Biodiversity, Wildlife and the Land Question in Africa

  • Maano RamutsindelaEmail author
  • Paballo Abel Chauke
Part of the Sustainable Development Goals Series book series (SDGS)


The concerns of environmental scientists, environmental non-governmental organisations, government agencies and international bodies with biodiversity are aptly captured with observations in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Report on Progress towards Sustainable Development Goals released on 11 May 2017. The Report notes the increase in biodiversity loss, declining land productivity and the increase in the poaching of wildlife, among other challenges. While these problems are real, there is a need to comprehend how their solutions intersect with other national policies or development agendas in Africa. Literature shows that trading off Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the failure to draw synergy among them undermines their universal aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. This chapter adds to this literature by showing that some of the efforts toward curbing biodiversity loss ironically create conditions that work against the protection of biodiversity while also deepening existing socio-economic problems. The chapter demonstrates this irony by referring to SDG 15 and its relations to inequitable land distribution in African contexts. It argues that efforts to reduce biodiversity loss by expanding protected areas and by excising land in the battle to curb rampant poaching compound the very challenges as they lead to a situation, where land alienation and poaching are entangled in a vicious and unabating cycle.


Biodiversity Land policy Wildlife Poaching Africa 


  1. Adams WM, Sandbrook C (2013) Conservation, evidence and policy. Oryx 47:329–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apostolopoulou E, Adams WM (2015) Neoliberal capitalism and conservation in the post-crisis era: the dialectics of ‘green’ and ‘un-green’ grabbing in Greece and the UK. Antipode 47(1):15–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barua M, Bhagwat SA, Jadhav S (2013) The hidden dimensions of human–wildlife conflict: health impacts, opportunity and transaction costs. Biol Cons 157:309–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell S, Hampshire K, Topalidou S (2007) The political culture of poaching: a case study from northern Greece. Biodivers Conserv 16:399–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bierman F, Bai X, Bondre N, Broadgate W, Aurthur Chen CT, Dupe OP, Erisman JW, Glaer M, van der Hel S, Lemos MC (2016) Down to earth: contextualizing the Anthropocene. Glob Environ Change 39:341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown K (2014) Global environmental change I: a social turn for resilience. Progres Hum Geogr 38:107–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chongwa MB (2012) The history and evolution of national parks in Kenya. The George Wright Forum 29(1):39–42Google Scholar
  8. Dinerstein E, Olson D, Joshi A, Vynne C, Burgess N, Wikramanayake E, Hahn N, Palminteri S, Hedao P, Noss R, Hansen M (2017) An ecoregion-based approach to protecting half the terrestrial realm. Bioscience 67(6):534–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dowie M (2011) Conservation refugees: the hundred-year conflict between global conservation and native peoples. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  10. Duffy R (2014) Waging a war to save biodiversity: the rise of militarised conservation. Int Aff 90(4):819–834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duffy R, St. John FAV, Buscher B, Brockington D (2016) Towards a new understanding of the links between poverty and illegal wildlife hunting. Conserv Biol 30(1):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fairhead J, Leach M, Scoones I (2012) Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? J Peasant Stud 39(2):237–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gallopín GC (2003) A systems approach to sustainability and sustainable development. United Nations Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, SantiagoGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaidzanwa RB (2016) Women and land in Zimbabwe: state, democracy and gender issues in evolving livelihoods and land regimes. In: Pallotti A, Tornimbeni C (eds) State, land and democracy in Southern Africa. Routledge, London, pp 149–168Google Scholar
  15. Hübschle A (2017) The social economy of rhino poaching: of economic freedom fighters, professional hunters and marginalized local people. Curr Sociol 65(3):427–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. International Union for Conservation of Nature (2013) IUCN views on the post 2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals. IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  17. Inskip C, Zimmermann A (2009) Human–felid conflict: a review of patterns and priorities worldwide. Oryx 43:18–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacoby K (2003) Crimes against nature: squatters, poachers, thieves, and the hidden history of American conservation. University of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelly AB, Gupta AC (2016) Protected areas: offering security to whom, when and where? Environ Conserv 43(2):172–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kepe T (2018) Meanings, alliances and the state in tensions over land rights and conservation in South Africa. In: Mollett S, Kepe T (eds) Land rights, biodiversity conservation and justice: rethinking parks and people. Routledge, Abingdon, pp 17–30Google Scholar
  21. Kideghesho JR, Røskaft E, Kaltenborn BP, Mokiti TM (2005) Serengeti shall not die: can the ambition be sustained? Int J Biodivers Sci Manage 3(1):150–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kideghesho JR, Mtoni PE (2008) Who compensates for wildlife conservation in Serengeti? Int J Biodivers Sci Manage 4:112–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lamarque F, Anderson J, Fergusson R, Lagrange M, Osei-Owusu Y, Bakker L (2009) Human–wildlife conflict in Africa: causes, consequences and management strategies. Food Agric Organ, RomeGoogle Scholar
