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Our Gigantic ZooA German Quest to Save the Serengeti$
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Thomas M. Lekan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843671

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199843671.001.0001

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A Weakness for the Maasai

A Weakness for the Maasai

(p.145) 5 A Weakness for the Maasai
Our Gigantic Zoo

Thomas M. Lekan

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the ground-level debates over pastoral land rights that lay outside the aerial camera’s frame in Serengeti Shall Not Die. When the British gazetted Serengeti National Park in 1951, Tanganyika’s colonial government had guaranteed the Maasai rights of occupancy because they did not traditionally hunt and were deemed part of the natural landscape. Yet a prolonged drought brought increasing numbers of Maasai into the parklands in search of better-watered highland grazing, causing conflict with park officials. Such movements, coupled with scientific and administrative misunderstanding of transhumance and savanna resilience, led the British to propose excising the Ngorongoro region from the park to accommodate local land use. The Grzimeks and a “green network” of international allies asserted that cattle herding and wildlife conservation were incompatible due to livestock’s overgrazing. They buttressed this ecological claim with fears of racial degeneration, claiming that there were no more “true-blooded” Maasai left in the Serengeti. The Grzimeks’ advocacy helped to transform a colonial debate about “native” rights into an international scandal. The green network had discredited British imperialism yet inherited many of its paternalist assumptions about traditional African land use and modernist development.

Keywords:   Barclay Leechman, carrying capacity, desertification, Henry Fosbrooke, Fauna Preservation Society (FPS), IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), Malthusian, pastoralism, rinderpest, transhumance

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