Wildlife tourism, fortress conservation and green grabbing

Over the past 150 years, more than 100,000 parks, or protected areas, have been established globally, covering between 13 and 15 per cent of the land surface of our planet. Commonly subsumed under the term “protected areas” are “all national parks, game reserves, national monuments, forest reserves and the myriad other places and spaces for which states provide special protection from human interference” (Brockington, Duffy' and Igoe, 2008, p. 1). These parks have created leisure opportunities for hundreds of millions of tourists annually. Different forms of ecotourism, adventure tourism and wildlife tourism have been proposed to serve as a central source of revenue to maintain protected areas and sustain wildlife conservation efforts. Yet most tourists seem completely unaware of the paradox of contained ‘wilderness’, managed nature, and wild animals subjected to human rules.

Historically, protected areas have often been associated with the large-scale removal of the original human population to create ‘people-free’ zones and sustain ‘wild’ flora and fauna for exclusive, ‘non-consumptive’ use by privileged travellers. It has been estimated that about 130 million conservation refugees have lost their homes and livelihoods to parks (Survival International, n.d.), yet precise figures are not available as most countries do not keep displacement records and the literature on conservation-induced displacement remains “patchy and parlous” (Brockington and Igoe, 2006, p. 452). Apart from physical displacement, protected areas have also contributed to economic displacement by denying or restricting the original inhabitants access to customary livelihood sources, such as timber, water, meat, nontimber forest products and other essential resources. Brockington, Duffy and Igoe (2008, p. 71) also describe how the delineation of parks “displace people symbolically” by writing “them out of landscape’s history, proclaiming that they do not belong”.

The subsequent section provides a brief overview of how evictions of Indigenous peoples from protected areas have become regularised events since colonial times. This is followed by case studies on various forms of displacement from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Eastern and Southern Africa as well as in India and Colombia.

Protected areas and displacement of Indigenous and forestdependent peoples: a brief historic perspective

Brockington, Duffy' and Igoe (2008) contend that the history' of protected areas dates back hundreds if not thousands of years, citing examples from ancient empires in today’s China, India, Indonesia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Mongolia. Notwithstanding the pre-colonial history of protected area development, the Yellowstone National Park in the United States is widely considered the world’s first national park, established in 1872. Its creation cost the lives and livelihoods of many members of the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot and Crow peoples who had sustainably lived in the Yellowstone region for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived in the ‘New World’ (Quam-men, 2016; Survival International, n.d.). This model of forced displacement and exclusion of Indigenous and forest-dependent peoples for conservation and ‘nature tourism’ has since been exported worldwide, most often with devastating impacts (Survival International, n.d.). Colonial displacements from protected areas have often been driven by an imaginary' ‘wilderness’ (Akama, 2004; Lunstrum and Ybarra, 2018). Other settler states, such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, swiftly followed the US national park model, and many postcolonial governments adopted the ‘fortress conservation’ approach and continued to evict Indigenous peoples from ‘ecologically sensitive’ areas, often on the grounds that such measures contribute to national and local development, preserve the country’s natural heritage and lead to improved security, as many protected areas lie in remote and politically sensitive border regions.

Protected areas have often played a major role in state territorialisation and nation-building (Forsyth and Walker, 2008; Brockington, Duffy and Igoe, 2008). By removing ‘messy’ customary' rights of Indigenous peoples through the imposition of a uniform state property regime, many nation states have systematically' extended and consolidated their power over large tracts of land. Opening these protected areas to domestic visitors and foreign tourism provides additional legitimacy for demarcating and securitising the areas and removing any former residents that are considered as ‘eco-threats’. Most of the evictions from protected areas are highly racialised, as some of the examples in the following sub-sections will show. According to Brockington, Duffy and Igoe (2008), evictions have been most common in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, while much fewer cases are reported from South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. In sub-Saharan Africa, reports about conservation-related human rights abuses — evictions, beatings, burning of houses — of Indigenous peoples, such as the Baka Indigenous people in Cameroon, the Maasai pastoralists in Kenya and Tanzania (see the following section), and the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana recently made headlines in the international media and have been the subject of various academic studies (Vidal, 2016).

In many parts of Latin America, conflicts over conservation areas and tourism have pitched local communities against national governments and private sector interests. In Los Esteros del Iberâ, Argentina’s largest nature reserve, for instance, a private US American conservation enterprise acquired 150,000 hectares of old cattle ranches for conservation and tourism purposes, which raised questions among the Indigenous communities as to why a foreigner was able to obtain such a huge amount of land in a sovereign state (Busscher, Parra and Vanclay, 2018). While some activists denounced this large-scale land acquisition as a neo-colonial green grab and suspected a hidden agenda (such as water grabbing or the start of a military base), other groups showed admiration for the ostensibly philanthropic intentions of the project (Busscher, Parra and Vanclay, 2018).

The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) started in the early 20th century and has lagged behind terrestrial protected areas in terms of the timing, extent and effectiveness of their creation and coverage. In recent years, the concept of ocean and marine grabbing has arisen, which includes cases where the delineation of marine parks or other protected areas in coastal and ocean environments has led to the dispossession of previous customary users. McClanahan and Mangi (2000) identified a 60—80 per cent decline in the number of fisherfolks after the establishment of a no-take Marine Park at the Jomo Kenyatta Beach in Mombasa, Kenya’s largest and most popular public beach. In Malaysia’s Redang Island Marine Park, Hill (2017) found that the livelihoods of fishers became increasingly compromised by a no-take zone stretching two nautical miles from the coastline, which was established to promote nature-based tourism. Benjaminsen and Bryceson (2012) have described how marine conservation in the Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania dispossessed local inhabitants and shifted access to and control over marine resources from fishers and other customary users to more powerful actors, such as government officials, tourism operators and transnational conservation organisations.

 
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