Captain Moonlight's Notebook: Aga Khan's game plan

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The Independent Online
THE AGA KHAN - wealthy leader of the world Ismaili community - is another who is endlessly fascinated by what is written about him. His London PR firm, Michael Joyce, has asked Simon & Schuster to bike round two copies of Raymond Bonner's new expose of conservation in Africa, At the Hand of Man.

Bonner's book, already published in the United States but not out here until next month, has set the cat among the wildlife pigeons. Critical examination is a new experience for conservationists, and they are not taking well to it. The World Wide Fund for Nature has sent the publishers a 20-page grumble. And two wildlife experts who publicly supported the book are being urged to withdraw their endorsements. One has already succumbed.

The Aga Khan is no zoologist, but he does have a keen eye for an investment. Bonner reveals that the spiritual leader plans to build a luxury safari lodge in Tanzania's outstanding game reserve, Ngorongoro Crater. Conservationists and scientists are enraged by the plan which they believe risks severely damaging the fragile ecology of the national park. The Aga Khan has managed to override their objections, though not before the President of Tanzania, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, personally intervened to smooth the way.

The Aga Khan likes to be seen as a friend of the poor and underprivileged, so he probably won't be too happy with Bonner's disclosures. Wisely, Simon & Schuster asked for a cheque for pounds 35 before handing over the books.