The Tribes Paying the Brutal Price of Conservation

Added: 07-10-2018

In this article, John Vidal uses the recent evictions of the San people from the Kalahari game park to explore large scale evictions of indigenous people for the sake of conservation worldwide. The focus of this article is on the irony and injustice of these evictions, because many governments responsible for these evictions allow global corporations to access resources in the park for profit.

indigenous people mining and resource extraction foremost deadly force diamond San people vulnerable people order corporation eviction

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 20 minutes JOHN VIDAL 08-28-2016
Type Reading Time
article 20 minutes
Author Date
john vidal 2018-07-10 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways

  • Evictions of indigenous people have happened for centuries, but have been amplified in recent years. 
  • Overt evictions have been replaced by more subtle policy changes that restrict indigenous people access to resources, eventually forcing eviction. 
  • Governments often support corporations’ access to conservation land for profit after evicting indigenous people.


In this Guardian article, John Vidal uses the story of Tshodanyestso Sesana, a San tribe member in Botswana, who was shot at by authorities when hunting in the Central Kalahari game park. He was later detained and beaten for hunting on government land, despite it being land that his family had hunted on for generations. 

Like many of groups living in rich biodiverse areas in sub-Saharan Africa, the San have been systematically forced off of their land over the last 20 years. Vidal explains that the implementation of a ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy (where park rangers have authority to kill any unauthorized peoples in the park) has been supported by conservation groups. However, it has resulted in the escalation of conflict between authorities and indigenous groups. 

The irony, as Vidal points out, is that one of the largest diamond mines has been allowed to be opened in the park during that time. According to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN specialist on indigenous peoples rights, the same action is being taken in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world, leading her to claim that “The world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price for today’s conservation.” 

Tauli-Corpuz explains that of the 6,000 national parks worldwide, most were created through evicting indigenous people. While evictions have gone down in recent years, governments have subtly restricted legal access to resources, such as banning hunting or firewood collection, indirectly forcing people to move out of parks. 

What is clear, according to Vidal and Tauli-Corpuz, is that conservation by evicting indigenous people is not having a beneficial impact on wildlife as tourism and large scale resource extraction are replacing and in some cases increasing the human-wildlife interaction in protected areas.