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Of Apes and Men: Baka and Bantu Attitudes to Wildlife and the Making of Eco-Goodies and Baddies

Axel Khler
Abstract: In this essay particular local attitudes to wildlife are compared with western representations of such engagement with the natural environment. The ethnographic focus is on Baka (Pygmies) and their Bantu-speaking neighbours living side by side in the rainforest of the north-western Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Their current attitudes to gorillas and chimpanzees, both CITES-protected species, seem to confirm western stereotypes of Pygmy huntergatherers living in tune with their environment and caring for it, and of Bantu farmers as invading the forest with little or no conservation ethic. How did these moral tales of proto-ecologists versus eco-baddies develop and what is the history of such polarising ideology? How have these ideas been appropriated and used in environmental discourse, and how do they map onto current perceptions and attitudes on the ground? Heeding these questions a specific history of representations is discussed, starting from an assumed Pygmy aboriginality and a Bantu status as late-coming forest colonisers and leading to a pervasively dichotomous view of their cultures and socio-ecological relations. A closer, anthropologically informed look at contemporary Baka and Bantu perceptions and attitudes to wildlife, however

Axel Khler, Researcher and Lecturer in Social Sciences, Centro de Estudios Superiores de Mxico y Centroamrica Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (CESMECA-UNICACH) [Centre for Mexican and Central American Studies-University of the Sciences and Arts of Chiapas], Calzada Tlaxcala # 76 (esquina con Diego Rivera), Barrio de Tlaxcala, San Cristbal de Las Casas, C.P. 29230, Chiapas, Mxico. Address for Correspondence Axel Khler, CESMECA-UNICACH, Calzada Tlaxcala # 76 (esquina con Diego Rivera), Barrio de Tlaxcala, San Cristbal de Las Casas, C.P. 29230, Chiapas, Mxico. Email:,

Conservation and Society, Pages 407435

Volume 3, No. 2, December 2005
Copyright : Axel Khler. 2005. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and distribution of the article, provided the original work is cited.

408 / Axel Khler brings home the need for historical contexts and in-depth research both into social and cultural configurations and into situated ecological and economic knowledges and practices to uncover subtle distinctions within local models and the complexities of behaviour. Keywords: Central Africa, Pygmies, rainforest farmers, environmental perception, conservation INTRODUCTION An integral part of any forest conservation scheme is understanding how city dwellers perceive the forest, its people and resources and related activities. This is just as important as evaluating the socioeconomic use of forest resources because perceptions influence use and use in turn leads to depletion. Analysis of perceptions thus constitutes a necessary step in the process of conceptualising action plans aimed at conservation. (Theodore Trefon 1994) This essay compares popular western perceptions of central African forest dwellers in relation to their natural environment and their attitudes to wildlife. I begin with a discussion of a pervasive academic portrayal of Pygmy hunter gatherers as the (ab)original central African forest people and of their nonPygmy farming neighbours as late-coming colonisers of the forest world. A corollary of these views is a popular perception of Pygmies as archetypal ecologists, of a people who are in perfect tune with their environment after millennia of co-evolutionary adaptation processes through which they have become a natural, organic part of it. Forest-dwelling farmers, on the other hand, are often depicted as relatively recent immigrants who imposed themselves both on the forest environment and its indigenous population. In metropolitan discourses on rainforest conservation and development, there has been a tendency to construct almost ideal-typical huntergatherer and farmer attitudes to nature, as if the two were in essential opposition. The hunter gatherer approach has come to be seen as a pre-modern form of sustainable engagement with nature, some aspects of which happen to be highly congruent with currently held views, though no one seriously advocates hunting and gathering as a sustainable subsistence practice.1 Forest farming practices, on the other hand, particularly slash-and-burn techniques have been cast as its antithesis, a rather precarious form of subsistence with unsustainable consequences for the environment. After an outline of the historical and ideological bases of these narratives with a particular focus on transformations in the discourse on Pygmies, I will present some ethnographic observations from the north-western part of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) (Figure 1) to find out how popular and aca-

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 409

Figure 1 Baka and Bantu areas in the Congo

demic perceptions match actual attitudes to wildlife. For this purpose I will consider the attitudes of Baka (Pygmies) and of their Bantu2 neighbours to gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. My question is thus: How well does a moral tale of Baka friends and Bantu foes of the forest environment (ecofriendly Baka vs Bantu eco-baddies) fit the situation on the ground and for what reasons? WESTERN PERCEPTIONS OF CENTRAL AFRICAN RAIN FOREST INHABITANTS Aboriginal Pygmy HunterGatherers From the moment of their appearance in metropolitan consciousness, Pygmies have been perceived and portrayed as aboriginal3 forest dwellers. The roots of this narrative lie in antiquity and in mysterious reports about an African forest people of incredibly small stature.4 These tales originated in Egypt and Greece but spread across Eurasia and persisted throughout the ages (cf. Scobie 1975; Bahuchet 1993b; Klieman 2003). Following the seventeenth century European voyages to the coasts of Africa and to islands in south-east Asia, they got a new lease of life with the discovery of the great apes, and for a

410 / Axel Khler while the mythical Pygmies were thought to be real-life simians.5 In the nineteenth century, however, they turned out to be human beingsundoubtedly among the most primitive of the speciesliving, as the myths had always indicated, in the recesses of the great central African rain forest. Fitting contemporaneous scientific interests in the biological and cultural origins of mankind, living representatives of a human form that matched the potent image of man in its evolutionary infancy had finally been found. When a group of hunting and gathering peoples of comparatively small stature were discovered in the Heart of Africa (Schweinfurth 1878), they were quickly baptised Pygmies.6 They were identified as the aboriginal inhabitants of the forest environment, and it was their unique adaptation to it that was thought to have stultified them (cf. Hiernaux 1977). Old myths thus absorbed new content. With the imperialist project of the conquest of the forest, the myth of the Pygmies acquired another layer of meaning with the notion of a vanishing people. First, there was simply the fear for an elusive subject of science, that these people were already disappearing at the moment of their discovery. But the notion of a vanishing people was also fuelled by social Darwinism and the concept of superior and inferior races locked in evolutionary struggles. From the turn of the century until the 1930s, there were speculations about the racial degeneration of Pygmies, most evident in their small stature and their ubiquitous socio-political subordination. As a result their numbers were thought to be declining naturally in favour of their taller and culturally superior neighbours. Further into the colonial regime such concepts became more refined, and Pygmies were rather seen as Pleistocene relics whose traditional lifestyle would have to give way to the thrust of modernity. Either way, they were destined to physically die out or be culturally assimilated. More recently, the notion of a vanishing people has become an integral part of a discourse on fragile and endangered ecosystems, among which tropical rain forests figure prominently (e.g., Bahuchet and De Maret 1995).7 Whatever the reasons apart from a supposedly endangered existence, it is evident both in the literature and for their neighbours on the ground, that since their invention in the nineteenth century (Bahuchet 1993b), real-life Pygmies have sparked a disproportionately strong interest among missionaries, conservationists, development and aid workers, and of course among researchers, particularly anthropologists, geneticists and ecologists. In continuity with colonial perceptions, this interest has often been acted upon with a heightened sense of a vanishing world, both in research and in applied terms. Indeed, from the moment of their appearance in metropolitan consciousness, the notion of the Pygmies as a vanishing people has been entertained with changing undertones in tune with the times. The most palpable scientific construction of Pygmies as a disappearing (ab)original forest population and as a window on the evolutionary past of our species has been by geneticists and behavioural ecologists. Here Pygmies continue to be investigated as the transmitters of human biogenetic material of the longest-standing

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 411 adaptation to forest ecology and as the vanishing repositories of forest knowledge, which they have been accumulating over millennia (see, for instance, Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1991, 1994). In spite of a considerable lack of conclusive evidence or precisely because of it, the mythologically inspired hypothesis of Pygmy forest aboriginality remains an almost axiomatic base line for investigation, and many researchers work from or around this central assumption. A corollary of this widely accepted belief in Pygmy aboriginality and their forever unchanging life waysunless disturbed from outsideis their naturalisation as an integral part of the forest ecosystem (e.g. Hecketsweiler et al. 1991; Bahuchet and De Maret 1995). The dominant view is of a people living both in social harmony with each other and in ecological harmony with their forest environment, at least as long as they have not been forced out of it. When this is the case, and some Pygmy groups do live in miserable conditions as an increasingly landless and marginalised rural proletariat in ramshackle roadside villages (see Bahuchet and Guillaume 1982; Mukito and Mbaya 1990), it is usually linked to the corrupting influences of markets, money and the modern world.8 The notion of Pygmies not only as the original but also as essential Forest People was popularised by Colin Turnbull (1962, 1965). His culture-sensitive study of the Mbuti in eastern Zaire fostered an iconic status of peaceful, environmentally tuned-in, eco-friendly primitives, particularly in a paperback edition (1962) [1993] of his ethnographic work that was destined for a wider audience. Here we find the classic anthropological account of Pygmies as semi-nomadic, egalitarian huntergatherers living in small groups in forest camps, both in social harmony with each other and in ecological tune with their forest environment. Turnbull characterised Mbuti cosmology as founded on trust in a benevolent forest, which they regarded as both mother and father to them (1965). From a Mbuti perspective the forest was thus a giving environment (Bird-David 1990), cool, shady, pleasant and the provider of all the Mbuti really needed. The villages of their Bila farming neighbours, on the other hand, were cleared of trees, exposed to the sun and hot, unpleasant and disease-ridden, but also full of attractive consumer goods. Bila cosmology was centred in fear and mistrust of the forest (Bird-David 1990), and the mirror image of their battle against the natural world around them was a permanent distrust of the Mbuti and a social life punctuated by witchcraft and sorcery accusations. Inverting earlier arguments about a hostile forest and a one-sided Pygmy dependence on village produce, which had served to explain their inferior status vis--vis farming neighbours (Schweinfurth 1878; Schmidt 1910; Schebesta 1936), Turnbull asserted, to the contrary, that it was indeed the farmers who had a distinct economic need for various forest products which they usually obtained from the Mbuti. Subsequent anthropological, historical and ecological studies suggest, however, that Turnbull probably overestimated the potential for Mbuti self-reliance and the possibility of an exclusively hunt-

412 / Axel Khler ing-and-gathering based subsistence independently and prior to the arrival of agriculture (e.g., Headland 1987; Bailey et al. 1989; Headland and Reid 1989). It has also become clear that Turnbulls notion of a basic structural opposition between forest and village, and between Mbuti and Bila, reflected a rather transient moment in colonial history. The Belgian administration had resettled the Bila by the side of the roadbuilt, of course, by their colonial subjectsand had forced them to grow cash crops. In order to have better control over them, the Bila were then forbidden to enter the forest (Kenrick 1996). Turnbulls ahistoric and romantic rendering of potential Mbuti autonomy has since given way to interactionist models of a continuous and longstanding socio-economic interdependency between Pygmy huntergatherers and forest-dwelling farmers. Despite paradigmatic shifts, however, Pygmies have remained the original forest people by virtue of their long-term adaptation to forest ecology, whether independently and prior to the arrival of others (e.g., Bahuchet et al. 1991) or in complementary association with them (e.g., Bailey et al. 1989). Only first steps in a new direction have so far been made in order to rethink Pygmy history. Roger Blench (1999), for instance, has proposed a rather extreme revisionist hypothesis. Questioning the existing scientific bases for the common view on African Pygmies as the ancient denizens of the forest zone and exposing the substantial weaknesses of supporting linguistic, genetic and archaeological evidence, he suggests that the African Pygmies may well be the genetic inheritors of a specialised hunting-andgathering caste of their Central Sudanic, Adamawa-Ubangian and Bantuspeaking neighbours. Their origins in terms of a genetic adaptation to the rainforest environment may date back only as far as 40005000 years, and their distinct ethnicity would then be the result of a relatively recent development.9 Turnbull not only made an important ideological contribution to the pervasive idea of Pygmy aboriginality and once again evoked an image of noble savages as a critique of western civilisation. His representation of Mbuti forest life also has to be credited with being at the forefront of changing western perceptions of rain forests, and his convincing rendition of the Mbuti perspective of the forest decisively countered prior western stereotypes of mythical jungles as a glaucous, impenetrable universe of ever-encroaching foliage, or simply as a green hell (see Vansina 1990:39), whose transformation into agricultural space could then only be envisaged as something positive. Turnbulls classic ethnography is the anthropological precedent to a different view of jungles and a now prevalent image of lush, evergreen rainforests, which have been reevaluated as gene pools of rich biodiversity and the green lungs of the planet. Fairhead and Leach (1995:1024, 1032) have pointed out how development discourse has forged links between environmental and social conditions, between original climax vegetation and African societies of a traditional func-

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 413 tional order that was once harmoniously integrated with natural vegetation.10 Although their argument concerns mainly deforestation and development narratives and focuses on western views of West African peasant societies, it is also applicable to the anthropology of Pygmies and their Central African farming neighbours. Concerning Pygmies and other hunter gatherer societies, cultural and behavioural ecology, in particular, have provided the theoretical foundation for the popular theme of socio-environmental integration, with optimum foraging theory as one of its hard science cornerstones. Being members of non-hierarchical, small-scale semi-nomadic societies, Pygmies maintain collective access to forest resources and share in their management and consumption. Their extensive land use practices and flexible residential patterns have been identified as characteristic of a foraging mode of production (e.g., Meillassoux 1973), a co-evolutionary adaptation to the forest environment, which has ensured both human survival and ecological sustainability. Economic anthropologists have further developed sharing concepts as local model alternatives to other economies based on commodity and gift exchanges (e.g., Mauss 1923/1924; Gregory 1982; Mauss 1990). The concept of a much wider sociality, for instance, has been condensed by Nurit Bird-David in the notion of a cosmic economy of sharing (1992), in which the relations among humans, animals and plants are perceived and experienced as on an equal footing and within an undivided cosmos. Extended beyond interpersonal exchange relationships to include more or less the whole environment, this conceptualisation of generalised and unconditional sharing strongly resonates with conservationist values of collective responsibility and caring for the environment. It also links up with current development discourse, in which local participation and sustainability have become key concepts for environmental protection in tandem with economic development. With a growing public awareness of global environmental issues, the international heritage and conservation movements have appropriated Pygmies along with other original forest dwellers as archetypal rainforest ecologists. But as already highlighted in Turnbulls work, forest tales are also moral tales. In a familiar scenario of good and evil forces, the idyllic Pygmy picture is complemented with the construction of their ethnically and phenotypically distinct farming neighbours as antagonists of forests and wildlife. Bantu Farmer-Colonisers In contrast with aboriginal Pygmies, Bantu forest dwellers are usually described as relatively recent colonisers. Their penetration of the forest started with the so-called Bantu expansion about 45000 years BP in an area northwest of the great forest, from where western Bantu-speakers gradually occupied all of central Africa (Vansina 1990; Clist 1995). Coming from the savannah they brought with them crops, livestock and a technology that were

