The Myth of Wild Africa and Large Carnivore Conservation

The writings and public influence of early explorers, missionaries and hunters resulted in the warped public perception of Africa amongst European nations as a romanticised land of plenty or endless garden of Eden. In their 1992 book, Jonathan Adams and Thomas McShane refer to this perception as the “myth of wild Africa”. The authors argue that this romantic, out-of-touch view of Africa and its natural resources drove a protectionist-type conservation ethic in Africa for more than a hundred years. In the authors’ view, such a conservation ethic (and its associated management practices) were detrimental to local communities and the conservation of wildlife in general. In this lecture, I use examples from my own and other research to illustrate that large carnivore conservation in Africa suffers from similar “mythical” conservation hang-overs. I attempt to refute some of these “myths” and also unpack what lies ahead for the future conservation of these iconic species.