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“Wildlife Management and Conservation on Private Land in Namibia: An Ethnographic Account” Ryan Thomas Klataske

December 8, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Please join us for the dissertation defense of Ryan Klataske as he defends his doctoral research, Wildlife Management and Conservation on Private Land in Namibia: An Ethnographic Account.

Threats to wildlife in Africa and elsewhere around the world raise the question: how can humans work together in the Anthropocene to manage and conserve wildlife and other natural resources? By documenting the use of common property as a tool for wildlife management and conservation on private ranchland in Namibia, this dissertation documents one unique possibility. Drawing on anthropological data and information collected over 13 months of ethnographic research, it examines how and why groups of white ranchers have used common property as a tool for managing common-pool wildlife across boundaries of private land. These arrangements and the territories they govern are called freehold or commercial conservancies. This research resulted in an in-depth case study of one of the largest and most active conservancies in the country, as well as a rich collection of stakeholder narratives and observations on the interactions of a wide range of different actors. The findings suggest that common property offered not only a tool for conservation, but also a strategy for survival in post-apartheid southern Africa. After acquiring extensive rights to the wildlife on their land in the 1960s-70s, private landowners in Namibia still faced the challenge of managing this fugitive common-pool resource. While some landowners sought to prevent overexploitation and enclosure, others saw conservancies as a defense mechanism against the state, and as a strategy to escape the threat of land reform. By working together, white ranchers in Namibia have attempted to construct a new niche for themselves based on the conservation and sustainable use of African wildlife. Since the early 1990s, freehold conservancy members have transformed their relationship to wildlife and each other, contributing to the conservation of wildlife and habitat on private land. Yet, despite their accomplishments, many ranchers see their efforts as failing or falling short. Their disillusionment, as documented in this dissertation, stems from the politics of land, fear of a potentially predatory state, and an insecure sense of belonging.


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Department of Anthropology