  24. Locke H (2014) Nature needs half: a necessary and hopeful new agenda for protected areas in North America and around the world. The George Wright Forum 31:359–371Google Scholar
  25. MacKenzie JM (1988) The empire of nature: hunting, conservation and British imperialism. Manchester University Press, ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  26. Marchini S, Macdonald DW (2012) Predicting ranchers’ intention to kill jaguars: case studies in Amazonia and Pantanal. Biol Cons 147:213–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marcuse P (1998) Sustainability is not enough. Environ Urban 10(2):103–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Masse F, Lunstrum E (2016) Accumulation by securitization: commercial poaching, neoliberal conservation, and the creation of new wildlife frontiers. Geoforum 69:227–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Matheka RM (2008) Decolonisation and wildlife conservation in Kenya, 1958-68. J Imp Commonw Hist 36:615–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moreto WD (2015) Introducing intelligence-led conservation: bridging crime and conservation science. Crime Sci 4(15):1–22Google Scholar
  31. Moyo S, Yeros P (2013) The Zimbabwe model: radicalisation, reform and resistance. In: Moyo S, Chambati W (eds) Land and agrarian reform in Zimbabwe: beyond white-settler capitalism. Dakar, CODESRIAGoogle Scholar
  32. National Geographic (2015) Ivory: a smuggled tusk, a hidden GPS, a crime story. SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  33. Neumann RP (2004) Moral and discursive geographies in the war for biodiversity in Africa. Political Geogr 23:813–837CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Osorio LAR, Lobato MO, Castillo XÁD (2005) Debates on sustainable development: towards a holistic view of reality. Environ Dev Sustain 7(4):501–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ramutsindela M (2004) Parks and people in post-colonial societies: experiences in Southern Africa. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  36. Ramutsindela M (2007) Transfrontier conservation in Africa: at the confluence of capital, politics and nature. Cabi, WallingfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ramutsindela M, Shabangu M (2018) The promise and limit of environmental justice through land restitution in protected areas in South Africa. In: Mollett S, Kepe T (eds) Land rights, biodiversity conservation and justice: rethinking parks and people. Routledge, London, pp 31–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roberts E, Andrei S, Huq S, Flint L (2015) Resilience synergies in the post-2015 development agenda. Nat Clim Change 5:1024–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rodríguez-Pose A, Hardy D (2015) Addressing poverty and inequality in the rural economy from a global perspective. Appl Geogr 61:11–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Routledge P, Cumbers A, Derickson KD (2018) States of just transition: realising climate justice through and against the state. Geoforum 88:78–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sachs JD (2015) The age of sustainable development. Columbia University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sanders SR (2009) A conservationist manifesto. Indiana University Press, BloomingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Sandbrook C (2015) What is conservation? Oryx 49(4):565–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Scoones I, Leach M, Newell P (eds) (2015) The politics of green transformations. Routledge, AbingdonGoogle Scholar
  45. Spaiser V, Ranganathan S, Bali Swain R, Sumpter D (2017) The sustainable development oxymoron: quantifying and modelling the incompatibility of sustainable development goals. Int J Sustain Dev World Ecol 24(6):457–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sillero-Zubiri C, Sukumar R, Treves A (2007) Living with wildlife: the roots of conflict and the solutions. In: Macdonald D (ed) Key topics in conservation biology. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 255–272Google Scholar
  47. United Nations Online (2016) Life on land: why it matters? Accessed 15 Jan 2018
  48. United Nations Online (2015) Sustainable development goal 15. Accessed 1 Feb 2018
  49. United Nations (2017) Report on progress towards sustainable development goals. United Nations, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  50. United States (2013) Executive order combating wildlife trafficking. US Government, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  51. Vitousek PM, Mooney HA, Lubchenco J, Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. Science 277(5325):494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. West HW (2000) On African land holding—a review of tenurial change and land policies in Anglophone Africa. Edwin Mellen Press, LewistonGoogle Scholar
  53. Wilson EO (2016) Half-Earth: our planet’s fight for life. Liveright Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Worldwide Fund for Nature (2015) Sustainable development plan gives the globe a chance. Accessed 26 Jan 2018
  55. Woodley S, Bertzky B, Crawhall N, Dudley N, Londoño JM, MacKinnon K, Redford K, Sandwith T (2012) Meeting Aichi Target 11: what does success look like for protected area systems. Parks 18(1):23–36Google Scholar
  56. Woodroffe R, Thirgood S, Rabinowitz A (eds) (2005) People and wildlife: conflict or coexistence?. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  57. World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our common future. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations