Books by Thomas O. McShane

Released: Oct. 1, 1992

From two members of the World Wildlife fund: an important book on conservation in the continent where Tanzania, home to the famous Serengeti Park, is now ranked as the third poorest nation in the world. In a well-argued and fully documented brief, the authors set out to destroy a prevailing myth among Western conservationists and their supporters that ``Africa and wildlife do not belong together''—a myth that thrives despite the fact that ``Africans have more than demonstrated their genuine interest in and understanding of the importance of conservation—aesthetically, practically, culturally.'' They note that, since independence, African governments have set aside over 48 million hectares of land for animals; that these governments spend over $115 million a year managing this land; and that—in contrast to the US, which has set aside only 8% of its land—Tanzania has relinquished 13% of its territory for game parks. African countries are under stress as populations explode and economies falter, yet many conservationists, including ``celebrity scientists'' like Dian Fossey, have promulgated the idea that Africans are intruders into what was once a pristine wilderness. These scientists, the authors contend, push the cause of ``charismatic megafauna''—elephants, rhinos, gorillas—to gain money for programs that either ignore or seriously damage the lives of local peoples. Adams and McShane say that animals and people can coexist—in fact that such coexistence is the African tradition—and, to back their argument, they cite historical examples as well as contemporary projects such as Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE and Zambia's ADMADE, which emphasize local involvement as well as recognizing specific community needs. ``Africans do care about wild life,'' the authors conclude. ``They have been labeled as the problem; they are in fact part of the solution.'' The authors' eloquent plea that ``conservation cannot ignore the needs of human beings'' may be provocative, but it is long overdue. A must read, then, for conservationists, Africanists, and animal lovers. (Photographs; maps.) Read full book review >