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CfB Bureau

In India, tribal villages are expelled from tiger reserves at the same time as the forest department encourages rocketing tourism

Tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from these lands in the name of “conservation" , while tourists are being welcomed

The Baiga face a grim and uncertain future, like all tribal people whose lands and resources are stolen. Formerly self-sufficient communities are forced to rely on food hand-outs, while mental and physical illness, malnutrition, and alcoholism soar, and life expectancy plummets.

The Baiga and Gond have lived with and nurtured the flora and fauna of Kanha for generations. They have helped catch illegal hunters, control forest fires and track wildlife. But, once evicted, communities can grow hostile to the conservation measures and associated tourism that have caused them so much suffering.

With their livelihoods wrecked, and their link with the forest severed, they may no longer be motivated to collaborate with conservationists, who end up alienating the very people who should be their allies in environmental protection.

Tiger conservation will continue to fail until tribal peoples’ rights to their land are respected and everyone accepts that they should be at the heart of conservation efforts. Tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else.

Did you know that 80% of the most biodiverse areas on Earth are home to indigenous and tribal peoples?

Long before the word “conservation” was coined, tribal peoples developed highly effective measures for maintaining the richness of their environment. Yet it’s often wrongly claimed their lands are wildernesses even though tribal communities have been dependent on, and managed them for millennia. Even the world’s most famous “wildernesses” – including Yellowstone, the Amazon and the Serengeti – are the ancestral homelands of millions of tribes people, who nurtured and protected their environments for many generations.

Tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from these lands in the name of “conservation.” Now they’re accused of “poaching” because they hunt their food. And they face arrest and beatings, torture and death, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged. Their lives and lands are being destroyed by the conservation industry, tourism and big business.

The big conservation organizations are complicit. They fund militarized conservation which leads to the persecution of innocent hunter-gatherers, they partner with the big businesses that steal tribal lands, and they drive the projects that result in illegal evictions.

It’s time for a new type of conservation, one that puts tribal peoples’ rights at its heart, and that recognizes they are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world.

This would be the most significant leap forward for genuine environmental protection in history.

For tribes, for nature, and for all humanity’s future.


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