Ideas of local control and popular government are perennially revived on both the right and the left. But we don’t often enough export those ideas, especially to areas of endeavor like wildlife preservation.
Considering the sorry state of so much wildlife, especially in Africa, you’d think decentralization and citizen control might more often be trotted out.
Terry Anderson and Shawn Regan, writing for the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas, argue that devolving hunting rights down to the village level in Africa would almost certainly help preserve wildlife stocks. It’s worked pretty well in Zimbabwe, while Kenya, which prohibited hunting instead of managing it, saw “its population of wild animals [decline] between 60 and 70 percent.”
The usual wildlife policy advocated in the West might as well be called wildlife colonialism. It combines a heavy dose of moralism with a heavy-handed, top-down authoritarianism — the last thing we want to encourage in African governments for other matters. And it doesn’t work for preservation. With it, local communities have no stake in wildlife management, so wildlife degrades through poaching and habitat encroachment.
Far better to provide people in Africa — in villages and towns and in the stretches between them — incentives to keep stocks of elephants and lions and apes and monkeys and what-have-you healthy.
Hunters kill animals, yes — but, with the right incentives, can help save whole species. As Anderson and Regan put it, “if it pays, it stays.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.