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F**k the People, Save the Animals

February 17, 2010

In a period of intense drought, pastoralist cattle herders in Kenya have suffered not only from drying pastures and empty water points, but attacks on their cattle, their main assets, from hungry lions. In response to these attacks on their source of livelihoods, pastoralist communities have reacted as any sensible warrior society would: They killed them. According the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), 100 of them this year alone. 

Don't be so squeamish - its nature.

Fear not ye virgin Safari dreamers, the wildlife service has come up with a $1.3 million answer: heard zebras into the dry areas, fill the bellies of lions with striped horses and stop the attacks on cattle and prevent the lions being killed in retaliation. As the KWS spokesperson pointed out: 

“One of the quick remedies is for KWS to restock the park. It is one way of restoring the balance between carnivores and herbivores in the park as well as reducing the lion and hyena attacks on livestock.” 

 

Cattle are the currency and capital that underpin the livelihoods of 18% of Kenya’s population who are pastoralists. And as a recent book by the International Institute Environmental Development (IIED) for  points out, these groups are actually highly productive. From the Guardian

“But the study finds Africa’s estimated 50 million pastoralists adapting rapidly to the modern world. “[They] download the latest market prices for cattle on their mobile phones, use cheap Chinese motorbikes to reach distant herds or lost camels, and trek their livestock thousands of kilometres by foot, truck or ship to trade them internationally … They produce more and better quality meat and generate more cash per hectare than “modern” Australian and American ranches where animals remain in one place. 

This has much to do with their ability to adapt to harsh environments – and climates. In fact, as the IIED research points out, pastoralism as a way of life is actually highly resilient in the face of climate change: 

“This is because pastoralists are experts at leading, breeding and training their animals to use the richest possible diet for milk and meat production in environments where highly nutritious grasses are not growing everywhere at the same time.” 

Great! Well in that case… Oh wait. 

Nope. 

There’s a problem for our nomadic friends: 

“Their way of life is being undermined by governments, conservationists and large-scale farmers, according to a study … In east Africa the loss of land to national parks, game reserves, hunting blocks and conservation severely restricts mobility. Lands that they have traditionally been used are no longer available,” the study says.” 

Now that is a financial crisis

The ability of 18% of the population to cope with climate change appears to be at odds with looking after animals, which appears to require preventing people – who have lived alongside the treasured wildlife for a very long time – form accessing the very resources they depend on. 

So looking after the animals, which drew up to $803 million in tourism revenue for the Kenyan economy in 2006, seems to be the main objective of the whole feed-the-lions operation. 

In short, prevent the attacks on cattle not for the pastoralists, who’s capacity to cope with climate change is being constrained by conservationism itself, but to save the wildlife. 

In shorter: wildlife is an effectively globalized asset that draws tourist bucks from around the world so people can take photos of them. And these bucks count for more that the actual citizens of the country. 

In much shorter: fuck the people, save the animals (for the rich white people). 

But did you offest your carbon footprint on the flight over?

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