Western-style conservation has become increasingly hard to justify in the face of moves by former inhabitants to reclaim the right to hunt, farm and occupy customary homelands fenced off for wildlife or habitat conservation. The migration of the urban poor to rural conservation areas, seeking a means to sustain themselves places further pressure on wildlife and habitat.
The Ngorongora Crater Reserve of Tanzania is one of Africa's highest priority protected areas. It is well known for its herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope and the lions that feed on them. Yet the reserve is being seriously threatened by human populations desperate for land. Protecting the tiger in India has similar problems. India is crowded with many rural villages which, in some cases, have had to be relocated.
It was reported in 1996 that Botswana was forcibly moving thousands of indigenous bushmen out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which was set up in 1961 to provide them with a last refuge. The driving force behind the removal of humans from the reserve is the recommendation of an EU-funded aid programme to promote the conservation of natural wildlife habitats, thus encouraging tourism. Similar cases have been reported by Oxfam: in Uganda, when the Ugandan Army forcibly evicted 35,000 people from the Kibale forest region in order to protect conservation values; and in Ethiopia where 7,000 are threatened with eviction so their land can be used for three national parks.
On the plains of Africa, in the tiger reserves of Asia and the rainforests of South America, hunters have been outlawed as poachers and themselves hunted down. Suspicion is growing that repressive governments are using conservation as an excuse for land-grabbing.