The story of South Africa’s oribi mirrors conservation issues for other iconic species
If only it were as simple as finding more grassland for an antelope.
The story of efforts to conserve the endangered oribi in South Africa represent a diaspora of issues as varied as the people who live there. On its surface, like many threatened species, you have conflict between a need for habitat and private landownership.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover a seedy underbelly of political corruption, gambling, struggles over land, and racial tensions. No matter how much success is made through more traditional conservation efforts, says a new study by a University of Georgia researcher, the species will continue to be threatened until the human conflicts can be mitigated or resolved.
“It’s an interesting case study because the oribi is so dependent on habitat that’s on private lands,” said Elizabeth Pienaar, an associate professor at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “But it’s also a species that has gotten trapped in much larger political and social conflicts. … This is the dark side of conservation. We can say, look, the species needs X, Y and Z to survive and recover, but in cases like this, conservation efforts are mired in a complex political, social and historical framework. These much larger issues remain unresolved.”