For the Serengeti's Maasai, a Bitter Irony Unfolds

'Atlantic' explores how they're losing land they've carefully tended in the name of conservation
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2024 3:05 PM CDT
For the Serengeti's Maasai, a Bitter Irony Unfolds
Maasai tribeswomen gather at a village on the outskirts of the Serengeti, in northern Tanzania.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

On the surface, the news might please those with a conservationist bent—Tanzania setting aside more and more land for preservation. Look a little closer and what emerges is the brutal toll being exacted on the Maasai—pastoralists who are "among the lightest-living people on the planet"—in the name of said conservation, writes Stephanie McCrummen in the Atlantic. It's a bitter irony: The Maasai's stewardship of the land over the last four centuries has helped create the ecosystem now so prized, writes McCrummen. They've done such an admirable job tending their land that it's now being seized from them in what the story refers to as the "Great Serengeti Land Grab." And in this case, "conservation" might not mean what you think, as Tanzania caters to wealthy "trophy hunters, and tourists on 'bespoke expeditions,' and cappuccino trucks in proximity to buffalo viewing."

The story focuses on the plight of the Maasai—whose members are being forced into the unfamiliar environs of cities, where they typically struggle—but it makes clear the issue is happening elsewhere:

  • "In the past two decades, more than a quarter million Indigenous people have been evicted to make way for ecotourism, carbon-offset schemes, and other activities that fall under the banner of conservation. That figure is expected to soar."
Why? Eco-tourism and the like have become huge money-makers for developing nations, and wealthy tourists from around the world have the potential to fatten the wallets not just of national treasuries but of local politicians who set the rules (and in this case, boundaries). Read the full story. (Or check out other longform recaps.)

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