Through My Eyes
Conservation is all about people, people do matter.
Through My Eyes emphasises the need to look at Conservation through a human lens. Conservation is all about protecting biodiversity, in some instances focusing on protecting specific endangered species and the habitats they live in. Through My Eyes sends a strong pro-sustainable use message and emphasises the need to harness the power of communication. Rural people need to be empowered and involved in basic decision making about their natural resources and bringing these often marginalised people on board will more likely create conservation success. As Dr John Hanks says in the Foreword to Through My Eyes: "The romantic view of wildlife roaming free in nature and independent of humans is a fantasy!”. The photographs in this book speak volumes in this regard and the strong message needs to be “Conservation by the People” and “Sustainable Use”.
Something to ponder ...
Conservation, just like in the current political sphere, seems to have a polarising effect on people. One would have hoped that common goals and ideas would drive people involved in conservation on a common path. Through My Eyes highlights the disconnect that exists between how the Western world sees Africa and its biodiversity, and how we Africans view ourselves and our natural resources. Nothing highlights the disconnect better than the debate on elephants.
An holistic management approach in dealing with these charismatic megaherbivores requires a diverse Conservation and Management toolbox. In an African sense, the tools needed include the option to carry out culling, promote sport hunting, capture and relocate elephant as family units, develop corridors, preserve large landscapes and maintain connectivity, and protect elephants using whatever means to combat illegal killing. Most importantly, within the African toolbox squarely sit people and their livelihoods, people who bear the brunt of “wicked” elephant problems.
A Western toolbox will be missing a number of tools, including culling or sport hunting, always emphasising the benefits of ecotourism and protection or preservation. Just look at the reaction to Botswana lifting the hunting ban on elephant, polarisation personified as one listens to comment on radio and reads opinion pieces in the online media, but one has to admire Botswana for making the decision, an African decision and clearly not just a political decision. In the African context, it is time that we as Africans manage our natural resources, our way and not their way.