Tuesday, August 12, 2003

"ethnic clensing" in national parks/reserves

This article is over six months old ... but since I just saw it, it's new to me ... and the issue it addresses is still very interesting.
After the second world war, Bernhard Grzimek, "the father of conservation" in east Africa, announced that he would turn the Serengeti in northern Tanzania into a vast national park. This land, which is possibly the longest-inhabited place on earth, was, he declared, a "primordial wilderness" [untrue].

Though there was no evidence that local people threatened the wildlife, Grzimek decided that "no men, not even native ones, should live inside its borders". His approach was gleefully embraced by the British. Thousands of square miles of savannah in Kenya and Tanzania were annexed, and its inhabitants expelled. Only the whites could afford the entrance fees to the reserves, so only they were permitted to enter the new, primordial wilderness.

This project was, from the beginning, assisted by wildlife films. Grzimek's documentary, Serengeti Shall Not Die, generated massive enthusiasm for his ethnic cleansing programme.

... Today, conservation officials in Kenya often concede that traditional grazing could be permitted in the parks and reserves without driving out the wildlife. But the local people must continue to be excluded because the tourists "don't expect to see them there". The tourists don't expect to see them there largely because the television shows them that healthy wildlife habitats are places without people.