[Marxism] question re Mary Leakey

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Feb 6 08:04:31 MST 2013

On 2/6/2013 4:25 PM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> ... son Richard ran for office in Kenya against the entrenched corrupt 
> party in power.

I met him once here in South Africa about 15 years ago, when he came to 
argue quite a curious yet vital case (foretelling similar Rio+20 debates 
last year): nature shouldn't be thrown to markets. As Mugabe had just 
said, "Species have to pay to stay." Leakey's rebuttal was pleasing to 
my eco-socialist ears even if the Kenyan post-neocolonial liberalism 
grated. Have a look...


  Africa must pay for its wildlife

26 Sep 1997 <http://mg.co.za/author/staff-reporter>

Conservationist Richard Leakey pulled no punches in a recent debate in 
Gauteng, writes Fiona Macleod

There is a story about a randy young male ostrich who spots three female 
ostriches on the horizon and sets off after them. They are not at all 
interested in his advances and they run away, with the young male in hot 
pursuit. They keep running, but every time they look back, he's still 
after them.

Eventually, after he has chased them for many kilometres, the females 
tire of the game. They stop and promptly stick their heads in the sand. 
The young male, finally catching up with them, screeches to a halt in 
great confusion. Now what on earth happened to those three lovely girls? 
he ponders to himself before going on his way again.

Its a story that sprang to mind during a public debate last weekend on 
sustainable utilisation as a conservation strategy simply put, the 
theory that in order to survive, wildlife must pay its way. The decision 
in June by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 
(Cites) to resume trade in ivory was prompted by three Southern African 
countries Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia which, like the three female 
ostriches, have buried their heads in the sand. South Africa, which 
supported their stand but did not play a direct role in the decision, is 
like the randy young male ostrich: it has lost the plot.

The topic of last weekends debate was Does wildlife have to pay to stay? 
Speaking in favour of sustainable utilisation of wildlife was John 
Hanks, former head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and now 
executive director of the newly formed Peace Parks Foundation, which has 
ambitious plans to set up a numer of transfrontier reserves in Africa. 
Richard Leakey, Kenyas formidable 
palaeoanthropologist-cum-conservationist-cum-politician, took up a stand 
against it and effectively blew giant holes in the 
sustainable-utilisation argument.

Leakey started out by berating the conservation authorities in 
post-isolation South Africa for ignoring the fact that they are now part 
of Africa and that their actions have an impact on the rest of the 

Robert Mugabe was unfortunately persuaded by dubious advisers to say at 
Cites that if a species is to stay, it must pay. It was an arrogant and 
irrelevant statement that deserves nothing but condemnation from people 
like you, he said to Hanks. It should not have been allowed to happen. 
It was a despicable, political statement about the value of a species 
that will cost us for years to come.

In his opening address at the debate, Hanks had painted a grim picture 
of Africa and its future. He argued that, given these circumstances, the 
only way to persuade African governments of the importance of preserving 
biodiversity is to attach an economic value to it.

Leakey replied: The only way to win this battle is to avoid the price 
tag ... I am not personally opposed to wildlife utilisation. But 
restricting it to private reserves run largely by Caucasians is like 
sitting on a time bomb that will go bang. Biodiversity must not be 
regarded as the preserve of the foreigner.

We mustnt make the mistake of excluding people from their land. One way 
to soften the inside/outside divide is to get into community 
involvement. This has become fashionable now.

But, having been a champion of sharing revenue with communities, I am 
now opposed to it. Poor people cannot be expected to make the right 
judgments about the protection of species. Communities must share 
resources ... but its not a question of asking them to get involved in 
managing national parks.

Boundaries [of national parks and reserves] must be kept intact and 
protected. We need to recognise that national parks are sacrosanct; they 
are not larders to be plundered ... and exploited by later corrupt 

We must get our priorities right: nature is invaluable. Biodiversity 
cannot be given a price. We must stop messing about with it from a sense 
of guilt.

It is unrealistic to think we will go forward by saying that species 
must pay to stay, given Africas present constructs. It is homo sapiens 
who must pay. The point is that species must stay, so we must pay.

Leakey mentioned fund-raising and taxation as two of the more obvious 
means of getting humankind to pay for conservation. Most Africans, he 
said, regard wildlife as an important resource that they would want 
their governments to look after and they would not object to taxes being 
dedicated to this end. Water, for example, is generally recognised as a 
natural resource of economic value, and people are prepared to pay for it.

Nature-based tourism, though capable of raising large sums of money, 
does not provide the total solution, he said, because much of the money 
ends up in private pockets and is not ploughed back into conservation. 
Ecotourism is never going to pay for the species to stay. There has to 
be another agenda.

Hanks pointed out that countries such as Zimbabwe simply do not have the 
money to dedicate to conservation. During his time at the head of WWF, 
he added, he had found that foreign donors often promise huge sums, but 
are short on delivery.

Leakeys response was that he had embarked on a fund-raising campaign 
when he was appointed head of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Within one 
year I had raised $300-million dollars ... The money is there. If you 
are struggling, perhaps you should revisit some of the issues I have 
raised during this debate.

Hanks said research had shown that management of protected areas costs 
about $200 per kilometre each year. But Leakey said this was an 
irresponsible figure: experience in the great parks of Kenya had shown 
that it could be reduced by 50% when the trade in ivory was banned, 
chiefly because poaching had virtually stopped.

He said Citess decision to resume the ivory trade was based on the 
argument that it was now possible to control the export of ivory. But 
control was not possible in the past when trade was legal about 70% of 
the ivory leaving Africa was unaccounted for and there was no evidence 
that controls would be any better now.

Leakey challenged the South African conservation authorities to come up 
with more innovative ways to ensure that wildlife does not disappear in 
the new millennium. Or they too would stand accused of simply sticking 
their heads in the sand.

More information about the Marxism mailing list