Between overstocking and extinction : Conservation and the intensification of uneven wildlife geographies in Africa

Büscher, Bram


Conservation news from Africa generally seems to exude crisis. Over the last decade, especially, we have witnessed the increasingly visible decline of charismatic species such as the rhino, elephant, cheetah, lion, giraffe and others, coupled with an ongoing defaunation of many forested areas. What is much less visible is that in certain areas an important countertrend is also occurring: the growth of wildlife species, most notably through the stocking of private lands and initiatives to develop broader wildlife economies. This article explores these two trends and shows that they are key in understanding conservation in sub-Sahara Africa and its rapidly changing political economy more generally. Focusing on South Africa, especially the booming wildlife economy in the Greater Kruger area, the article argues that the private possession or commodified management of conservation spaces and its (over)stocking of species actually benefits from an overall decline of charismatic species. As the number of charismatic species declines across the continent, it increases the value of well-stocked, privately conserved lands, providing their owners with unique sources of profit and revenue. The result is an intensification of uneven wildlife geographies across Africa