Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 19–29 | Cite as

Conservation Heroes Versus Environmental Villains: Perceiving Elephants in Caprivi, Namibia

  • Lorraine Elizabeth MooreEmail author


This article investigates the impact of transnational environmental organizations on rural people involved in conservation by exploring the impacts of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) ivory trade ban on Namibia’s elephant conservation policy. This case study examines how rural African people are put into categories of ‘conservation heroes’ or ‘environmental villains’ by local conservation practitioners, government officials in Namibia and transnational conservation actors. Findings indicate that the approach of state officials and conservation organizations (CO) results in incomplete representations of both rural African people and the cultural importance these people attach to elephants. The article concludes that current environmental narratives associated with rural African people have been used as powerful ‘tools of persuasion’ at the state and international level to support and legitimate conservation policy and resource use in relation to the concerns of transnational environmental actors to the exclusion of rural African people.


Community based natural resource management Sustainable utilization Elephant conservation Ivory trade Namibia 



This article draws on fieldwork undertaken during a 3 year doctoral degree at the Department of Politics & IR, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YD, funded by a Lancaster University 40th Anniversary Doctoral Studentship. I would like to thank Professor Rosaleen Duffy, Steven Pickering and the anonymous reviewers for commenting on the manuscript. I am also grateful to everyone who participated in fieldwork, especially the interviewees who share elephant range in Namibia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsManchester UniversityManchesterUK

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