Who needs Africa's land more: us or wildlife?
29th December, 2009
An explosive mix of animals, people and economics means that land in Africa is becoming more valuable - and more contested - than ever
You'd think that an increase in the African elephant population to more than 150,000 individuals since the ivory ban in 1989 would be good news. And it's true that the worldwide crackdown on ivory trading has been remarkable success.
But there is a side of the story that goes significantly under-reported.
Although they look beautiful on our television screens and through tourist lenses, elephants do huge damage to local crops. Earlier this year six elephants were killed in West Kilimanjaro, as thousands of local people – many Maasai - stood by and cheered. The incident was hushed up: elephants hacked to death are bad for business. But the evidence suggests that the situation may be set to become even more serious.
In Tanazania, since the gradual elimination of poaching (of bush meat - small antelope, rather than elephant ivory) and the granting of new hunting licences, elephants and other wildlife are starting to return to areas once abandoned. In the interim, however, their former migration routes have been settled and farmed by national investors and villagers, struggling to keep up with the food demand of a growing population.
Both wildlife and people need access to land....
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