Constructing Connectivity: Conservation Corridors and Conservation Politics in East African Rangelands
Conservation corridors are perhaps the most visible expression of the new landscape conservation boom. Seen as the essential connecting structure across increasingly fragmented landscapes, corridors offer a structural solution to the complex problem of maintaining functional ecological connectivity. Yet the ability of corridors to connect landscapes and wildlife populations functionally remains unknown. Why then are corridors so popular in academic, practitioner, and policy circles? To explore this question I utilize two concepts—boundary objects and standardized packages—from science and technology studies to show how corridors are being constructed both as naturally occurring entities and as the best possible conservation solution, in some cases foreclosing other possibilities. The flexibility of the term (as a boundary object) combined with a standard set of tools, methods, and theories to support it, makes corridors an accessible concept across social worlds. A case study of the Tarangire Manyara Ecosystem of northern Tanzania, however, suggests that the very flexibility of corridors can backfire, once enmeshed in the local politics of wildlife conservation. When the voices of the concerned community members are heard, political and ecological challenges to corridors emerge.