Crocodiles used to be venerated and it explained why, those animals prospered. But today, they have either been exterminated or are living in poorly maintained parks. While in other regions of Cameroon and greater equatorial Africa, Monkeys’, Gorillas, Porcupines etc, were considered as their ancestors or protective gods, even before Charles Darwin began his evolutionary theory. There are thousands of examples to show that, the animals that are now being killed by people in Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo or Gabon, had respected positions nowadays that they have lost.
But all is not yet lost, for a well coordinate awareness campaign, that has the natives involved could give a second life to the wildlife in the affected regions, and also help protect the forest that, some African governments are destroying. The first method should be that, groups or individuals, who want to help protect and preserve the wildlife and forest in either west or central Africa, must make such project look as indigenous as possible. For those presently involved in the protection and preservation of the environment, too often present their project in an inefficient way. Some even market their environmental protection and preservation projects as payment from rich countries for their environmental destructions. Such seldom go down well with Africans.
Because some of them may start thinking that, campaigners have more affection for the wildlife and forest than them, while others think that some at the forefront of the campaigning want to preserve their dolce vita way life at their expense. Hence the preservation and protection of African wildlife must be articulated along their ancestral respect toward what they are now destroying. Such a method will make them appropriate the campaign and not consider it as new form of colonialism. Furthermore, the local media (print and electronic) must be associated. And in this area, promotional awareness or adverts must be produced in native tongues. For example, in Cameroon, promotional adverts to be circulated in the print and electronic media must be in English, French, and Pidgin and also in the other 240 national languages.
The advantage of such method is that, it gets every one involved and it will help revive ancestral practises that gave respect to animals that are now fast disappearing. The same strategy should be used in countries such as Burundi, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Rwanda. For it is in these countries, that the wildlife and forest are more in danger, even though, the entire African equatorial belt and beyond is equally concern. Therefore: can African wildlife and forest be protected and preserve? Yes, on the sole condition that, every one involved is treated as equals.
Source: African Path