THE MYTH OF WILD AFRICA by Jonathan S. Adams


Conservation Without Illusion
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 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.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-393-03396-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992


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