414 / Axel Khler in many ways ill fitted to the requirements of their new environment. Their oral traditions often confirm a self-image as intruders into a foreign world. In particular, they reflect the difficulties involved in carving out and maintaining a patchwork of domesticated space within a physically and spiritually untamed forest landscape. The pervasive opposition between the forest and the village has been a central argument in Turnbulls work, where it became part of a series of other morally charged dualisms (hunting and gathering versus farming, freedom vs constraint, health vs disease, egality vs competition, spirituality vs witchcraft, etc.). However, over time the various inhabitants of the central African rain forest developed a new tradition, one that Vansina (1990) has called the equatorial tradition, merging ancestral savannah traditions with those of the fisher folk and forest dwellers they encountered, and assimilating various technological innovations and new food crops (banana, manioc). Thus emerged a single, special, and stable variant of the original heritage in the lands of the rainforests (Vansina 1990:58). Although in many areas interdependent with Pygmy groups specialising in forest products, the incoming cultivators had nonetheless become forest dwellers themselves. Present-day migrant peasant populations often leave their former homes because of landlessness, population pressure or (civil) war, and follow the inroads made by logging companies into formerly less accessible forest areas. In development discourse, they tend to be characterised as land-hungry, and are easily made scapegoats for deforestation by both logging companies and conservationists, the former claiming that it is the migrant peasants who destroy the forest, and the latter arguing that they finish off the dirty work of forest degradation with their destructive land-use practices.11 Fairhead and Leach (1995, 1996) have analysed popular western perceptions of African societies and assumptions about deforestation and linear degradation. They have indicated how these became stabilised within a development narrative that involves growing populations of immigrant and indigenous farmers who have lost traditional values and organisational forms, and who are seeking and dewooding forested land. A quick look at the colonial and post-independence history of French Equatorial Africa, and of north-western Congo in particular, shows us likewise that a vision of original forest people and subsequent forest invaders is rather the result of colonial and post-colonial politics than a reflection of a clash of essential life ways, that is, of traditional and thus almost by definition sustainable hunting and gathering ways versus modern destructive agricultural practices and market-driven wildlife depletion. At the eve of the colonial conquest, the north-western forest zones of Equatorial Africa were in a state of social unrest that was triggered not least by a gradual involvement of the whole region in the Atlantic Trade. Largescale migrations during most of the nineteenth century followed a kind of domino pattern. Groups either closer to the coast or with better access to European firearms displaced their neighbours. The Baka Pygmies, for example, most likely migrated in the late eighteenth century from an area east of

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 415 likely migrated in the late eighteenth century from an area east of Bangui, the present capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), in order to escape the turmoil created there by slave-raiders coming up the Ubangi River (Bahuchet 1993a). Early colonial concessionary rule saw the imposition of a pillage economy with virtually no constructive investment either from the state or private sources (Coquery-Vidrovitch 1971). It thus only heightened already existing ethnic and social tensions. When the French state finally assumed greater colonial responsibility in the 1930s, existing ethnically specific social and political organisations and the different roles played by indigenous groups in emerging markets did strongly influence the perception, interaction and policies of the colonial administration vis--vis the local population. This led to different colonisation processes and distinct colonial histories. In general and notwithstanding their strong resistance to colonial forces, the Bantu population in French Equatorial Africa was more directly and more thoroughly colonised than their Pygmy neighbours. Building on the perceived subordination of the rather inaccessible and demographically less important Pygmy population12 by the Bantu, colonial policies focused on the latter to enforce resettlement, military and labour recruitment, and taxation. From its inception the colonial taming policy of the Pygmies was intended as a watered-down version of the transformations enforced upon the Bantu. It did not have any direct influence on the targeted population, partly because the administrators quickly realised the futility of their instructions (Delobeau 1984). It was up to the Bantu to mediate the colonial impact, and for a long time, the Baka, like other Pygmy groups, remained marginal to administrative control, corve labour and resettlement schemes, and their integration into the colonial economy lagged behind. Colonial pressure influenced, however, the ethnic division of labour, which had formerly been based on an interdependent forest economy. Under pressure to produce for the colonial economy, the Bantu began to rely more heavily on their Pygmy neighbours and sought to exercise more economic and political control over them. The present marginalisation of Pygmies by more powerful farming neighbours most likely developed during the times of the Atlantic Trade and was consolidated during colonisation. In pre-colonial times, the Bantu themselves lived in impermanent settlements that were spread out in the forest where they practised a subsistence economy of shifting cultivation mixed with hunting and gathering. In the 1960s, after more than half a century of colonial rule and the imposition of severe transformations of their traditional life ways, Bakwele and Njem, for instance, still made use of fifty non-domesticated forest plant species for nutritional, medical, hunting or building purposes (Robineau 1966). Once civilising mission, Christianity, money and new markets had made enough inroads into Bantu practices and consciousness, new ideas of being evolved and civilised took root on top of older cultural distinctions and markers of ethnicity. As a result, many Bantu began to model their Pygmy

