Economic Development, Tourism, Population Growth, War, and Protection of Wildlife such as Gorillas: The Complexity of Wildlife Conservation in Developing Countries.
Economic Development, Tourism, Population Growth, War, and Protection of Wildlife such as Gorillas: The Complexity of Wildlife Conservation in Developing Countries. An excellent article appeared in the Aug. 30th (2017) edition of the New York Times about the problems of trying to save the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It demonstrates how complex the interplay is between wildlife conservation on the one hand, and the constellation of forces affecting developing countries such as economic development, tourism, population growth, and war. The park has long been beset by wars—“insurgents” have “occupied” Virunga from 2004 to 2009. In 2011 some order was restored and a luxury lodge opened but then in 2012 “rebels” took over the area near gorilla country—the park’s major tourism attraction and the park was closed. It has reopened in 2014 but the situation remains precarious with “160 rangers” killed in the last decade including 3 in recent months. Virunga’s experience shows the necessity for peace and stability for tourism to flourish. However, the park suffers from more mundane threats of native populations exploiting its forests, cutting trees to make charcoal—a major “industry” that natives use to subsist. The Park’s director, Emannuel de Merode, has pushed for electricity to develop alternative means of income and subsistence for natives of the area and thanks to large philanthropic donations by Howard Buffet, the electrification project has succeeded in providing power to the area with the hope that the associated development will deter natives from exploiting the park’s forests that are necessary to support gorillas and other wildlife. Despite the violence, the park has the potential according to World Wildlife Fund calculations to support up to 45,000 jobs through tourism, hydropower, and other industries. Unfortunately, economic development also fosters population growth near parks that can “kill the goose that is supposed to lay the golden egg.” In my Wildlife Politics book, I cite evidence that suggests that “buffer zones” must be established to prevent this inevitable development from seriously harming wildlife in the protected areas. For a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo with weak central power and governing ability, protection of parks is likely beyond their capability and, if it is possible at all, will have to rely heavily on outside sources of aid from NGOs like WWF and philanthropists and other interested parties such as Western European countries that have supported other African countries wildlife preservation activities. Check out the article by Amy Yee. The Power Plants That May Save a Park, and Aid a Country https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/business/congo-power-plants-poaching.html?emc=edit_tnt_20170830&nlid=10365419&tntemail0=y&_r=0
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