By chance I saw an excellent programme, "Unnatural Histories", on BBC4 this week. It was part of a series about the myth of wilderness, and this one, the first, featured Serengeti National Park in Kenya. I was interested because of my current fascination with East Africa and the colonial period 100 years ago. At that time the grasslands of Africa were deserted because a recent plague of a cattle disease, rinderpest, which had decimated the herds during the 1890s and caused native people to leave the areas, although the lands had been home to Bantu, Masai and other tribes for many years.
The incoming European settlers saw the grasslands as a kind of pristine paradise, and an antidote to the effects of industrialisation and overpopulation in their home countries. At first these lands were exploited by white hunters (such as Theodore Roosevelt), but by the 1930s awareness was growing of the need to protect the Serengeti as a National Park. Many famous campaigners, such as Armand and Michaela Denis, led this movement, and eventually in the 1950s the park, dividing animals and people, became a reality, although not without much disagreement on the issue of boundaries between local and central administrators.