416 / Axel Khler neighbours in the European image of the real primitive. Thus an existing ideological gap between them widened, while their socio-economic interaction became more intense. For the Baka, this dynamic became particularly acute from the mid-1960s onwards, when they began to sedentarise and to catch up with a tentative integration into the cash economy through both dependent and independent cocoa cash cropping. Since the 1980s, and with a total breakdown of the cocoa market, the Souank area has, however, experienced a growing enclavation. A current Bantu development fantasy involves a second colonisation with the arrival of European entrepreneurs who provide work to locals, cutting down the forest, ploughing the earth for mineral riches, building roads and setting up factories and towns. In other words, Bantu expectations revolve around a fully commoditised modern world of high-level production and consumption, very much in line with earlier colonial and post-colonial development schemes. In the early 1990s, part of the area was earmarked for future reserve status. This is largely unknown to the local population, but it would horrify most Bantu and could only be made appealing to them, if it offered employment, modern infrastructure and opportunities to make money and to partake in the civilised world. The Baka, however, could easily be integrated into conservationrelated research as knowledgeable trackers and guides to forest fauna and flora, as have Pygmies in other national parks. They would likewise fit well into low-level (eco)tourist projects of safari hunting, photo-safaris, and other forms of guided tours. BAKA AND BANTU ATTITUDES TO WILDLIFE I will now turn to local attitudes to wildlife. How far do stereotypical and moralistic images of authentic Pygmy ecologists and of forest and wildlifedestroying slash-and-burn farmers correspond to current environmental attitudes, subsistence practices and market production? I have chosen the example of gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants to illustrate the differences in local attitudes and the way these are linked to ethnicity, interdependency and market involvement.13 Bantu think of Baka as meat-eaters par excellence, because it fits their ideology of gluttonous forest dwellers, and because Baka produce most of the available bush-meat. Exaggerating their demands on Baka exchange partners, Bantu tend to display, however, a much stronger craving for meat and are also less particular in their choice of meat. Cases in point are the great apes. Most Baka neither eat gorilla nor chimpanzee meat, nor do they hunt these animals of their own accord. A Baka hunter will only kill a great ape in defence or hunt it in the service of a Bantu patron. Among Bantu, it is up to individual tastes and morals, but some are indeed very fond of gorilla meat, and in Bantu villages it is very common to see gorilla skulls attached to the central post of the mens meeting place as a sign of the prowess of resident hunters. Both

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 417 Baka and Bantu are very aware of these animals propinquity to human beings, as we shall see below. The idea of eating a close relative of their own species does, however, not seem to bother many Bantu. Some even refer with eerie pride to the period of the great war in the nineteenth century, in which cannibalism occurred as part of the raiding practices against neighbouring groups. Nowadays the successful confrontation and killing of a great ape furnishes Bantu hunters with a reputation of bravery that was formerly associated not only with hunter but also with warrior status. Baka on the other hand, deem the great apes to be too person-like, too close to human beings both in shape and in behaviour. To be on the safe side, one better leaves them alone. And besides, great hunter status is firmly associated with the killing of elephants and, to a minor degree, of wild boar. Bantu agree, however, largely with a Baka understanding of the great apes as sharing almost person-like qualities with human beings. A Baka hunter would say: Just look at the way gorillas and chimpanzees stand upright and move about, and the way they eat. That is the way of a person! Or: Look at their body, their face and their hands; they bear the features of a person! And when showing me the leafy beds of gorillas, Baka acquaintances commented, only a person makes a bed like that to sleep in. Of Apes and Men Bantu men are occasionally said to reappear in the shape of a gorilla after their death, either for no other particular reason than for wanting to be around a little longer, because they died in the middle of a rather good harvest and want to enjoy some more of the fruits of their labour, or because they are dissatisfied with the way their funeral and departure into the netherworld has been arranged by their family. It is the coincidence of the recent death of a person and the unusual behaviour of a particular animal that leads people to relate the two events and to conclude that the spirit of a deceased has reappeared in the shape of a gorilla. When a gorilla thus turns up in the vicinity of a village soon after the death of an old man and starts to hang out behind the house of the deceased or in his fields, the animal is left alone, because people think of it as a gorilla-revenant. In one case, such a rogue animal had been observed staying in a banana plantation a few miles out of the village eating the fruit on the dead mans field and sleeping in his hut on the plantation. An animal identified as a gorilla-revenant is usually a silverback, an old male with grey fur on its back that has been chased from his group by a younger rival and now lives on its own. It is thus not only the gorillas behaviour, but also its age and social history that bear a certain analogy to the deceased. In general, it is rather rare for a gorilla to venture into the close proximity of villages and to raid fields without concern for the presence of human beings nearby. Fearlessness of human beings is therefore an indicator that such an animal may embody a human spirit. Gorilla-revenants are not shot, and vil-

418 / Axel Khler lagers simply try to chase them away or wait until they leave on their own accord. An aggressive animal that attacks people and does not distinguish between the fields it raids is, however, likely to be identified as a rogue animal and to be shot by a courageous villager. The post-mortem transformation of a deceased person into a gorilla is interpreted as the manifestation of the dissatisfied spirit of a dead person or a trick played by the spirit to make his discontentment known to the family by haunting his former possessions. This kind of metamorphosis is different from shape-shifting, which is a technique that witches are said to use for attacking an adversary or for damaging his crops. Hunters in the possession of secret forest knowledge and mystic powers will also shape-shift into certain animals while out in the forest either in order to escape situations of imminent danger or to kill game. It is, of course, not good to kill a gorilla embodying a dead mans spirit. The spirit will take revenge and cause unforeseeable damage. But it is equally dangerous to try and kill a witch in animal shape, as the following story reveals: A Bantu man was out in the forest hunting, when he encountered a female gorilla. Happy at the prospect of bringing home a good supply of meat he shot the gorilla once but didnt succeed in killing her. Unwisely he pursued her into a cave-like hideout, where she attacked and badly injured him. She repeatedly bit him, tore a sizeable chunk of flesh out of his buttocks and left him with broken arms and hands. Shortly after, an elderly woman confessed on her deathbed that she had changed into a gorilla as part of a village conspiracy against the hunter, who was the most successful cultivator of plantains in the village. This story is as much a reminder of the dangers involved in hunting gorillas, as it is part of a local discourse on witchcraft. Killing a gorilla is always dangerous and the successful hunter has to protect himself and his family through medicine from the revenge of the deceased animals spirit. Killing a human shape-shifter in the guise of a gorilla is, after all, an involuntary homicide and may have even more unpredictable results. When asking whether Baka men also reappeared as animals after their death, the immediate answer was: Yes, some do as chimpanzees! This belief in the post-mortem reappearance of Bantu and Baka men in the shape of gorillas or chimpanzees respectively, corresponds to a pervasively used imagery, which highlights analogies and links between the great apes and men. Bantu draw on the image of the fierce and powerful gorilla in a variety of ways. They did so particularly in pre-colonial ritual societies associated with leadership in politics, trade and warfare, for instance, in the so-called Gorilla Dance Society (Siroto 1969). The circumciser and instructor in a ritual for the initiation of young men into adulthood is significantly named after the male gorilla in both Bekwil, the Bakwele language and in Li-Baka.

