Long before the word “conservation” was coined, tribal peoples developed highly effective measures for maintaining the richness of their environment. They have sophisticated codes of conservation to stop overhunting and preserve biodiversity.
Yet it’s often wrongly claimed their lands are wildernesses even though tribal communities have been dependent on, and managed them for millennia. Even the world’s most famous “wildernesses” – including Yellowstone, the Amazon and the Serengeti – are the ancestral homelands of millions of tribespeople, who nurtured and protected their environments for many generations.
Tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from these lands in the name of “conservation.” Now they’re accused of “poaching” because they hunt their food. And they face arrest and beatings, torture and death, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged. Their lives and lands are being destroyed by the conservation industry, tourism and big business.
In Cameroon, Baka tribesmen who dare to enter the forest they have been excluded from are terrorized by anti-poaching squads funded by WWF. In India, tribal villages are expelled from tiger reserves at the same time as the forest department encourages rocketing tourism.
The big conservation organizations are complicit. They fund militarized conservation which leads to the persecution of innocent hunter-gatherers, they partner with the big businesses that steal tribal lands, and they drive the projects that result in illegal evictions.
Survival is fighting these abuses. We know tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else.
It’s time for a new type of conservation, one that puts tribal peoples’ rights at its heart, and that recognizes they are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world.
This would be the most significant leap forward for genuine environmental protection in history.
For tribes, for nature, and for all humanity’s future.
Baka “Pygmy” tribespeople face arrest and beatings, torture and death at the hands of park guards who accuse them of “poaching” because they hunt to feed their families. The guards are funded by WWF, which also plays a key role in the theft of Baka lands.
This abuse is despite the Baka being the experts on their land. They have taboos against overhunting and if they weren’t excluded could be the eyes and the ears of the forest. One Baka man told Survival, “We know when and where the poachers are, but no one will listen to us.”
They beat my pregnant wife with a machete. Baka, Cameroon
The lives of tribal peoples across India are being destroyed by tiger conservation. Communities which have coexisted with tigers for generations are threatened and bullied into giving up their land. This is illegal, and thousands of families are being left in abject squalor.
The Baiga, who have been evicted in the name of tiger conservation, don’t hunt tigers, but consider them their “little brother”. Some have set up their own conservation projects, setting out rules for their own community and outsiders to protect their forest and its biodiversity.
If we can’t stay, the jungle won’t survive. Baiga, India
Bushmen tribes were evicted from Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the name of “conservation.” Survival helped the Bushmen to go home, but a new threat means that they are once again forced to return to the eviction camps they call “places of death.”
The Bushmen know best how to protect their environment and the animals that live in it. As one Bushmen said, “If you go to my area, you’ll find animals, which shows that I know how to take care of them. In other areas, there are no animals”.
Wherever there are Bushmen, there is game. Why? Because we know how to take care of animals. Bushman, Botswana
Questions about the campaign? Our FAQ tells you all you need to know about Survival’s work to change conservation.
For the science behind our claims, check out our report: Parks Need Peoples
Survival’s Director is writing a series of exposés about the conservation industry:
Survival staff have also tackled these issues in these articles:
We’ve also prepared some handy briefs on some of the hottest conservation topics: conservation refugees; community mapping; guardians; hunting; poaching; protected areas; shifting cultivation; the Bennett Code
Mac Chapin: “A Challenge to Conservationists”
Michael Connellan: “The human cost of India’s tiger conservation policy”
Jeffrey Goldberg: “The Hunted: Did American Conservationists in Africa Go Too Far?”
Wilfried Huismann: “PandaLeaks: The Dark Side of the WWF”
Jedediah Purdy: “Environmentalism’s Racist History”