Thursday, February 2, 2012

Milking the Rhino

For any of you who have a Netflix streaming account, I would recommend an evening watching a documentary called "Milking the Rhino."  It chronicles the tenuous relationship between indigenous African villagers and the conservation land they live adjacent to in both Kenya and Namibia.

"This penetrating look at the pros and cons of wildlife conservation among the Himba of Namibia and the Maasai of Kenya reveals that Western-style game reserves and eco-lodges seldom consider the impact such approaches have on local inhabitants. Filmmaker David E. Simpson offers a look at an emerging new paradigm: "community-based conservation," which seeks to give indigenous people a voice in the way wildlife is both used and preserved." 

Some of the issues that arise:

-Wild animals (especially rhinos) can be very dangerous animals and at times pose a threat to villagers in communities adjacent to the conservation areas. Should the communities be able to kill a rhino that has killed some of their own (people and/or cattle), or should they be forced to abstain and have no recourse to this threat?

-In Namibia, the government has given villagers ownership of the laws which govern how they must deal with wild animals in their areas. On a co-op basis, they decide quotas of how many animals may be killed per month, and it is believed that this forces the villagers to respect their resource and to therefore better protect it. How might an animal rights argument treat this?

-In Africa, eco-tourism is a major incentive to preserve wilderness and its accompanying animal life. However, the fencing in of lands that once belonged to indigenous peoples hurts them by cutting them off from a resource they once lived off of in a sustainable way. How might one resolve the incompatible desires to preserve wilderness and to allow a culture its own life-sustaining resource in a land where resources are famously scarce? Who wins, people or wilderness? If people, who should have the more favorable access to wilderness resources: tourists and developers or indigenous populations?

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