Why conservation fails: uncovering the wicked political nature of Southern Africa's fight against wildlife extinction

Mandy, Lindsay Gail (2021-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Since the dawn of Mankind, the extraction and ownership of natural resources has shaped our social development. Competition over who has control over what resources –particularly the shiny, sparkly and flammable ones buried deep within the earth’s crust –has governed political dynamics. This relationship between the earth’s depleting non-renewable resources, land and people has indeed occupied those in the Political Sciences and natural resource management (NRM) sectors. Although we became bipedal some time ago, we seem to have our heads in the sand when it comes to the renewable resources that play just as political a role. Particularly, our understanding of the management of wildlife has been left up to those within the Natural Sciences and confined to its scope which cannot cater for the sociopolitical complexities that influence the survival of endangered species, and which, in turn, influence the sociopolitical complexities of our present time. Bridging the gap in academia between politics and wildlife management, Wicked Problem Theory (WPT) provides a framework in which conservation problems can be analysed from a political perspective. In this theory’s view, policy problems involving the management of endangered species are wicked by nature and design, as human values, not the science of population decline, are at the core of the problem, and can therefore never truly be solved. Wicked problems cannot simply be solved through research, understandings and policies formulated within the scope of Natural Science, as they tend to do more damage than alleviate the problems they intend to solve. So, through the use of WPT, this study attempted to answer the broader question -Why is conservation in Southern Africa failing? For this task, African lions and vultures within the region are used as case studies to illustrate just how complex, fluid, political, and sticky designing and implementing wildlife legislation becomes.This study aimed to contextualise the complexities of conserving lions and vultures in Southern Africa, and to analyse the context through the wicked lens. In doing so, the analysis by no means attempted to clarify or solve the political problems of wildlife management, but rather to construct a political interpretation of the problem that illustrates just how complex the problem is. In taking the wicked argument to heart, it is unsurprising that the study’s findings reveal a situation in which the relationship between sacredness and science, policy design and implementation, and the dynamics between competing stakeholders governed by multiple agendas are simultaneously operating in the complex adaptive system we call NRM. So far, the political perspective on Southern Africa’s conservation, especially regarding vultures, has not been thoroughly voiced. By creating this missing link between the Natural and Political Sciences, such research has the potential to advance the way we look at, and underestimate, the political nature of conservation. Only when we give up the attempt to simplify such problems and accept their complicated nature will we ever stand any chance of healing the fundamental problems within the wicked nature of conservation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sedert die ontstaan van die mensdom het die ontginning en eienaarskap van natuurlike hulpbronne ons sosiale ontwikkeling gevorm. Wedywering oor wie beheer watter hulpbronne beheer politiese dinamika –veral die blink, glimmende en vlambare hulpbronne diep begrawe binne die aardkors. Hierdie verhouding tussen die aarde se uitputtende en onhernubare hulpbronne, die land en die mense het inderdaad diegene in die Politiese Wetenskappe sowel as die natuurlike hulpbronbestuur (NRM) sektore besig gehou. Alhoewel ons lank gelede reeds tweevoetig geword het, blyk ons koppe steeds in die sand begrawe te wees wanneer dit kom tot hernubare hulpbronne en die politiese rol wat sulke hulpbronne speel. In die besonder is ons verstandhouding van wildbestuur oorgelaat aan diegene in die Natuurwetenskappe en sodanig beperk in omvang wat min voorsiening maak vir die sosio-politiese ingewikkeldhede wat bedreigde spesies se oorlewing beïnvloed en, op die se beurt, die sosio-politiese ingewikkeldhede van die hede beïnvloed. Om die gaping in akademie tussen politiek en wildbestuur te oorbrug, bied die Bose Probleem Teorie (BPT) die raamwerk waarmee bewarings probleme uit 'n politiese oogpunt kan ontleed word. Uit dié teorie se standpunt is beleidsprobleme betrekkende die bestuur van bedreigde spesies van nature en ontwerp onsalig omrede menslike waardes, en nie bevolkingsafname nie, die probleemkern is en dus nooit werklik opgelos kan word nie. Bose probleme kan eenvoudig nie opgelos word deur navorsing, verstandhouding en beleid saamgestel in die omvang van die Natuurwetenskappe nie, aangesien dit geneig is om meer skade te berokken in vergelyking met die probleme wat bedoel is om opgelos te word. Hierdie studie, met behulp van BPT, beoog om die volgende vraag te beantwoord: “Hoekom is bewaring in Suider-Afrika besig om te misluk?” Vir hierdie taak word Afrikaleeus en -aasvoëls uit 'n sekere gebied gebruik as gevallestudies om te wys hoe ingewikkeld, vloeibaar, polities en taai die ontwerp en toepassing van wildswetgewing kan word. Die studie poog om die ingewikkeldhede van leeu-en aasvoëlbewaring in Suider-Afrika in konteks te plaas en hierdie konteks deur die lens van BPT te ontleed. Die ontleding is derhalwe nie 'n poging om die politieke probleme op te klaar of op te los nie, maar eerder 'n poging om 'n politiese vertolking van die probleem te skep wat wys hoe ingewikkeld die probleem is. In ooreenstemming met die BPT is dit nie verbasend dat die studie se bevindinge 'n situasie ontbloot waar die verhouding tussen onskendbaarheid en wetenskap, beleidsontwerp en toepassing, en die dinamika tussen mededingende belanghebbendes regeer deur meervoudige agendas gelyktydig in werking is in die komplekse, aanpasbare stelsel wat ons NRM in afkorting noem. Tot dusver is die politieke standpunt oor Suider-Afrika se bewaring, veral met betrekking tot aasvoëls, nie duidelik geboekstaaf nie. Deur hierdie verlore skakel tussen tussen die Natuurwetenskappe en Politiese Wetenskappe te skep, het hierdie navorsing die potensiaal om die wyses waarop ons die politieke natuur van bewaring besigtig, en onderskat, te bevorder. Slegs wanneer ons ophou om sulke probleme te probeer vereenvoudig en die ingewikkeldheid aanvaar, sal ons enige kans staan om die wesenlike probleme binne die onsalige natuur vanbewaring te genees.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/109852
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