Environmental Conservation

Main Papers

The Pastoral Road to Extinction: Competition Between Wildlife and Traditional Pastoralism in East Africa

Herbert H.T. Prinsa1

a1 Professor of Tropical Nature Conservation, Wageningen Agricultural University, POB 8080, 6700 DD Wageningen, The Netherlands; Formerly Research Fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, Senior Scientist at the Zoologisch Laboratorium, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Haren (Gr.), The Netherlands.

In some developing countries there is a call to open-up protected areas and even National Parks for low-intensity use by the local population to alleviate the pressure of the rapidly increasing human population, or because conservationists have been able to ‘take’ too much land according to others. This conflict in land-use has been noted by conservation authorities, and proposals have been formulated to give way to such pressure. Moreover, it has been suggested that there can be a harmonious coexistence between wildlife and livestock, so that opening-up of protected areas would not necessarily be to the detriment of wildlife, and also that the indigenous populations were able to manage wildlife and their habitats in the past (so why not again in the future). The last point in the concerted attack on the status of the protected areas is that ‘conservation is an alien concept in Third World countries’.

In this paper is reviewed the question as to whether there ever has been such a harmonious coexistence between wildlife and pastoral Man in East Africa, and aerial census data from a number of districts in Tanzania and Kenya have been used to demonstrate that livestock outcompetes wildlife. At present ‘prestige overstocking’ is not the case any more, due to the fact that the human population outgrows the livestock population. Apparently, a very high rate of population growth is at the root of the call for more land, and even if, for example, the whole of the Serengeti were to be handed over to the local Masai, this enormous, relatively undisturbed ecocomplex could absorb the growth of the Masai population for only some forty years.

Finding the key to increased development should not be sought in an opening-up of protected areas but in payment of in absentia benefits by the rich western countries. This money should be used for developing programmes aimed at population limitation, increased income for the rural poor, and increased sustainable human densities in areas outside the protected areas.