In wildest Africa:the preservation of game in Kenya 1895-1933
Kenya's wildlife is justly famous. This study examines its survival during the first half of the colonial period, both as /" an example of the ca paci,ties and limitations of colonial rule and as a case study in the history of wildlife conservation. The unusual success of wildlife preservation in Kenya is attributable to a number of factors, of which the most important were the timing of the establishment of the East Africa Protectorate (later Kenya) and the influx of a small but influential population of white settlers. In 1895, when the Protectorate was declared, British East Africa was already famous as a sportsman's paradise, and the swift destruction of large wildlife popUlations in South Africa and North America during the nineteenth centu.ry was deplored. The Foreign Office displayed a considerable interest in game preservation, and the Protectorate administration supported it as well, in part owing to the financial gains that vere obtained t.hr-o uqh the sale of ivory and the expenditures of rich European sportsmen. As this thesis demonstrates, the wish to ensu.rethe continuation of these sources of income, coupled with a sense of moral .responsibilit y, led to the early promulgation of game regulations. Subsequently, the arrival of European settlers, many of whom had been attracted by the opportunities for sport in the Protectorate and wished to see the game preserved, provided an additional strong influence favouring the policy of preservation. It vas true that the settlers did not want the l.V presence of game to interfere ~ith their own economic concerns, and that. the game regulations were accordingly modified for their convenience. But the concentration of the economic development of the .Protectoratein the European sector, together with the interest in preservation found among both officials and settlers from the earliest years of British rule, permitted the survival of large wildlife populations outside the White Highlands until the idea of national parks took hold in the early 1930's, The parks were intended to provide permanent protection against the ever-increasing threats presented by development and human population growth. Unfortunately, the structure of game preservation policy built during the first half of the colonial period lacked the essential foundation of African consent •.Regulations were drawn up and reserves designated without consulting Africans and with little consideration of their needs. The government admitted that it would be unjust to forbid hun·tingentirely without the substitution of alternative means of subsistence, and the hunting peoples primarilythe Dorobo,Boni, and Liang ulo - were given limited rights to kill game.. This thesis shows, however, that the restricted permission given did not embrace the continuation of well-established economic patterns, particularly ~ith regard to the ivory trade. In consequence, the game regulations were widely disregarded, and poaching was a serious problem. Attempts to discourage poaching and smuggling met with little success. The colonial government· s resources were limited and could not be stretched to cover the efficient v application of policy in the administration's many areas of concern; hence game preservation received short financial shrift, and law enforcement was sporadic. Preservation policy was more impressive on paper than in reality. The construction of a preservation policy capable of attracting African as veIl as European support would have been difficult. But by ignoring African interests in favour of the maintenance of a "sportsman's paradise," the colonial regime undermined its own success. African resistance to preservation policy remains a threat to the survival of Kenya's wildlife today. This thesis, which is largely based on early European accounts of British East Africa, British government sources, and materials in the Kenya National Archives, examines a number of related subjects which have not hitherto received study. The early concern for game preservation in Kenya, resulting in the estab1.ishment of regulations and the creation of the Game Department, the illegal traffic in ivory which developed in response to the colonial regime's policies, and the relationship of game to agriculture should be of interest regarding not only the preservation of wildlife in Africa, but in connection with Kenya's administrative history and economic and agriCUltural development.