Heritage lost: The cultural impact of wildlife crime in South Africa
Crimes against wildlife have been in the spotlight in South Africa in the past decade – largely due to the escalation of rhino poaching. As a custodian of iconic species, South Africa is at the heart of the illicit and licit wildlife economy. Since the country’s economy relies on wildlife tourism as one of its sources of income, poaching has economic consequences. The negative impact, however, extends into the cultural sphere too. Some fear that extinction will rob future generations of the chance to experience wildlife, thus depriving them of their rightful cultural heritage. This commentary piece suggests that wildlife crime may be a form of cultural victimisation for people who feel that wildlife is part of their identity. It does so while acknowledging that poverty and other structural limitations prevent many South Africans from experiencing wildlife in this way, and that some may feel indifferent or resentful towards conservation initiatives if their basic needs are not met.