Securing Wilderness Landscapes in South Africa

Nick Steele, Private Wildlife Conservancies and Saving Rhinos


Author: Harry Wels
Private wildlife conservation is booming business in South Africa! Nick Steele stood at the cradle of this development in the politically turbulent 1970s and 1980s, by stimulating farmers in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) to pool resources in order to restore wilderness landscapes, but at the same time improve their security situation in cooperative conservancy structures. His involvement in Operation Rhino in the 1960s and subsequent networks to save the rhino from extinction, brought him into controversial military (oriented) networks around the Western world. The author’s unique access to his private diaries paints a personal picture of this controversial conservationist.

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Harry Wels, Ph.D. (2000), VU University Amsterdam, is Associate Professor at that university, Publication Manager at the African Studies Centre in Leiden and extraordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. His publications include Private Wildlife Conservation in Zimbabwe (Brill, 2003) and, together with Marja Spierenburg, Conservative Philanthropists, Royalty and Business Elites in Nature Conservation in Southern Africa (Antipode, 2010).
List of Figures and Maps

List of Acronyms


Focusing on the subjectivities and setting the interpretive scene
An iconic species in nature conservation: the rhinoceros in Africa
The personal archive of Nick Steele
The aesthetics of landscape in nature conservation
Methodological considerations
Structure of the book

Chapter 1:
Picturing landscape… and what comes with it
Game rangers’ memoirs and landscape
Landscape construction
‘Camps’ in the landscape
A metaphor of aestheticized landscapes: the Claude Mirror
Conservation landscapes in South Africa

Chapter 2:
Rhino’s political role in wildlife conservation
The idea of rhino
Nick Steele and saving the rhino
Networking with the military to save the rhino
Nick Steele and the ANC-IFP struggle
Rhino conservation as ‘bush war’
Rhino as Steele’s ‘totem’?

Chapter 3:
Longing for Zululand landscapes: Nick Steele transferred to Natal
Steele transferred from Zululand Reserves to Natal Midlands
Nick Steele on issues of race in South Africa
Nick Steele’s disillusionment with Natal’s landscapes
Nick Steele’s friendship with Mongosuthu Buthelezi

Chapter 4:
Private wildlife conservancies: providing security
The Farm Patrol Plan: getting things started
Game guards: the backbone of conservancies
The success of the conservancy concept: going across national borders
Recent trends in private wildlife conservation: game farming

Chapter 5:
Summary and Conclusions
Acknowledgements and Brief Methodological Reflections


All interested in the environmental / conservation history in South and southern Africa and anyone interested in ethnographic approaches, with a biographical flavour, to conservation.