One of the problems with contemporary efforts at wildlife conservation is the imposition of seemingly arbitrary rules and strictures on people whose livelihood is tied closely to the animals in need of protection. The rules are either ignored, in which case the conservation efforts are not successful, or the rules are enforced, in which case the people involved sometimes cannot make enough money to support themselves. Dr. Monney, one of the guest lecturers during our trip to Ghana, talked about elephant poaching and how it is difficult to enforce the anti-poaching legislation; arrests can be made, but the local police often don’t prosecute because they do not understand the law. I wonder if this is because it does not make logical sense to stop someone from making a profit from his or her own skills—hunting or otherwise. Without knowledge of the goals of the conservationists, the legislation seems arbitrary and unnecessary and people will not comply with it because of the more pressing needs of providing for themselves and their families.
We also discussed some of the more successful modes of conservation—ones that involve the community and make use of pre-existing values. In one case we talked about, the local people were being hired as park rangers in the forests and wildlife sanctuaries. This works well in two ways. First, it employs people who are already knowledgeable about the wildlife and can offer a unique perspective on the sanctuary and its functions. Secondly, it offers a replacement for the income lost when the conservation measures are put in place to prevent the depletion of resources. Another example of thoughtful conservation was the Buabeng-Fema monkey sanctuary, where the community’s belief in the monkeys’ status as ancestors leads them to take care of and feed the monkeys, even to the point of holding funerals for them when they die. The animals are being taken care of and the population preserved with very little outside influence or disturbance, which, in wildlife conservation, is a success.