From the Serengeti to the Bavarian Forest, and back again: Bernhard Grzimek, Celebrity Conservation, and the Transnational Politics of National Parks
Keywords:Grzimek, conservation, celebrity, transnationalism, National Parks
This short piece focuses on the work of the German “celebrity conservationist,” Bernhard Grzimek, situating it in the context of historical and contemporary debates about the political and ecological importance of national parks. Grzimek’s role in the creation of Bavarian Forest National Park may not be as well-known as his public ministrations on behalf of the wild animals of the Serengeti, but in several ways his work in and for these two national parks, engaging with the fraught politics of the period, was intertwined. The essay looks at some of these overlaps, using them to make the case for national parks as complex geopolitical formations in which human and animal interests alternately collide and converge. The essay also makes the case for national parks as multi-scalar entities that need to be understood – politically and ecologically – in both local and global, both national and transnational terms. Finally, the essay cites the multiple roles of Grzimek to re-examine the ambivalent role of the celebrity conservationist as a media spokesperson and publicity-conscious advocate for the world’s wildlife.
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