Colonialism vs Conservation

Survival International recently released a video titled “Colonialism vs Conservation”. It starts by noting that “People have been comparing big conservation with colonialism”, and asks, “do they have a point?”

The video includes disturbing footage of recent conservation atrocities:

Survival International’s video provides a dramatic view of the roots of conservation: The systems of both colonialism and conservation are built on the racist idea that “We” know best.

The reality, as Survival International points out, is that tribal peoples “have been protecting the natural world for thousands of years”. They are the world’s first conservationists.

Prince William and conservation

Just in case you think Survival International’s video is hopelessly out of date and that conservation has changed radically since colonial times, read on…

Survival International released the video just before an Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference organised by the UK government that took place in London last week.

Before the conference, Prince William visited Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya to promote conservation. A video released by Kensington Palace on Twitter includes only non-African views of conservation. As Survival International notes, this is the “white saviour” mentality writ large:

In a statement, Survival International’s Director, Stephen Corry said,

“It’s hard to think of a more extreme example of the ‘white saviour’ mentality than this video. It amounts to racist propaganda in its promotion of white people as the saviours of Africa. Non-Africans are presented in the film as the real experts on conservation, while the locals are not seen as having anything worthwhile to contribute other than their grateful thanks.

Survival International points out that of the four people interviewed in the video only one is black. Instead of talking about conservation, she praises Prince William for his leadership skills:

  • Charlie Mayhew, CEO of Tusk, who comments on tackling the illegal wildlife trade and later also on Tusk’s work in Africa.
  • Dr Naomi Doak, Head of Conservation Programmes at The Royal Foundation, who discusses engaging the private sector in conservation efforts and later on how important the Prince’s contribution is to the people he met on his visit.
  • Dr Antony Lynam, Regional Training Director at SMART for the Wildlife Conservation Society, who talks about the Prince’s support for the use of SMART technology for conservation.
  • Finally, Patricia Kayaga, the only black interviewee featured in the video, is a student at the College of African Wildlife Management, which the Prince visited on his tour.

Mordecai Ogada, co-author of the book “The Big Conservation Lie“, told The Guardian that,

“Conservation even now, nearly 55 years after Kenya got independence, is still the one arena where Prince William can waltz in to Kenya and tell us he wants us to do this, that or the other. He couldn’t do that in education, banking or other fields, but conservation still has that romantic, out of Africa feel about it.”


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