The Environment News Network recently ran a fascinating story about Sri Lanka, after failing miserably to protect endangered wildlife, is turning to traditional tribal hunting groups to prevent illegal poaching of wildlife in its forests.
The story of the Veddah hunters is amazing. Anthropologists believe the aboriginal group were the first human beings to settle in what is now Sri Lanka, but Sinhalese colonizers displaced them long ago as the main source of political power. For the most part, though, the Sinhalese, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and then the Sinhalese again after de-colonialization, all left the Veddah alone to carry on their traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle with minimal interference.
That changed in 1983 when the government started ambitious development projects which included erecting dams and relocating the Veddah. The government officially banned hunting in the forests the Veddah formerly hunted in.
The results were predictable — while the wildlife conservation staff spent its time harassing Veddah hunters who returned to hunt, soldiers, police, and others poached the wildlife with impunity. The animals continued to decline, deforestation accelerated, and no one was happy.
Now the government has come to its senses and started to reverse that policy. It’s helping to relocate the 200 or so Veddah families back to their forest and restoring their right to hunt for food. In return the Veddah hunters are helping conservation officers crack down on poachers. According to the ENN report, the Veddah hunters recently helped authorities identify a group of soldiers who were poaching animals.
This is the sort of common sense approach to conservation that the animal rights position pretty much rules out. Hunters will play an increasingly important role in species preservation, and it will be thanks to them in large measure that many of these animals will continue to exist as species for groups like PETA to claim they have rights.
Tribal hunters turn wildlife protectors by hunting again. Environmental News Network, July 27, 2000.