The Middle East’s love affair with wild animals has hit the headlines again. No, there haven’t been sightings of cheetahs on the streets of Dubai or dead wolves and owls on parade, rather Middle Eastern royals are being accused of aiding a massive sell-off of the Serengeti. And in a new twist to the land-grab meme, this land sell-off is not to secure access to precious food supplies but, rather, to indulge in the hunting whims of the Middle East’s elite.
The campaigning group Avaaz has launched a online petition to ask Tanzania’s President Kikwete to reject the hunting corporation’s big deal and stop the sell-off of the Serengeti.
“The last time this same corporation pushed the Maasai off their land to make way for rich hunters, people were beaten by the police, their homes were burnt to a cinder and their livestock died of starvation” explains Avaaz via email. “But when a press controversy followed, Tanzanian President Kikwete reversed course and returned the Maasai to their land. This time, there hasn’t been a big press controversy yet, but we can change that and force Kikwete to stop the deal if we join our voices now.”
Oxfam, an international charity, also reported on the eviction which took place in July 2009 in Tanzania leaving nearly 2,000 people homeless. They aded that “two of the most infamous land conflicts are with Emirates hunting company Ortello Business Corporation and American-owned Thomson Safaris Ltd.”
As of August 13, more than 400,000 people had signed the petition in just 24 hours and Avaaz reported that President Kikwete’s inner circle was starting to react: “ a few hours ago, the President’s close confidante, Mr. January Makamba MP, tweeted saying he would send our voices to the President himself. Keep up the pressure by signing now and forwarding to others.”
The Maasai are semi-nomadic herders who have lived in Tanzania and Kenya for centuries, playing a critical role in preserving the delicate ecosystem and wildlife of the Serengeti. As such, a deal to evict the Maasai to make way for rich foreign hunters is as bad for wildlife as it is for the communities it would destroy.
For more on wild animals in the Middle East see:
Photo of unidentified Maasai women via Pal Teravagimov / Shutterstock.com