Conclusion: To whom do charismatic mega-fauna belong?
'Tourism is a wonderful industry. If wildlife is lost the people here are going to be poor, even the government of Kenya is going to be poor....
Negative is that tourism also comes with exploitation.'
International attitudes of wildlife conservation highly influence daily livelihoods for the Taita and Maasai people living in areas adjoining the famous protected areas of Tsavo and Masai Mara in Kenya. While dealing with continuous competition, threats to life and large scale crop and livestock loss, the people, often secretly, continue to use the wild animals for a variety of material and symbolic purposes. While they have facilitated for the continued existence of Kenya's wildlife for thousands of years, they now perceive their complex coexistence with the animals to be out of balance as a consequence of the new arrogance wildlife have aquired due to their protection.
The Kenyan state continues its historical traditon of violently reinforcing the protection of wild animals, especially charismatic mega-fauna, which are so valued internationally. Local communities feel the governement acts as if the animals are more important than people. In order to defend their livelihoods the locals manage their conflicts with the state in a variety of ways, making use of the so called weapons of the weak. The Maasai are generally more succesful than the Taita, which might be linked to their national and overseas reputation.
Although large amounts of money are made through wildlife tourism, and the development of community based conservation and ecotourism incentives has a long history and is often described as succesfull, Kenyan people have not been profiting from the industry much. Private investors from developed countries have a very strong position and largely roam off the benefits of tourism in Kenya, which is made possible through an alliance between international donor institutions and the Kenyan national elite. As a result the Kenyan state facilitates for the exclusive exploitation of wildlife through tourism, largely at the costs of its own population, while international businesses, tourists and a small Kenyan elite benefit from the arrangements. The protection of wildlife and natural areas is however far from guaranteed even in the case of ecotourism.
At a local level the influx of tourists and the money economy bring negative socio-economic consequences and internal division, with generally only a small local elite taking disproportionate advantage of the revenues that do flow in. Despite, and sometimes even as a result of tourism, the people in the Tsavo and Mara areas are poorer and have less access to important public facilities than average Kenyans. But besides a being a burden, tourism also facilitates for opportunities, and local Maasai have succesfully exploited their overseas fame as symbols of 'authentic' Africa by engaging themselves in tourism businesses, such as cultural manyattas. Presenting themselves in what is envisioned as their 'native habitat' they professionally enact the role of unchanging, authentic, wild and natural beings. Selling these images, which resemble those of charismatic mega-fauna, helps local people to continue to make a livelihood next to these animals.
I believe this study is relevant not only to the Taita and Maasai communities near Tsavo East and West National Park and the Masai Mara National Reserve. Publications concerning the coexistence of wildlife and local people in other areas and agro-climatic zones in Kenya (Otuoma 2004, Emerton n.d., Ros-Tonen, Zaal & Dietz 2005, Rutten 2002, 2004), other nations in Africa (Dzingirai 2003, Neumann 2001, Marks 2001) and even other countries in the Third World (Honey 1999), in important and often considerable ways agree with the observations made in this research. While local details influence the communities' strategies and abilities to deal with conservation efforts, the larger parameters of the story, involving Third World states, international institutions, conservation NGOs and private investors often remain the same.
KWS has stated that for 'local communities ... to participate as partners in wildlife conservation outside protected areas ... will require a broader and more comprehensive understanding of people's true values, needs and rights' (KWS 1994: vi-vii). I hope to have contributed to the understandings that are needed. In addition, shedding light on the suppressive effects much of nature conservation activities have upon local people will hopefully give them tools to move the discussion towards a more fruitful level, while it should provide states and the Western public which support, finance and enjoy the fruits of conservation, insight in the possible political incentives behind conservation discourses. It would be great if this process would give some of the most magnificent creatures on earth a safer future.
In the meantime it is a legitimate question to ask to whom these vigorously protected and exploited charismatic mega-fauna actually belong. To the local people of the Taita and Mara areas the developments that have taken place surrounding the wild animals that they have spend their living space with for so long, as well as the discourses that accompany them are sometimes confusing. Subchief Naurori explains: ‘Now the animals have become a global heritage and people come from overseas [to see them]... I don't know how tourists exploit the Maasai, but I heard people say [so], and this is what I see.'221
The confusing aspect of charismatic mega-fauna is that on the one hand they are ‘the common heritage of mankind and … not merely resources for the exclusive use of certain countries or particular groups of people’ (Freeman and Kreuter 1994), while on the other hand they also remain resources that belong to a certain country or a certain people. Donald Mombo, local of Taita and ex-chief executive of the Taita-Taveta Wildlife Forum, now working for Kecobat Nairobi argues: 'Wildlife is an international resource, but in the end of the day it is a land-based resource. If you decide to kill all wildlife on your land, that is your right.'222 Stephen Karkeris Ole Naingisa, a 24 year old Maasai from Naikara and Secretary of Ewang’an community based organisation, compares the situation in Kenya with that of Western countries in the world:
We have given the animals their rights. How about our right? Animals live on our land and eat our resources. They belong to us. If we want to clear them all, we can…. Animals were placed everywhere in the world. Where are they now?223 In the developed countries charismatic mega-fauna have largely disappeared to make room for human development such as agriculture, cities and industries (Theodossopoulos 1995: 25). Animals that were dangerous or inconvenient because they interfered with development, such as big cats, bears and wolves, have been driven away or hunted to extinction in most of Europe and the United States. Following a change in our circumstances of living, and reacting upon the loss already in place, people from these developed nations have come to see the value of large wild mammals, and made efforts to conserve or reintroduce them in certain areas, and use them as tourists.