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 419 Among themselves, Baka usually refer to their Bantu neighbours as ebobo, gorillas, and underlying this metaphorical association is a Baka perception of the Bantu as being boisterous, aggressive, loud and assertive. For Baka, both Bantu and gorillas display a strong sense of territoriality and hierarchy, their tempers flare up easily, they tend to be rough and bad mannered, and are prone to use brutal force rather than a subtle touch. Bantu oral traditions, on the other hand, liken Pygmies to chimpanzees. These myths illustrate the Bantu perception of the closeness of the Pygmies to the forest world and their near-animal status. They relate that two brothers, the Pygmy and the chimp, split company after they had been forced out of their village and had to retreat into the forest. The Pygmy maintained contact with the villagers who had expelled him, whereas the chimp refused all human relations, lost fire and culture and turned into a savage beast. When they meet in the forest, the chimp is known to get very cross and aggressive with his brother who, although treated badly by the villagers, refuses to join him and prefers to return periodically to the village (Bahuchet 1993a:33). A Baka story relates the original transformation of a Baka man into the chimpanzee. This man was savage, crazy, destructive and unpredictable, jumping around in trees, shouting and annoying everyone else. One day he stole the child of a Baka woman and took it up into a tree. When Komba, the Creator-God, passed by and heard the women crying and begging for the man to return her child, he told him to come down and subsequently transformed him into the chimpanzee (Brisson 1995). Baka and Bantu are aware that they mutually project these images of great apes upon each other. Although this form of representation tends to have strong aspects of caricature, it is accepted on both sides and, in some ways, it is even seen as a fair representation of their respective status within the animal world. There are a number of phenotypical and behavioural differences between gorillas and chimpanzees, which make the great ape metaphors a useful tool to express ethnic difference. Gorillas are taller and of darker complexion than chimpanzees, and the same phenotypical distinctions are perceived to characterise Bantu and Baka. The analogy also holds in some behavioural aspects. Hunting pressure affects both primate species, which have subsequently left areas of extensive human activity. Still, gorillas seem to be more at ease with human co-presence. They are bolder and rather curious about humans, but also more likely to challenge them in their territory. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, are a rare sight and tend to keep out of human territory. This compares with the unobtrusiveness and shyness of Baka and the rather low profile they maintain both in the forest and in villages. Chimpanzees also display musical skills in the drumming of their chests or of tree trunks, a musical ability that Baka and other Pygmy groups are famous for. Like the Baka, chimps also have a welldeveloped taste for honey and are very proficient at opening beehives. Another uncanny affinity for the elephant-hunting Baka is that chimpanzees have been observed taking the tusks out of elephant skeletons and to scatter them around.

420 / Axel Khler A modern metaphor, this time going the other way, is the Baka comparison between gorillas and soldiers, which says as much about the (Bantu) soldiers as it does about gorillas. Examining the footprints of a gorilla, a Baka companion told me that we had now entered gorilla territory: The gorilla is a soldier, man! When you enter his area and meet him, he is going to ask you for your passport. And you better have your papers in order, because he doesnt like to fool around. If you havent got a laissez-passer, he will go after you, slap you in the face and kick you out of his territory. The image used here is one of a policemen or border patrol, administrative staff who are all non-local Bantu and professional soldiers. They use their power to control the movement of people and goods across the CongoCameroon border in a rather autocratic fashion. Not uncommonly, they extort money and services, lock people up overnight in a prison cell in town and are known for beating them up. For their part, gorillas are competitors for wild forest fruit, and occasionally raid fields and feed on agricultural produce. They thus tax human efforts in a different way than do policemen, but in a fashion that Baka experience as similarly unsubtle and arbitrary.14 Although the great ape metaphors of Bantu and Baka seem to be alike, they are so only on the surface. The Bantu use of the chimp metaphor for Baka posits a similarity in terms of phenotype, behaviour and habitat which links two beings that are essentially distinct. Although Baka are clearly human, they are perceived to be wild, gluttonous, smelly, unpredictable, uncivilised and at home in the forest rather than in the village. The chimp metaphor draws attention to these similarities and thus implicitly questions the essential humanity of Baka. It is used as a symbolic device to denigrate them and to justify the deprivation of basic human rights. When Baka talk metaphorically about humans and animals, in this case Bantu and gorillas, their use of metaphor is ambivalent and, in a sense, dialectical. It indicates as much the gorillaness of Bantu as the Bantu-ness of gorillas. The change of the polarity concerning source domain and topic domain (Bird-David 1993:112, fn. 1) points to an important difference in Baka perception concerning distinct species and their interrelations. There is an underlying essential continuity, a vital energy or life force which unites all living beings, and against which their particular phenotype and context-specific behaviour stands out as figure to ground. Non-human primates not only share the forest world and a generalisable life essence with human primates, but also striking similarities in phenotype. Moreover, both Bantu and gorillas display behavioural commonalities that elicit metaphorical association: they make territorial claims and attempt to control others, which basically violates the sharing ethic of the forest world, and they tend to be loud and aggressive, etc. Any kind of metaphorical construction involves the combination of similarity and difference, or of continuity and separation. There is, however, an important distinction between Baka and Bantu metaphoric perception of the world and of each other. The former focuses on context-specific affordances which

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 421 agents share beyond a generalisable essence of life. The latter essentially discriminates, for instance between species and between social agents, and it juxtaposes them in dialectical opposition. There are animals and there are humans, Pygmies and Bantu, chimps and gorillas, parents and children, etc. Baka Hunting Elephants Gorillas and chimpanzees are two of the wildlife species currently classified as endangered and on the list for the CITES (Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species) ban on international trade in wildlife products. While Baka and Bantu attitudes to these primates seem, on the surface, to confirm a currently popular image of eco-friendly Pygmies versus Bantu ecobruisers, we need only look at their attitudes to other animal species, in particular to elephantsanother highly debated species on the Appendix I listing of the CITES banand the picture is further qualified. Baka have, for instance, no qualms about knocking down big forest trees in order to get to beehives too high up for them to climb, and they have made themselves a great name as elephant hunters, who managed to bring elephants to the brink of extinction in some parts of the forest during the early days of this century. Elephant meat is culturally highly valued food, both among the Baka and the Bantu. It preserves well, and since the devaluation of the Franc CFA in 1994, it also enjoys a rising popularity in urban communities where it can occasionally be found on the black market.15 Despite their sedentarisation and an increasing participation in roadside agriculture, Baka hunters are still famous for their skills in tracking elephants, and these giant lords of the forest have remained both a culturally and an economically valuable resource providing food, ivory and prestige. Elephant meat and fat are highly appreciated as a welcome change from a more regular diet of small and medium-sized game and constitute prestige food items. Elephant tusks were formerly used as tools, and are nowadays mainly gifted and exchanged in Baka bridewealth transactions. Ivory, and to some extent elephant meat, have also remained central for exchange relationships with the Bantu, through which many Baka obtain cash money and imported consumer goods. Ivory tusks are thus items which combine the values of conceptually distinct economic modes depending on the situation and the exchange partner. They are shared and given among Baka themselves, gifted and exchanged among Baka and with Bantu patrons, and traded and sold to immigrant Muslim merchants. The status of a great hunter, tuma, is likened by Bantu to that of a chief, and although it carries no formal political power, it conveys prestige and authority among Baka. There is, for instance, a correlation of polygamy and wa.tuma status that is linked to the salient position of great hunters in the local economy and in inter- and intra-ethnic exchange relationships. Elephants are mainly hunted, however, in the service of local Bantu patrons or immigrant Muslim merchants, who provide a commissioned Baka hunter

