Conserving inequality: How private conservation and property developers ‘fix’ spatial injustice in South Africa

Lerato Thakholi*, Bram Büscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 2016, South Africa launched its National Biodiversity Economy Strategy. This strategy aims to facilitate the development of a ‘wildlife economy’ as a solution to unemployment, loss of biodiversity and rural development. Central to the strategy is the role of private conservation actors, who keenly posit their commercial model as the best way to achieve these objectives. This stands in sharp contrast to recent critiques that suggest that private conservation reinforces structural inequality by denying access to land and perpetuating unjust labour conditions. Using ethnographic data from the South African Lowveld region that includes the Kruger National Park, the paper takes these points further by arguing that a rapidly growing alliance between private conservation and property developers actively conserve inequality by maintaining and even extending spatial injustice in the region. Two popular recent manifestations of this alliance in particular, share block systems that distribute ownership of access to real estate in private reserves and wildlife housing estates, have established new conservation-property linkages that entrench capitalist socioecological fixes. Not only do these initiatives lead to further engrained spatial injustice, we conclude that this conservation-property alliance at the centre of the ‘wildlife economy’ also willingly sacrifices environmental sustainability on the altar of white conservation imaginations and private profit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Conserving inequality: How private conservation and property developers ‘fix’ spatial injustice in South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this