Acknowledge the African contribution to wildlife.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:From the Editor - Column

Last month, the British government hosted a most important international meeting, the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference: London 2018. Representatives from around 80 countries attended--including a few from Africa.

Prince William, the eldest son of the UK's Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana--and first in line to succeed to the throne after his father--has become the spearhead of a global movement to clamp down on the horrific trade in wildlife parts such as rhino horn and elephant tusks. The trade is worth around $23bn per year so many serious criminals are involved.

There is a real danger that our grandchildren will only be able to see the continent's (and the world's) majestic wild animals in zoos or in films. Africa in fact, is the last bastion where these wonderful creatures still roam free--they have been exterminated virtually everywhere, except for a few pockets in Asia.

Apart from Africa's deep cultural and even religious relationships with its wildlife, the continent's magnificent beasts are very much part of Africa's unique identity, wildlife also forms the basis of much of the continent's tourism, generating much-needed revenue and highly specialised jobs.

We cannot afford to lose our wildlife and everything it represents. And indeed, from personal experience, I know that most of our governments, specialised agencies and an army of rangers who risk their lives daily in their battle against sophisticated, ruthless gangs of poachers are working tirelessly to preserve as well as conserve our wildlife.

But you would not know anything about the contribution Africans make if you attend international fora of the kind I mention, or from the Western media or in the countless documentaries and films made on the subject.

Airbrushing out the African contribution

Almost inevitably, the people in the foreground are white--from royalty, to pop stars, to actors to volunteers. The African, who most often is on the frontline, is nowhere to be seen. No wonder the impression one gets is that it is only the 'civilised' white people who care enough for wildlife and in fact, have to 'rescue' animals from the locals who fail to see the whole picture.

It is part of what is now becoming an increasingly unacceptable phenomenon known as 'the white saviour' syndrome. It is not confined only to wildlife. You see it at work in refugee camps --where only white volunteers and medics are shown, in 'development' documentaries and in...

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