422 / Axel Khler with a shotgun and the necessary ammunition, as well as with food and tobacco. An elephant hunt can take up to a few weeks at a time, and relatively few Baka hunters own a gun and/or are capable of saving up for the initial investment to embark independently on such an enterprise. This is partly due to an egalitarian social organisation and demand-sharing among Baka, but also to a Bantu control of the means of production and an endeavour to keep Baka in dependent relations. Baka men have probably hunted elephants for centuries, formerly with spears, and they have long been producers of ivory for exchange networks connecting intra-continental trading spheres. They certainly produced ivory for the Atlantic trade, that is, from the early sixteenth centuries onwards. Here, ivory made its way from the interior to the coast through a number of African middlemen to be exchanged for European imports, predominantly guns and powder. By the second half of the nineteenth century, when European demand for ivory reached its peak, Baka had become highly specialised elephant hunters, and they have continued in this profession until today. The whole of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique quatoriale Franaise, AEF) exported, for instance, more than 100 tons of ivory per year in the period from 1899 to 1910 (Bruel 1918, cited in Bahuchet and Guillaume 1982), which was the equivalent of about a third of its export value (Austen and Headrick 1983). During 1896 and 1905, Kamerun (Cameroon) ranked first among the German colonies in terms of its exports: rubber, palm produce, cocoa and ivory. The European demand for ivory was notorious: The amount of ivory shipped abroad increased rapidly up to 1905 but then declined abruptly because elephants had been hunted to extinction in large parts of the country (Stoecker 1986:72). The German administration of the Ngoko area directly north of Souank reported in 1905 that the second most important export item of this region after rubber was ivory. Ivory production, however, was in serious decline due to the mass murder of elephants committed by the Pygmy populations, i.e. the Baka, who were said to kill the animals as much for their meat as for their tusks. The report concluded that there were still large quantities of old ivory that could be exported from the area. The local population had apparently amassed great amounts of ivory over time, which they were using as money (Archives Nationales de Yaound, FA 1/65: 214). Ivory exports from AEF dropped from 29% of total export value in 1905 to 6% in 1927 and do not figure any more in Austen and Headricks (1983) trade statistics from 1937. World demand and supply of African ivory apparently increased again dramatically during the 1980s, and a western-run campaign pressuring for the conservation of the African elephant quickly led to the implementation of the 1989 CITES ban on trade in elephant products.16 There were, however, still an estimated number of 25,000 elephants in the Congo (Brazzaville) in 1989 (Cumming 1989, cited in Kreuter and Simmons 1994)17 and there has been a limited but steady flow of Congolese ivory to black market centres in

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 423 neighbouring Cameroon and Gabon. Most ivory is now traded on the black market, and although prices have dropped with the CITES ban, this drop has enabled new, or previously excluded consumersfor instance traditional African chiefs and bureaucratsto buy ivory (Barbier et al. 1990). Baka involvement in ivory trading as producers of this valuable commodity thus presents a different side of their engagement with the forest environment. Elephants represent ancestral figures of the forest and are salient in Baka ritual and eco-cosmology. Despite their ancestral status, the positive effects of their ecological agency, and the links between humans and elephants in mythical, spiritual and cosmological relations, Baka nevertheless got involved in a murderous trade of elephant products. The dilemmas of this trade and the perceived Baka exploitation of elephants have, however, entered into current versions of stories about hybrid elephant-men, so-called mokila, who are thought to engage in organised insurgency against Baka communities. Taking revenge for murders committed amongst their own kind by the Baka, they are said to kill Baka hunters and to kidnap their women and children in the forest in order to replenish their own communities. DISCUSSION To conclude: how do western perceptions map onto local attitudes to wildlife and how do we interpret apparent congruencies? Bantu have a comparatively greater and longer-standing involvement in the market, a more direct experience of the modern state and its agents, and, in pronounced distinction to Baka, they have a history of actively participating in its institutions. It is thus not surprising that Bantu environmental attitudes appear to be more akin to ours in their dualisms of bush vs farm, forest vs village, wild vs cultivated, and savage vs civilised. In a sense they reveal themselves as much closer to ours, especially in comparison to those of the Baka who are relative newcomers to the world of settlement and formal education, Christianity and capitalism. After colonial transformations had successfully taken place, most Bantu were finally embracing market-oriented practices of resource exploitation in a way that used to be an unquestioned dogma in the West until two or three decades ago. At present, however, their distinctly modern attitudes to cash cropping and the commoditisation of wild forest resources make them look like the bad guys. My contention is that Bantu forest farmers have become the embodiment of our bad conscience within a currently fashionable discourse of conservation and sustainable development. Conversely, Pygmies are seen as the aboriginal population of an environment that is now deemed highly worthy of conservation or preservation.18 Due to their unique co-evolutionary adaptation to it, including sharing and extensive land-use practices by characteristically small numbers of people, they have refrained throughout time from the often destructive transformation of the land that has been attributed to their farming neighbours. Pygmies thus find themselves at the other pole of our at-

424 / Axel Khler tention and consciousness, especially with increasingly politicised international debates on marginalisation and indigenous rights. Conservation efforts now extend not only to the biodiversity of forest environments, but also to the vestiges of a human culture that supposedly originated in it. This is not to belittle real problems with Pygmy marginalisation and pressure on forest environments in areas with a steady influx of immigrant farmers from savannah or forest-fringe zones. But living museum approaches to the conservation of ancient human cultures consolidate existing politics of exclusion rather than counter them.19 Furthermore, concerning the soundness of their ecological attitudes, it is not that Baka are closer to nature than others. It is rather the nature of their engagement with the environment that makes them more likely stewards of it. The Baka cosmic economy of sharing and their continuing emphasis on an egalitarian social organisation make it more difficult to embrace the principles of a profit-motivated economy that tends to be individualising and alienating. At least for the time being Baka are more involved, both in cosmological and practical terms, with a forest environment. The forest directly provides a greater part of Baka subsistence than it does for most Bantu. It forms a more important part of their life-world and, in marked contrast to their Bantu neighbours of today, Baka experience it as a home. The forest is shared with other agents, fellow humans, animals, plants, and spirits, all of which engage in specific forms of subsistence, but by relating to each other. Although the forest holds dangers, it is the source and sustenance of life that unfolds in the ongoing exchanges between these agents. Humans are but a part of the forest and, most importantly, they are not its owners, nor can they make legitimate claims to its ownership. Baka are thus less likely to go for the kind of alienated resource exploitation, which Bantu so happily seem to envisage and which treats the world as human property. One of the paradoxes of conservation is the claim to a world shared by all organisms, in which the decisions about a hierarchy of values and forms of resource exploitation are, however, made by humans and ultimately in human interest. Moreover, conservation in its current form is based on metropolitan science, be it biology or economics, and dominated by western interests. This was particularly evident in the controversy over the conservation of the African elephant (see Freeman and Kreuter 1994). The decisive campaigns to implement a world-wide ban on ivory were all run outside the African continent, mainly by western conservation agencies in the US and the UK (Bonner 1994), and sound conservation efforts by some African countries have been played down with reference to global interests. The situation only changed in 1997, although many restrictions and tight control prevail.20 As Shiva (1993:152) points out, however, [t]he erosion of biodiversity is another area in which control has been shifted from the South to the North through its identification as a global problem. ... But biodiversity is a resource over which local

Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 425 communities and nations have sovereign rights. Globalization becomes a political means to erode these sovereign rights and a means to shift control and access to biological resources from the gene-rich South to the gene-poor North ... [and] to enforce a worldwide sharing of the environmental costs it has generated. Local actors whose subsistence strategies do not fit current western paradigms are easily put down with a Kantian appeal to the universal values of conservation. This is evident in the demonisation, particularly of immigrant farmers in African forests. Such views are beginning to change due partly to the insights of new ecology into nonlinear dynamics and the variable temporal and spatial scales in environmental transformations. This kind of research is slowly dismantling the idea of a unilinear and all encompassing problem of environmental degradation. Other valuable contributions to the challenge of western paradigms and the political and ideological context out of which they emerge do come, of course, from anthropology.21 CONCLUSION So what can we take home from this discussion of an apparent congruence of western perceptions and local attitudes to some wildlife species and not to others? We know that stereotypic dichotomies are too crude. There is a need for a historical contextparticularly of the colonial timesand for in-depth anthropological research both into social and cultural configurations and into situated ecological and economic knowledges and practices. The irony may be that on the surface such research confirms preconceived stereotypes, but chances are that it will reveal in some depth why. At least anthropological analysis will give us a finer cut and help us to uncover subtle distinctions within local models, thus bringing out the complexities and underlying reasons for particular behaviour. Acknowledgements Research for this article was carried out from September 1992 through to September 1994 in the Souank and Semb Districts of the Republic of Congo. It was supported by a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD). I am particularly thankful to two Baka companions, Yeyou Albert and Gbdo Maurice, and my then supervisor and mentor at the University of Manchester, Tim Ingold. Notes 1. See, however, Bailey et al. (1992:202, 208) who explicitly make the point that the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous peoples is more com-

426 / Axel Khler patible with sustainable exploitation of the forest than are sedentarizing programmes. ... The value of a nomadic lifestyle should be recognised as an effective strategy for exploiting the tropical rainforest in a sustainable way and as vital to the economic, social, and psychological well-being of forest peoples. For the purpose of this chapter, the term Bantu is used as a shorthand reference to the Bantu-speaking neighbours of the Baka living in the Souank District of the Congo. Li-Baka, the Baka language, has been classified as a Ubangian, that is, a non-Bantu language from the Sere/Ngbaka/Mba group in the Adamawa-Ubangi branch of the Niger-Congo language family (Equipe National du Congo 1987; Boyd 1989), whereas the Bakwele, Njem and Fang speak languages which by current linguistic classification, following Guthrie (1953, 1971), belong to the A 80 or Makaa-Njem language group and A 70 or Bulu-Beti language group, respectively. Bakwele, Njem and Fang are linguistically and ethnically distinct peoples and the use of a generic term such as Bantu to distinguish them as a group from the Baka does not imply a link between Bantu languages, cultures and phenotypical traits, particularly since there are both Bantu-speaking Pygmy groups and non-Pygmy, Bantu-speaking huntergatherers. The Oxford English Dictionary defines aboriginal as first or earliest as far as history or science gives record and aborigines as the original inhabitants of a land and their descendants who are usually distinguished from subsequent colonists. In the political rhetoric of African statesmen, Pygmies have often been appropriated as the living proof of the antiquity and longevity of African traditions. To give but one example, in the 1970s the then president of Za re, Sese Seko Mobutu, launched a socalled authenticity campaign, also known as la Za rianization, that was inspired by both the eighteenth-century French and the twentieth-century Chinese Cultural Revolution. He declared the Pygmies to be the aboriginal population of the country and the original citizens (primaires citoyens) of the republic. The term Pygmy has its origin in the Greek word pugme ( ), a measure of length from the elbow to the knuckles (Waehle 1989:4; Bahuchet 1993b:153). Eighteenth-century naturalists and philosophers were puzzled by questions concerning the essence of humanity and the continuities and contrasts existing between humans and other animals. In his Systema Naturae from 1735, the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus brought people down from the angels to join the apes (Tobias 1994:33) by classifying man as a part of the animal kingdom. The Scottish judge James Burnet, also known as Lord Monboddo, tackled the question from another angle and became indeed firmly convinced that the anthropoid apes, then generally referred to as orang-outanman of the woods in Malay





Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 427 belonged to our species and were human beings that had not yet reached the stage of being human (Ingold 1994:20). They are exactly of the human form ... they use sticks for weapons; they live in society; they make huts of branches of trees ... it appears certain, that they are of our species, and though they have made some progress in the arts of life, they have not come the length of language (Burnet 1773:174175, cited in Ingold 1994:20). After dissecting the first cadaver of a chimpanzee that had been brought to England, Edward Tyson in his Orang-Outang, sive Homo sylvestris: or the Anatomy of a Pygmie from 1699 declared that the Pygmies of the ancients were apes and not humans (Tobias 1994:34). In 1760, Linnaeus disciple C. E. Hoppius classified the orang-outan as Simia pygmaeus, and at present the scientific name of this particular species is still Pongo pygmaeus (Bahuchet 1993b:161). As Tobias informs us, [i]t is interesting, too, that the zoological name given to the chimpanzee by Oken in 1816 was Pan [now Pan troglodytes]for Pan was the theriomorphic Grecian deity, part human, part animal (1994:34). Georg Schweinfurth actually proposed to use the name Pygmy for this people of immortal myth (1878, Vol. II:66-67). His conjecture was that these people, like the Bushmen of South Africa, may be considered as the scattered remains of an aboriginal population now becoming extinct; and their isolated and sporadic existence bears out the hypothesis (Schweinfurth 1878:78). This 1995 report to the European Community edited by Serge Bahuchet and Pierre De Maret is particularly committed to the notion that all present-day tropical forests are the direct result of thousands of years of human history and that there is no such thing as virgin forest (Bahuchet and De Maret 1995:11). Various of the contributing authors to the report elaborate on how egalitarian forest societies have adapted and thus belong to the forest ecosystem that they have contributed to shape (Bahuchet and De Maret 1995:54). Their livelihood (even their essence) is threatened by the possible disappearance of the rainforest ecosystem (Bahuchet and De Maret 1995:11). Notably, these authors do not make a categorical distinction between traditional swidden cultivators and nomad hunter-gatherers, but group them together as indigenous peoples in contradistinction to surrounding non-native populations whose high fertility rates and lack of adaptation to the forest environment make their intrusion potentially very harmful (Bahuchet and De Maret 1995:54; see also Bailey et al. 1992:207). Commonly this influence is described in terms of an acculturation process, which proceeds through successive stages of transformation (Bahuchet and De Maret 1995:18) and has significant socio-economic and cultural ramifications. Blench (1999) uses, in particular, the absence of conclusive data for matching ancient hunter-gatherer sites with human phenotypes, and thus