However, most remaining charismatic mega-fauna and their habitats are situated in developing countries, and, ‘given the size, strength, potential danger and potential food source that these animals represent, it is not surprising that they [sic] feature prominently in the diets, arts, folklore, social relations and rituals of [local] societies’ (Freeman & Kreuter 1994: 7). Charismatic mega-fauna have historically been used in a variety of material and symbolic ways by local populations (Hasler 1994, Kisangani 1994, Rutten 2002: 2). Up till today, both the Taita and the Maasai continue to have a large variety of highly valued daily relationships with these animals, most of them hidden from the national and international gaze. This is not to say that modernity has not inflicted some large-scale changes in these relationships and peoples’ perception of, and goals with, their wildlife resources.
Western people should critically examine their presumed right to consume and decide over the use of African resources. Freeman and Kreuter assert that ‘stocks [of charismatic mega-fauna] will continue to be mismanaged as long as the people who directly affect their population dynamics are not provided with incentives to protect them by being given clearly defined enforceable and divestible property rights and meaningful management responsibilities toward these resources’ (1994: 9). Giving the ownership of wildlife to local communities means a loss of control and is likely to cause losses of (easy) benefits for international consumers. Third World nations as well as local communities are struggling to obtain a higher standard of living as well as forms of Western wealth. Keeping large areas reserved for charismatic mega-fauna, for the more or less exclusive use by overseas tourists might not always be compatible with development, especially when profits do not stay inside the communities or countries bearing the costs of facilitating for wildlife. In addition, it has to be kept in mind that the (eco)tourism industry, often being regarded as non-consumptive, also produces often hidden, but substantial costs for the environment and the continued existence of charismatic mega-fauna.
There has never been a timeless balance between traditional African societies and the wildlife they coexisted with. It is only that with the advance of modernity and tourism the competition and interaction between the two has changed. Rutten argues that
the world still expects African landowners to accept the costs of safeguarding this world heritage in a global economic setting that is denying a future to too many Africans. Safeguarding animal welfare at the expense of local human beings will in the long run be the road to extinction for these very same animals (Rutten 2004: 29).
The wild animals that are regarded as charismatic mega-fauna can ‘be treated as consumable resources or as emotionally charged icons’ (Freeman & Kreuter 1994: 9). We can only continue to do both if local communities from developing countries continue to facilitate for their wild existence.
Maps M ap 1.1
The location of Kenya in Africa224
M ap 1.2
The position of the Masai Mara National Reserve and Tsavo National Parks within Kenya225
Taita Taveta District with national parks, hills, rivers, main roads and surrounding districts226
M ap 1.4
Masai Mara National Reserve, main settlements and groupranches within Narok district (Thompson 2002).
M ap 1.5
Groupranches and main settlements of the Taita area. The color coding refers to landuse systems (Njogu 2003: 107).
Groupranches and villages surrounding the Mara. Note that some place names are spelled differently on this map, for instance Koiyaki is spelled here as Koyake.227
P icture 2.1 Landscape of the Tsavo area, near Maungu228
Picture 2.2 Grass roofed house and local family, Taita area
P icture 2.26 Calf tied with wildebeest skin during milking, Koiyaki groupranch
Picture 2.27 Maasai sheep grazing together with zebra, Koiyaki groupranch
Picture 2.28 Maasai cows grazing together with wildebeest, Kajiado district
P icture 3.1 Donors continue to be important to assist KWS to conserve its natural resources.
P icture 3.2 KWS baraza on fencing with groupranch leaders
Picture 3.3 KWS baraza with groupranch members Picture 3.4 KWS waterproject near Tsavo
Picture 3.6KWS plane, Tsavo West N.P. Picture 3.7 Rukinga ranger speaking to Mrs. Mutuku Mutuku
Picture 3.5 Rukinga ranger and vehicle
Picture 4.1 Lion stalking in a hunt for zebra near tourist vehicles
Picture 3.4 Rukinga ranger and vehicle
Picture 4.2 Cheetahs surrounded by over a dozen tourist vehicles
Picture 4.3 Maasai house with water catchment Picture 4.4 Lion Rock Lodge
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