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Environment and History

Conserving Wildlife Resources in Zimbabwe: Reflections on Chirinda Forest, 1920s-1979

Noel Ndumeya

Environment and History 26 (2020): 413-442. doi: 10.3197/096734018X1525446164657

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This article uses Chirinda Forest as a lens through which to view wildlife conservation policy and practice in colonial Zimbabwe. Situated in eastern Zimbabwe, Chirinda Forest was unique in that, though located in a typical savannah climate, it was a tropical rainforest and the only one of its kind in Zimbabwe. The article examines the structure, variety, maturity and density of the forest's trees. It describes its diverse game and water systems and contrasts the forest's traditional and modern ownership patterns. It also traces how the state acquired this forest and sought to conserve it for aesthetic, scientific, educational and recreational reasons - processes that set the state on a collision course with African communities surrounding this forest, who valued it as a source for timber, firewood, medicine, game and other resources. Drawing on the history of Chirinda Forest, the study questions the appropriateness and effectiveness of colonial conservation policies while exploring the strategies adopted by the marginalised sections of society clandestinely to access wildlife resources from this forest.

KEYWORDS: Chirinda Forest, ownership, wildlife, nature conservation

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