The death by poisoning of ‘Bibi’ the 17 year matriarch of a lion pride that was the centerpiece of the globally televised wildlife documentary ‘Big Cat Diaries’ has once again re-ignited the debate on hunting in particular and wildlife conservation matters in Africa generally.
The publicity that this lion pride has garnered, both for the producers of this documentary, and the wildlife conservation community no doubt make them a valuable asset for the wildlife conservation cause, so it is no wonder that reporting of it being the victim of poaching made it all the way to the BBC.
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve has been a hot button issue for local politicians, residents conservationists, and tourism stakeholders, all having an interest in how the park ‘s resources are managed. From division of the world famous parks revenues, to access to grazing land, construction of tourist lodges, the running of the Maasai Mara is a sensitive issue for very many people.
However, the poisoning of Bibi, several other animals that either ate the poisoned cow or the carcasses of the dead lions and the disappearance of several other pride members has put the narrative people encroaching animal territory at the heart of the present dispute
On the whole, considering the relative young-ness of human civilization, compared to the continued occupation of the earth by wild flora and fauna for (what the evolutionists say) possibly billions of years, isn’t all human civilization ultimately encroachment of wildlife habitats?
Specifically in Africa, encroachment of wildlife habitats by humans tend to exclusively be framed as attempts by natives to make use of land that has been set aside for wildlife and tourism activities, regardless of the consequences.
Granted it is definitely not legal for a person to simply wander onto someone’s land and do as he pleases, regardless of what the land has been set aside for, I feel that within the broader context of balancing a nation’s development needs, its people’s hopes and desires for their own lives, and responsible use of land and its resources, this encroachment narrative is entirely to narrow to allow for sustainable solutions to the crises that places like the Maasai Mara faces.
Throw in a healthy dosage of anthropomorphism on the part of wildlife conservationists and tourism aficionados, and you are drifting to a place where it becomes difficult to acknowledge, never mind accommodate that there are valid concerns regarding the management of a given conservation area that are not about the animals.
Without acknowledgement, and incorporation of these concerns, into the wildlife conservation strategy, as seen by the unique efforts of one Jake Grieves-Cook and the buffer zones project he spearheads in collaboration with the local Maasai herdsmen, then the human-wildlife conflict issue will likely wind up remaining a zero sum conflict where no one can really win, even in the short term, without De-legitimizing the real concerns of other people and hurting themselves in the long run.