HL Deb 23 November 1960 vol 226 cc801-3

2.45 p.m.


My Lords I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the increasing emergence of African States to independence, they will take steps to safeguard the future of the African big game reserves,, either toy attempting to organise some central authority or by using their influence to see that the United Nations can be prevailed upon to accept ultimate responsibility.]


My Lords, I have much sympathy with the noble Viscount's wish that the big game reserves in Africa should continue to be adequately safeguarded. I am obliged to the noble Viscount for drawing attention to this important matter.

The responsibility for protecting wild life in any sovereign State is, of course, a matter for the individual Governments concerned. Nevertheless, an organisation for co-ordinating efforts to protect wild life already exists, in the form of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The United Kingdom is represented on this body by the Nature Conservancy. The International Union works in consultation with two specialized agencies of the United Nations, U.N.E.S.C.O. and F.A.O., and also with The Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara.

As the noble Viscount is probably aware, the International Union will be holding a conference on the conservation of African wild life in September, 1961. Her Majesty's Government welcome this initiative and hope that it will lead to the formation of a voluntary international forum engaging the support of all races in the African continent. I should like to add that Her Majesty's Government greatly value the efforts made by the Fauna Preservation Society and other kindred societies of the United Kingdom in furthering the cause the noble Viscount has in view.


My Lords, I thank the noble Marquess for that full reply, but I should like to ask whether he is aware that there is increasing concern among naturalists of all races regarding the future of wild life in Africa, particularly since so many of these animals are unique to the African Continent. I should also like to ask whether the noble Marquess does not agree that the wild life of Africa is really a heritage of the whole world and ought not in the future to be left as the complete responsibility of the African people. I was glad to hear from the reply that Her Majesty's Government are concerned over this matter.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Viscount's first question, Her Majesty's Government are aware of the dangers of the situation. In answering his second question, I would call his attention to the fact that U.N.E.S.C.O. have taken up this matter seriously; and recently, as the noble Viscount probably knows, Sir Julian Huxley was sent out to Africa to make a careful survey of the situation. I should perhaps call attention to two admirable articles in the Observer of last Sunday and the Sunday before, in which I think it is made perfectly clear that this matter is being carefully studied; and the desirability of its being regarded as a matter of international importance is also being borne in mind.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether the Colonial Office or the Foreign Office have any real reason to believe that the United Nations are seriously concerned to preserve the wild life of Africa? May I also ask whether, before handing over control of the national parks and other reserves to new Governments, Her Majesty's Government will obtain guarantees that these reserves will survive?


My Lords, I should have thought that the reply I have already given answers the noble Marquess's first Question: that, as no doubt the noble Marquess is well aware, U.N.E.S.C.O. are taking active steps. In reply to his second question, the answer must be, No; because it is not possible for Her Majesty's Government to obtain any advance guarantees from Governments which will be sovereign. On the other hand, my center honourable friend the Colonial Secretary has told me that in the British African territories there is a structure of legislation and practice which it is hoped will set a pattern for the future; but, as I have said, no guarantees can be obtained in advance.