428 / Axel Khler for identifying these sites as those of the ancestors of present-day Pygmy groups. He also reviews the ambiguities concerning the genetic trees that have been established so far, and points out a complete lack of singularity in contemporary Pygmy hunting technology and practices which all have their parallels outside the forest zone. Last, but not least, there is no proof of a significant linguistic substrate in contemporary Pygmy languages that could not be more efficiently explained by intergroup contact. Within the wider discipline of ecology, climax vegetation refers to a climatic climax, i.e. the maximum vegetation which a regions climate could support, and the equilibrium to which vegetation would return through succession following disturbance (Clements 1916, in Fairhead and Leach 1998:165). Terms such as primary, pristine or virgin forest (fort vierge in French literature) refer to the climax vegetation of forests. They are based on the fundamental notion of a balance in nature, which is established and re-established following disturbance through successional stages of growth. Being thought of as an integral part of the natural ecosystem, the culture and social organisation of forest peoples are thus likewise easily seen to be striving for equilibrium, or social and ecological harmony. Unless disturbed, both their evolution and their history are then naturally limited by the parameters of such equilibrium. Cf. the view expressed by the International Workgroup for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA): As logging companies, plantations (coffee, cocoa, oilpalm, rubber) and mining companies moved in and constructed roads and railways, the forest was opened up to colonization ... by land-hungry peasants from the savannahs in the north. Without the infrastructure and services provided by the companies undertaking the industrial exploitation, such a large scale colonization could not have taken place (Waehle 1991:205). For similar views on high population pressure in surrounding non-native populations as a precondition to their intruding on the territory of indigenous populations and thus of poor migrants pouring in en masse, see Bahuchet and De Maret (1995:33-34), and also Peterson (1989). The total population of the Central African forest block is currently around 12 million people, of which an estimated 60, 000 to 150, 000 (Bahuchet and de Maret 1995:18) or even 200, 000 (Waehle 1991:206) are Pygmies. Joiris (1997) discusses the distinct views on nature held by local forest dwellers and western conservationists, and the consequences of their divergence for protected area management in central Africa. Grouping together, on the one hand, traditional swidden cultivators and Pygmy hunter-gatherers from a variety of ethnic groups and, on the other, European and African park personnel qualified by locals as Whites, she summarises the following prevalent distinctions in faunal categories. In local taxonomy, there are animals that are good to eat, animals that are





Baka and Bantu attitudes to wildlife / 429 not to be consumed, and animals that are good to think with. The latter have symbolic value and often carry food taboos, but are not necessarily deemed improper for consumption. People working in protected area management, on the other hand, tend to share a different view of wildlife, distinguishing principally between protected species, non-protected species and pests (Joiris 1997:99). Since actors from the two parties do share neither the same interests nor the same reality, conservation projects are largely irreconcilable with local aspirations, unless they are based on compromises, local participation and a more profound western attempt at understanding local reality (Joiris 1997:95, 103). 14. In response to one of the anonymous readers queries, I should add that there is other great ape behaviour that supports the analogy and maps nicely onto local (self-)perceptions. As the reader rightly points out gorillas are herbivores, whereas chimps are also known to be skilful hunters adding meat to their plant and fruit diet. Furthermore, gorillas prepare themselves beds made of leaves, while chimps tend to look for natural shelter. This compares to a Bantu preference for a more permanent domestic architecture in roadside villages versus a Baka dwelling perspective (cf. Ingold 1995) that makes them feel and be at home in the forest (see Khler 1999). 15. Concerning urban perceptions and consumption patterns of all types of bush meat in large central African cities, see Trefon (1994). 16. The Ivory Trade Review Group (ITRG), an organisation funded by Wildlife Conservation International (WCI) and the World Wide Fund For Nature, formerly World Wildlife Fund (WWF), released a preliminary and probably exaggerated report stating that the number of African elephants had decreased from 1,343,340 in 1979 to 631,930 in 1989 (ITRG 1989, cited in Kreuter and Simmons 1994:43). The massive decline of the elephant population during the 1980s has been directly correlated with the growth in ivory exports from Africa (Barbier et al. 1990). These exports were thought to have exceeded 1.000 tons per annum at their peak (Bonner 1993, cited in Kreuter and Simmons 1994:43). The figures concerning the dramatic decline in elephant populations point to a problem with widely used authoritative forest resource statistics. Fairhead and Leach (1998:114) have shown in detail that these statistics are often inaccurate and contain significant interpretive margins depending on the methods of assessment and the kinds of definitions used. Derived mainly from contemporary observation, they tend to make little or questionable use of historical sources and to work on unsubstantiated assumptions about floral and faunal pasts. Once published, however, the data issued by prestigious international organisations are recycled by other globally important organisations and institutions, and enter, for instance, into model building to predict future environmental degradation. Model-dependent extrapolation then becomes in turn the basis for national and international devel-

430 / Axel Khler opment and conservation policies and the funding of projects. 17. It is worth noting that this figure, like the others given for 1979 (10,800), 1984 (59,900) and 1987 (61,000) did not derive from a census, but from other methods of assessment that produced such highly divergent elephant population numbers. The same is true concerning neighbouring countries to the Congo. Either no census or a single one were the basis for the extrapolation of figures showing a 594.0% increase of elephants in Gabon and of 60.5% in Cameroon over the same period, from 1979 1989. In the same decade, elephant numbers in Za re and the CAR supposedly decreased by 72.6% and 60.6% (Cumming 1989, cited in Kreuter and Simmons 1994:58). 18. The two notions imply distinct views on resources. As Sugg and Kreuter (1994:27) point out, conservationism allows both consumptive and non-consumptive use of resources ... the ethical issue is whether the resource can sustain usage over time. ... Preservationists, by contrast, are generally opposed to consumptive use of natural resources, and thus to the very concept of resources. ... Preservationism can thus be regarded as the antithesis of conservationism. For a discussion of the implications of intrinsic value versus instrumental value in environmental ethics, see Cheney (1992); Hardgrove (1992); Norton (1992); Jacorzynski (1998). 19. The freezing of an historically obsolete lifestyle is particularly obvious in the zoning of national parks which allow, for instance, local Pygmies to hunt with traditional technology, i.e. not with guns, in a clearly demarcated area of the park, not the core, but either in the buffer or the transition zone. 20. Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwes proposal to downlist the elephant to Appendix 2 in their countries was overwhelmingly accepted at the 10th CITES conference in Zimbabwe in 1997. These three countries may resume international ivory trade under the following conditions: To sell only their existing stockpiles of ivory; to trade exclusively with Japan, the recognised world wholesaler; not to trade internationally within eighteenth months of the conference decision; and to have all sales closely monitored by CITES and other international committees (Crace 1997:10). 21. For an informed combination of both, see Leach and Mearns (1996), as well as Fairhead and Leach (1996, 1998). For a review of some of the cutting edge of ecological, anthropological and historical thinking, see Englund (1998). REFERENCES Archives Nationales de Yaound. 19041905. Jahresbericht der Verwaltung am Ngoko, Lomie, fr die Zeit vom 1.4.190431.3.1905. FA 1/65:202219. Yaound, Cameroon.

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