Guardian (UK)

Prince William accused of ‘white saviour’ mentality in Africa wildlife film

Experts condemn lack of African voices in film depicting royal’s visit to conservation projects in Tanzania

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Rebecca Ratcliffe

Fri 12 Oct 2018 15.02 BST

Last modified on Fri 12 Oct 2018 18.10 BST

The Duke of Cambridge branded poaching ‘an economic crime against ordinary people and their futures’ in a speech at the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in London. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

A video that shows the Duke of Cambridge visiting wildlife projects in Tanzania has been criticised for excluding African experts and promoting a “white saviour” mentality.

The film, shown this week at the international conference on illegal wildlife trade in London, highlights conservationist work in Dar es Salaam Port and at Mkomazi National Park.

Only one black person, a student, talks to camera during the video, during a conversation about Prince William’s leadership qualities. Other international contributors are quoted sharing their expertise on poaching and how to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

Kaddu Sebunya, president of the African Wildlife Foundation, said that while the royal family had an important role to play, the focus should remain on African voices.

“The solution to international wildlife trade is going to come from what we do on the ground, and the leadership of Africans is very important,” he said. “We’ve seen on the ground that where Africans have led, where we’ve seen leadership from African politician, where we’ve seen community ownership, we’ve seen good results.”

Kensington Palace

@KensingtonRoyal

The Duke of Cambridge recently visited projects supported by @United4Wildlife and @Tusk_org that work to protect wildlife and stop the illegal wildlife trade in its tracks.

At the IWT Conference they released a video of his visit, highlighting their efforts to #EndWildlifeCrime.

Dr Mordecai Ogada, director of Conservation Solutions Afrika, said the film promoted damaging messages.

In Kenya, where Ogada is based, conservation work is still dominated by foreign voices, he said.

“Conservation even now, nearly 55 years after Kenya got independence, is still the one arena where Prince William can waltz in to Kenya and tell us he wants us to do this, that or the other,” said Ogada.

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“He couldn’t do that in education, banking or other fields, but conservation still has that romantic, out of Africa feel about it.”

Videos about conservation should include indigenous black people talking about wildlife in Africa, he added. “The message that goes out now is that African wildlife is in danger, and the source of the danger is black people, and that people from the US [and elsewhere] have to come and save wildlife from these black people.”

The vilification of local people provides justification for human rights abuses, such as the indiscriminate shooting of poachers, said Ogada.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said in a statement that the video presented an outdated, “white saviour” mentality. “Non-Africans are presented in the film as the real experts on conservation, while the locals are not seen as having anything worthwhile to contribute other than their grateful thanks,” he said.

“It is the local people who understand their environment and its wildlife better than anybody else, and the conservation movement should not only listen to them, but take its lead from them.”

The trafficking of wildlife – for ivory, rhino horns, pangolins and turtles – is estimated to be worth $23bn (£17.4bn) a year, making it the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise after the trafficking of drugs, guns and people.

The Duke of Cambridge visited projects run by United for Wildlife, a campaign he leads, and by the charity Tusk Trust, of which he is a patron.

Addressing the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference, he told world leaders: “Poaching is an economic crime against ordinary people and their futures. It is heartbreaking to think that by the time my children, George, Charlotte and Louis, are in their 20s, elephants, rhinos and tigers might well be extinct in the wild.”