We could roam with Wild Animals in Our Homes
We often hear that global Wildlife keeps declining, while most of these conservation organizations and people put time and massive investment in this sector to survive nature. Today, while our governments and Conservation organizations ignore Indigenous Knowledge and separate (communities) from these wild species, we fail to connect and coexist with nature, but conflicts lose more natural environments.
Why is Conservation not working/ why do wild animals keep declining?
After Rwanda got its independence in 1962, 13 years later, the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) established a decree that restricts all hunting, any form of animal trapping, and threats along with all the National parks in the country. However, setting these protected areas, the leaders influenced by Belgian colonies took the colossal land and resources that Batwa indigenous community depended on for a living (Zephrin, 2001). The Batwa was the minority social class who could not afford the most basic needs; hence, it depended on hunting and selling animal horns and skins to live. Rwanda Adopted foreign policies of managing its wildlife resources from International conservation organizations, restricted all the indigenous ways as a significant threat to the Environment. While the Batwa communities lost their land and food resources, Some of them took risks to hunt as usual in the volcanoes and Nyungwe national park. Obviously, they have poached, but if they had no other living choices, the government and conservation entities provided nothing after confiscating their territories (Zephrin, 2001).
After the whole effort to protect these wild species, it was still slaughtered, adding more challenges to the national parks. Later the government introduced the guards to prevent poachers; sometimes, unlucky some poachers get killed as well (the Batwa community) (Zephrin, 2001). This situation shows you that Wildlife Conservation is not just about building restricted areas to prevent human interference. It is also using the Wildlife sustainably to benefit the various communities resource. We should not just adopt foreign conservation policies just because they are so-called ”experts” and well studied scientifically, adapt our Wildlife management according to our indigenous knowledge, and own the Wildlife resources.
Yes, hunting bush meats, clearing land for cultivation has contributed to the decline of Wildlife and its significant impact on habitat loss and land defragmentation to gain ground for agriculture activity. A big part of volcanoes national park and the Nyungwe forest was attributed to large-scale tea and pyrethrum plantation growth (REMA, 2009).
Why do we need to own the wildlife/ why Indigenous knowledge?
Even though I criticized the Current Conservation system ( National parks), Rwanda has done a great job maintaining nature through this system. Over 10 years, the government has managed to fight against poaching by hiring Guards and partnering with influential conservation Organizations such as African Parks. Gorillas population increased from 400 to 459 (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, 2021). Also, Mountain Gorillas are iconic to Rwanda, and these species generate massive revenue to the county wherein 2016, the park developed 16.4 million USD (AWF, 2019). Tourism is one of the potential national parks, significantly when the revenues also benefit the local communities around these protected areas. Rwanda Development Board (RDB) published that it distributed 600 000 USD among the community-based programs, thus building schools and roads (RDB, 2016).
Besides a successful journey of this fortress conservation and much profit from the tourism sector, communities need more ownership and self-management of the Wildlife than foreign tourists. For Instance, Rwanda has lost approximately 7.6 million USD due to COVID 19 Pandemic, where the borders were closed, and no tourists were allowed (GGGI, 2021). This shows that even the future of the tourism sector that the country relied on can be worse while it depends so much on foreign revenues. But imagine if various communities had access to these wild resources, where some could hunt but sustainably, people could be more interested and willing to find ways to maintain the Wildlife because it generates a direct income.
Furthermore, The mindset of seeing Wild Animals as if they belong to a specific caged area called national parks, just to watch, photograph, and go home. While pursuing my high school studies, my 20 classmates and I stereotype that Wild Animals in our country are not meant for us; these were resources for foreigners (Especially white individuals). And this was not because someone violated our rights to visit, but how the marketing department portrayed the visit clarifies their target group. The most inhibiting factor is the high price to visit these national parks, even for the locals. According to Volcanoes National Park, the permit to see mountain gorillas is 1500 USD whether you are a foreigner or a local; Golden Monkey visit permit goes to 100USD for a foreigner, and 80$ for a local and Easter African Community citizen (Volcanoes National Park, 2021). Imagine this higher cost to a regular Youth in Rwanda who wants to visit the Mountain Gorillas. It is too expensive for the youth even, most of the Middle-Income individuals in the country. These circumstances detach most people from the Wildlife because they do not gain direct from these resources, and even when interested in visiting, affordability inhibits you.
- Wilson, J. and Primack, R. (2019). Conservation Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa. [online] Openbookpublishers. Available at: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/1013 [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
- REMA. (2009). Current Status of Forestry Resources in Rwanda. Current Status of Forestry Resources in Rwanda, IV, 6. https://www.rema.gov.rw/soe/chap6.php
- Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. (2021). Census of Mountain Gorilla Population Shows Numbers Continue to Rise. Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://gorillafund.org/bwindi-census/#:~:text=The%20results%20show%20that%20the,mountain%20gorillas%20is%20now%201%2C063
- African Wildlife Foundation. (2021). Volcanoes National Park: a success story for Rwanda’s communities and conservation. AWF. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://www.awf.org/blog/volcanoes-national-park-success-story-rwandas-communities-and-conservation
- GGGI. (2021). Reducing operation costs and creating green jobs post COVID-19 Pandemic for the affected tourism industry in Rwanda. GGGI. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://gggi.org/reducing-operation-costs-and-creating-green-jobs-for-covid-19-pandemic-affected-tourism-industry-in-rwanda/
- Volcanoes National park. (2021). Park Entrance For Volcanoes National park. Volcanoes National Park. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://www.volcanoesparkrwanda.org/information/park-entrance-fees-volcanoes-national-park/