With the holiday season upon us and Christmas approaching faster than a runaway train, it’s not too early to do some preliminary Christmas shopping. Rather than giving your friends and family the latest technological trinket, clothes they don’t need, or a dreaded fruitcake, why not instead give them a gift of knowledge? For sportsmen and conservationists, a copy of Mike Arnold’s important trendsetting book, Bringing Back the Lions: International Hunters, Local Tribespeople, and the Miraculous Rescue of a Doomed Ecosystem in Mozambique, will be a treasured gift for years to come.
Written in an entertaining style by one of the world’s leading conservation writers, this engaging book details how, for generations, conservationists around the world have spent billions of dollars and countless hours trying to restore wildlife and wildlife habitat in areas of sub-Sahara Africa decimated by many factors, including poachers, corrupt governments, hungry local populations, and a lack of education and experience in how to balance current needs and wants with long-term, sustainable goals that benefit both wildlife and local peoples. And while these efforts often produce short-term results, long-term successes have been few and far between. In Bringing Back the Lions, Arnold — a Distinguished Research Professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia — details how a small group of professional hunters spearheaded a near-30-year effort to return a once-incredible wildlife paradise from a decimated and near-barren landscape to one of the world’s premier wildlands – the area of Mozambique known as Coutada 11. This official concession covers 2000 square kilometers (approximately 772 square miles) of some of the most diverse habitat and animal species in all of Africa.
“During my time in Coutada 11, I came to understand the substance of what I call the ‘invisible line,’ which demarked a barren landscape with one filled with life,” Arnold said. “I found that it depended on a combination of local villagers’ full bellies, employment, and empowerment; just as much, it depended on protection against marauders who would unthinkingly tear apart the environmental web. On one side of the line, no animals, few trees — a moonscape; on the other, a solid canopy of trees broken by the occasional natural clearing, containing a super-abundance of wildlife. The line reflected the restoration and protection of many ecosystems.
“Not coincidentally, the ‘invisible line’ also separated Sena hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers from a previously unheard-of category of their brethren: A rural population of middle-class shopkeepers, cash-crop farmers, and employees of the safari industry, an industry that caused the transformation of ecosystems and Sena villagers’ lives,” Arnold said. “I had forgotten the truth. In wild Africa — just as in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia — you encounter wild animals only where they are more valuable alive than as food. Here, as around the world, the model of conservation-through-hunting works when nothing else will. Even photographic tourism, with its associated infrastructure of roads and hotels needed to ferry and house the swarms of tourists, leaves an enormous carbon footprint compared with hunting concessions, which host a fraction of the number of visitors.”
“With the earth’s population approaching 8 billion, working with local people to conserve wildlife is an urgent necessity, not an option, especially in Africa,” said Ludo Wurfbain, Director, Rowland Ward Foundation. “To be successful, conservation projects need to benefit local people, increase wildlife and habitat, and sustain fair-chase hunting opportunities. Bringing Back the Lions tells the story of how the restoration of the ecosystem and the social and economic advances of local communities in the Zambeze Delta have gone hand-in-hand. Mixing his personal experiences as a hunter in the region with an in-depth look at the challenges and hard work that have gone into this initiative, Arnold brings this fascinating conservation success story to life.”
“Professor Arnold’s work is a wonderful mix of travelogue, adventure yarn, historical novel, and environmental odyssey — an uplifting tale of ecological and social restoration,” said Ian Sherman of Oxford University Press.
A life-long hunter who has traveled the globe, Arnold has published hundreds of research articles and four books on a variety of topics, including conservation biology. Publications such as Science Magazine, The New York Times, and National Public Radio continue calling Mike for interviews covering his research. Earlier this year he attended the 20th annual meeting of the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Maputo, Mozambique, where he was honored to be able to present a copy of his book to the Honorable Carlos dos Santos, Mozambique Ambassador to the United States.
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