| Planning National parks for Eco-development - Methods and Cases from Latin America |
|Chapter IX. Some guidelines from park management experience in Africa|
The national parks of Africa are world famous. In Latin America they are known primarily for the large animals and the views of tens of species and hundreds or thousands of individuals roaming the vase savannahs. For those who knew Africa first, and then visit Latin America, they may find the parks "void of animal life," hut the vegetation is variable and interesting. To those knowing Latin America's park first, and then visit Africa, the animals are considered so outstanding that the vegetation is hardly noticed.
Naturally, there is over-simplification and exaggeration in such generalizations. Both continents have large numbers of plant and animal species. In fact, in the tropical zones they together possess well over half of the species of the entire planet.1 Both also have extreme environments ranging from permanent snow and ice atop mountains and volcanoes, to sand covered deserts, tropical rain forests and ocean beaches, swamps, estuaries and coral reefs.
The Latin American park professional or enthusiast is interested in Africa's national parks for several reasons. There is the fauna; it is certainly different to think of managing elephants rather than guanaco. The Latin American park manager may have up to five species of cat in his park and hardly, if ever, see one individual; his African counterpart will see lions, cheetah, perhaps leopards and other cat species daily. There is the historical trajectory which has given African park officers a form of military discipline and the parks a strong legal authority. The large amount of tourism to national parks which contributes millions of dollars to foreign exchange leads to the strong support given to the park departments by central governments. The envy becomes logical when it is realized that there are more service vehicles in some individual parks in Africa, such as Serengeti and Nairobi, than in the entire park systems of Brazil, Chile or Colombia. The parks have planes, radios, brochures and maps, literature and a research staff.
In contrast, African park colleagues have barely heard that there are functioning national parks in Latin America. Those few who have attended the various world conferences and who have read the United Nations List of National Parks will be aware that something is going on there.
There is an impression that the two continents are extremely different and that there is little in common. And, it is assumed that Africa is far advanced in park management principles and practices.
During his work on national parks management and planning in Latin America, which began in 1962, the author became aware of these perceptions and they became his own. But curiosity remained strong. Surely there was much to learn in Africa. And, might there not be things for Africa to learn from Latin American experiences?
While preparing to write this book, the author made his first trip to Africa (south of the Sahara) with the purpose of comparing and contrasting park management with that found in Latin America. The itinerary was designed to visit parks selected to show conservation units in different biomes, government and political systems and levels of development. Parka were also selected to demonstrate particular types of experience. Parka and park related activities were visited in Botswana, Cameroun, Kenya, Republic of South Africa, Tanzania and Zaire.
The original intent was to gather data on the major characteristics of management in a manner systematically parallel to that already gathered in Latin America. It was soon apparent that data could not be collected uniformly. Terms and concepts were so variable. Area managers often did not possess the information sought. As in many countries, the central offices of each country presented the information on their parks in various manners and time was not available to order the data. Annual work plans and budgets were available, but not one park had a written "management plan" per se. This is changing with the cooperative activities of governments and FAO in Dahomey,2 Cameroun,3 and previously in Zambia.4 Information was available about tourism. Considerable numbers of publications existed on the biology of particular species or management practices from a scientific point of view. In short, there was a great deal to be learned, but it would have to be done by observation and personal communication.
The personnel of each park, regional and national office were interested in discussing the parks in Latin America. They were extremely helpful and sympathetic to the questions asked by the author. Each time the author presented a slide talk on the park programs in Latin America entitled: "National Parks from Tierra del Fuego to Cuba," the reaction wee generally one of enthusiasm and surprise. Through these discussions, an important difference between park management in Africa and Latin America became apparent:
a) In Latin America, considerable attention is giver to discussing and designing (and more recently, in writing) the conceptual and strategic basis for park management. There is more of a tendency to deal in a larger scale and to look at the complexity of the overall problem.
b) In contrast, Africa is much more pragmatic and tactical. Far greater emphasis is given to the day-to-day operation of parks. There is concern for detail and much less mention is made about strategies, plans, principles, and concepts.
Perhaps because of this fundamental difference many of the author's questions about planning, regional development, cooperative efforts with rural peoples and other government agencies, planning offices, and the like, were apparently too abstract and they elicited little response. Yet, these are among the topics of greatest concern to Latin American managers. In contrast, when the questions would pass to the operational aspects of management, there would be a burst of facts and figures about protection, poacher control, fire management, tourism, concessions and hotels, visitor statistics and budget. In Latin America, it is the operations which are usually vague. Unlike their African counterparts, few Latin American park managers meet with their rangers each day to assign work details, to discuss problems and maintain close personal control of the park area. Few are aware in detail of their budget and the rationale for the number and location of each of their personnel.
It is difficult and dangerous to overgeneralize. There are many dramatic exceptions. There will be no attempt in this chapter to evaluate, rate, or rank the parks of one continent versus those of the other. This is because there are many aspects which cannot be studied objectively. For example, culture, colonial history, politics and rural sociology would have to be studied on both continents. It is difficult enough to learn facts end gain experience on one continent. To Rain in-depth experience on two continents would be nearly impossible in one lifetime.
The objective of this chapter will be to present guidelines which can be usefully considered for application in Latin America. They are based upon the experience of park management in Africa. No attempt wild be made to describe the national parks of Africa in detail since this has been done to considerable extent by K. Curry-Lindahl,5 J.P. Harroy,6 IUCN,7 N. Myers,8 A. de Vos,9 and others.