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Coffee Planters and the origins of conservation in colonial Ceylon

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Abstract:

Our knowledge of the natural history of Sri Lanka owes much to the work of British coffee (and later tea) planters. Beginning in the 1840s, the establishment of coffee plantations led to the decimation of the forests of the mountainous interior of the island, transforming both the island’s ecosystem and its economy. These planters as a class, in addition to being agents of environmental change, also played an important role both in developing our knowledge of the island’s fauna and flora and in early conservation movements. Many of them were major naturalists in their own right; others were members of networks that funneled specimens and observational data to students of natural history. This paper examines their role in wildlife preservation and the establishment of protected areas in Sri Lanka. Hunting was their major recreational activity and collecting natural history specimens followed naturally from it for some. They lobbied (successfully) for the first game law in 1909 not through remorse for their own role in the destruction of the island's wildlife (the “penitent butchers” argument for the origins of wildlife conservation) but to keep the native peasantry from competing for the same species that British hunters sought and which had been drastically reduced by the depredations of both groups. Their ideas about indigenous hunting practices constructed village hunters as the opposite of British sportsmen and informed the activities of the organization they had established to protect their interests, the Ceylon Game and Fauna Protection Society. This paper discusses hunting as a marker of British identity and status in colonial Sri Lanka and argues that their particular way of engaging with nature, through hunting and the pursuit of natural history, motivated their desire to preserve what was left of the island’s natural environment.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170974_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Guneratne, Arjun. "Coffee Planters and the origins of conservation in colonial Ceylon" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170974_index.html>

APA Citation:

Guneratne, A. "Coffee Planters and the origins of conservation in colonial Ceylon" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170974_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Our knowledge of the natural history of Sri Lanka owes much to the work of British coffee (and later tea) planters. Beginning in the 1840s, the establishment of coffee plantations led to the decimation of the forests of the mountainous interior of the island, transforming both the island’s ecosystem and its economy. These planters as a class, in addition to being agents of environmental change, also played an important role both in developing our knowledge of the island’s fauna and flora and in early conservation movements. Many of them were major naturalists in their own right; others were members of networks that funneled specimens and observational data to students of natural history. This paper examines their role in wildlife preservation and the establishment of protected areas in Sri Lanka. Hunting was their major recreational activity and collecting natural history specimens followed naturally from it for some. They lobbied (successfully) for the first game law in 1909 not through remorse for their own role in the destruction of the island's wildlife (the “penitent butchers” argument for the origins of wildlife conservation) but to keep the native peasantry from competing for the same species that British hunters sought and which had been drastically reduced by the depredations of both groups. Their ideas about indigenous hunting practices constructed village hunters as the opposite of British sportsmen and informed the activities of the organization they had established to protect their interests, the Ceylon Game and Fauna Protection Society. This paper discusses hunting as a marker of British identity and status in colonial Sri Lanka and argues that their particular way of engaging with nature, through hunting and the pursuit of natural history, motivated their desire to preserve what was left of the island’s natural environment.


Similar Titles:
Colonial Origins of Postcolonial Inter-communal Violence in Ex-British Colonies

Benevolent/Malevolent Colonialism: The Social, Religious, and Political Origins of Contradictory Perceptions of Colonial Experiences and Their Effects on National Identities of India and Pakistan


 
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