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Fierce Species: Biological Imperialism

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Chapter Summary

The concepts of biological or ecological imperialism and biological exchanges highlight the role of biological invaders in environmental change. The notion of biological imperialism appears to be more appropriate to Africa than sometimes has been acknowledged. In north-central Namibia, the biological invaders included microbes that introduced at least three major human diseases (influenza, measles and the plague) and three animal diseases (lungsickness, rinderpest and foot and mouth), as well as two new animal species (the horse and the donkey). In addition, during the colonial era, several species of animals were (re)classified as vermin. Indigenous species that under the new circumstances had opportunistically infested the environment were recast as both the cause and the effect of new ecological and biological imbalances that were associated with imperialism and colonialism, including such wild animals as lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and elephants, as well as domestic cattle and goats.

Keywords: Africa; biological imperialism; Europe; fierce species; north-central Namibia; Ovamboland; virgin soil epidemics



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