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China pillaging Africa like colonialists says Jane Goodall

China is exploiting Africa's resources just like European colonisers did, with disastrous effects for the environment, acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall told AFP.
A younger Jane Goodall with one of her precious chimpanzees. Image:
A younger Jane Goodall with one of her precious chimpanzees. Image: Washington State University
On the eve of her 80th birthday, the fiery British wildlife crusader is whizzing across the world giving a series of lectures on the threats to our planet.

And the rising world power's involvement on the continent especially raises alarms when it comes to her beloved chimpanzees and wildlife habitats.

During the last decade China has been investing heavily in Africa's natural resources, developing mines, oil wells and running related construction companies. Activists accuse Chinese firms of paying little attention to the environmental impact of their race for resources.

"In Africa, China is merely doing what the colonialist did. They want raw materials for their economic growth, just as the colonialists were going into Africa and taking the natural resources, leaving people poorer," she told AFP in an interview in Johannesburg.

High stakes for environment

"The stakes for the environment may even be larger this time round," she warns. "China is bigger, and the technology has improved. It's a disaster," she added.

Jane Goodall warns against colonisation of Africa by the Chinese. Image:
Jane Goodall warns against colonisation of Africa by the Chinese. Image: My Walk Through
Other than hefty investment in Africa's mines, China is also a big market for elephant tusks and rhino horn, which has driven poaching of these animals to alarming heights.

But Goodall, who rose to fame through her ground-breaking research on chimpanzees in Tanzania, is optimistic.

"I do believe China is changing," she said, citing as one example Beijing's recent destruction of illegal ivory stockpiles. "I think 10 years ago, even with international pressure, we would never have had an ivory crush. But they have," she added. "I think 10 years ago the government would never have banned shark fin soup on official occasions. But they have."

Her organisation Roots and Shoots, founded over two decades ago to instil conservation values in children, has also become involved in China.

"We work with hundreds of Chinese children, and they are not different from children we work with here. They all love nature, they love animals, they want to help, there's no difference because they're Chinese," she said.

Young people's enthusiasm to change the world is a major reason to hope, for Goodall with her seemingly inexhaustible energy who can still keep an auditorium hanging on her words for more than an hour.

Hope lies with children

Mining activity in Africa has already done significant damage to some countries. Image:
Mining activity in Africa has already done significant damage to some countries. Image: Environment
"These young people will become the next parents, the next teachers, the next lawyers, the next business people and the next politicians. The biggest problem is that people understand but don't know what to do," she said.

"If you have one thousand, one million or eventually several million people all making the right choice, all thinking about the consequences of their behaviour, then we're going to see big change," she said.

According to Goodall, another glimmer of hope lies amazing resilience of nature. "For example China's Loess Plateau on the Yellow River is recovering after massive soil erosion. It was set to be the biggest totally destroyed ecosystem in the world," she said.

The World Bank says that the US$400m project funded by the Chinese government and international donors introduced better farming methods in that area, which greatly reduced erosion and lifted 2.5m people out of poverty. It also undid some of the damage that had been done to the river.

"That took a lot of money, but if you look at it now, it's all green, lush, farmland and children have come back from the cities. It's even got a whole area for wildlife," said Goodall.

Source: AFP via I-Net Bridge


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