'Stop conservation groups persecuting indigenous people', is the demand of international human rights organisation, Survival International, and the subject that has dominated recent international conventions.
In an article in today's Times newspaper by Caroline Pearce, director of Survival International, she writes:
"While the public generously donate millions of pounds a year in the belief that their funds are helping to save gorillas, elephants and other appealing wildlife, the model of conservation still regarded as mainstream by WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society and others is one of oppression and violence.
It goes like this: areas of precious habitat such as rainforest are turned into national parks, game reserves and so on; indigenous people are turfed out; and big conservation organisations fund, train or directly employ armed guards to enforce this dispossession. While luxury tourism, and even logging and mining, are allowed in, the evicted indigenous people inevitably end up on the lowest rungs of the ladder."
The consistencies with what has been taking place in the uplands in recent years could not be more stark.
Take Brewdog for example, the Aberdeenshire brewery and pub chain that brought the 9,300 acre Kinrara Estate in the Carngorms for £7.5m this year. It plans to create a 'lost forest' to offset the carbon produced at its brewery in Ellon. It is also planning a luxury hotel and distillery. The gamekeepers, gardeners, farming and domestic staff were all reportedly laid off and the properties they lived in put up for sale as the new owners did away for the traditional land uses.
This is just one example of many others that have taken place in the uplands in recent years.
A local councillor said at the time: “In a national park where low-cost housing is at a premium and young people struggle to find homes they can afford, I find myself at a loss as to why a millionaire would put his vanity project above local people for any other reason than greed.”
Caroline Pearce of Survival International then finishes her article with the key point:
"What is so perverse about this approach, besides untold human misery, is that it is so counterproductive. The very people who have managed and cared for the most biodiverse places on Earth are being cast aside, while expensive, donor-funded and brutal “conservation” replaces them.
The solution to this crime — for that’s what it is — is extremely simple: recognise ownership rights of indigenous people over their ancestral lands and scrap the whole oppressive “fortress conservation” model. But that, of course, cuts out the big conservation organisations entirely. Little wonder they are so reluctant to change".
The same could very well be said of the conservation organisations and corporates in this country, like the RSPB, Brewdog and others.
It is about time our precious and fragile upland communities are recognised in the same vein as the Baku and other indigenous communities, and their ancestral knowledge of the land is savoured, rather than sabotaged by expensive donor funded conservation organisations.