Black-White Relations in Kenya Game Policy: A Case Study of the Coast Province, 1895-1956

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Robert G. Gregory


Social structure, Conservation, European colonialism, Game Ordinances, Wildlife, Game National Reserve

Subject Categories

Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


The subject of this study is the history of game policy in Kenya. It is a subject which concerns a vital element of the country's economy, an element that not only returns a sizeable revenue, but also opens the door of Kenya to a unique association with the outside world. It is a study in conservation during a period of a growing scarcity in resources important to man. It is also a revealing chapter in the relationship between colonizers and subject peoples, especially between blacks and whites, within the framework of European colonialism, 1900-45.

The area that eventually became the Coast Province of Kenya was unique in its peculiar combination of climate, vegetation, and peoples which proved highly conducive to the development of wildlife that during the British administration, was to be designated as "game". The indigenous African, nomadic hunters and gatherers, pastoralists, and agriculturists, were able to achieve a fairly harmonious relationship with wildlife through their system of totemism. This system allowed man to flourish without appreciably diminishing the number or character of wildlife. However, this situation was altered with the arrival of the Asiatics, who established trade settlements along the coast and who bargained for a variety of game products. The result was the beginning of a mass slaughter of wildlife which reached its climax in 1895 when the British Government took over the administration of the coast and opened the "Age of the Safari".

This study examines the economic causes for the mass slaughter of wildlife; the effect of that depletion of wildlife upon the habitat; the enactment of Game Ordinances from 1900 to the eve of independence (1963); the effect of the Game Ordinances upon black-white relations; and the African response to game depredations. The study argues that the problem of poaching was created by the Government's discriminatory Game Ordinances which, between 1900 and 1945, denied Africans the right to hunt wildlife under any circumstances.

From 1900 to 1945 different economic interests and emphases called for the preservation of wildlife through game laws. Although Asiatics and Europeans were making money on game and by-products, they visualized a time when wildlife would bring in better and unlimited economic returns through tourism, but then failed to make this clear to the Africans, who took to poaching. Wildlife depletion from 1900 to 1945 was due primarily to lack of government directives and communication between the Government and the Africans. During this time game policy promoted a deterioration of the black-white relationship. The situation was, however, remedied between 1945 and 1956 when Colonial administrations began to incorporate African counsel and participation in the process of formulating new Game Ordinances, creating National Game Reserves, and Royal National Parks. The Kenya Government, in collaboration with the British Government, decided to end discrimination in game laws by passing a series of non-discriminatory Game Ordinances.

The study concludes by pointing out that although Africans suffered immense game animal depredations, loss of lives, imprisonments, and fines, the Game Ordinances, Game National Reserves, and Royal National Parks were an effective method of preserving wildlife and the habitat: a blessing in disguise for independent Kenya. The Kenya economy would not be better off without game, even by diverting it to other economic activities or sectors. This, then was Britain's statesmanship with regards to Kenya and the world for that matter -- a model -- in game conservation and preservation. As such, the study pays a special tribute to Britain for arresting the extermination of wildlife. Britain not only stopped and prevented wildlife extermination, but also the tipping of balance of nature for the good of mankind.


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