Mhiripiri Bombs, guard donkeys and Conservation Planning in sub-Saharan Africa

By Paulette Cully

In Brian King’s article “Conservation Geographies in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Politics of National Parks, Community Conservation and Peace Parks” in Geography Compass he reviews the history of conservation planning in sub-Saharan Africa. The study provides an insight into National Parks, community conservation, and Peace Parks, and affords an understanding of ‘the development politics and governance challenges of global conservation’.

The establishment of National Parks was largely set up for the purposes of hunting and tourism but at the same time the indigenous populations were forcibly evicted from the area. Since then, concerns about the ethical and economic impacts on the protected areas have generated interest in including the local population in natural resource management. More recently the integration of ecology concepts into the planning process has produced an interest in larger scale initiatives which maximise protected habitat. Central to this are transboundary conservation areas otherwise known as Peace Parks which cross national political borders. Although these approaches are not mutually exclusive, the study stresses that they represent major routes to conservation planning in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

As for community conservation, a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO) offers advice to people living within (and outside) park boundaries who come into contact with wildlife on a daily basis, on how to live side–by-side with wild animals.  The Human-Wildlife Conflict Toolkit, currently being tested in southern Africa offers colourful advice on how to solve, mitigate and prevent conflict between humans and wild animals. Designed to reduce the threat to peoples’ lives, crops and livestock and to their health from animal-borne diseases, the Conflict Toolkit offers tips to keep cohabitation safer for everyone.  For instance, in order to chase off elephants which are trying to eat villagers’ crops, the FAO suggests using a Mhiripiri Bomber which is a plastic gun that shoots ping-pong balls full of a highly concentrated chilli solution (which elephants hate), that burst over the elephants skin. For hippos that enjoy raiding crops by night they suggest shining a strong light in their eyes. As for warning of the approach of predators the FAO suggest investing in a guard donkey, because they are fearless and can drive away even large carnivores by braying, biting and kicking.

Generally speaking, however, the FAO see that the best way to reduce the human-wildlife problem, is to educate farmers, villagers and  policy makers, to see wild animals as an asset. The FAO feel that villagers will only stop seeing wild animals as a nuisance if rural communities receive some material advantage from living in close contact with animal populations. They suggest that paying villagers a percentage of the revenue derived from tourism, paying for the environmental services they provide and compensation for damage to crops, injury or loss of life should also be considered.

 Click here to read the full FAO article

 Click here to read the Brian King article , (2010) Conservation Geographies in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Politics  of National Parks, Community Conservation and Peace Parks, Geography Compass,  Volume 4, Issue 1, pages 14-27

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