The Cultural Beliefs Behind The Establishment of Burial Sites: A Tool For Biodiversity Conservation

Biological diversity sometimes referred to as biodiversity, has been the direct supplier and enhancer of resources for the survival of the human generation. It provides humans with the basic necessities that life itself hinges on, thus, food, clothing, and shelter. However, their service to humanity is overarching. Biodiversity resources essentially offer the medicine that humans use in curbing the nuisance diseases that makes life intolerable and even abridge life itself! It is the secret weapon that helps humans in fighting against climate change together with its great consequences like drought, deforestation, habitat destruction and many others. The need to conserve and sustainably use the biodiversity resources has been a global cry for centuries, especially in the late nineteenth century due to its wanton depletion at a rocketed rate. Thus, conservation agencies around the world are looking for multi-faceted approaches to help conserve these precious bio-resources. Burial sites of royals and important persons in various societies have been one of the tracts of land that have indirectly conserved a lot of endangered flora and fauna species. Thus, there is the need for an enlightenment of the potentials of these burial sites and the cultural beliefs that propelled their establishments and ultimately leading to the conservation of rich biodiversity resources in their pristine states.

Many societies in the world have a common ritual of preserving the burial sites of their ancestors, especially those from the royal or the ruling class, merchants and other important persons who have left an indelible mark in the development of societies. Among some African societies, these persons qualify as ancestors because of their immeasurable support that led to the establishment of societies. Thus, they are honored by respecting the sites where their mortal remains have been everlastingly kept. All biological diversity resources around their burial sites or cemeteries are viewed as sacred and as such must not be abused. Local residents in some cultures are even tabooed to enter into those tracts of land to pick anything. The sacrosanct nature of the burial sites together with the rich biodiversity resources has contributed immensely to the conservation of numerous globally endangered species of biological diversity.

It is believed among ethnic societies that it is a gross disrespect to the ancestors whose remains are at the burial sites to defile the place by wantonly destroying the bio-resources kept under their watch. The fear that the ancestors are still living and that they are constantly policing the activities of humans has been the driving force behind the prevention of resource exploitation of those burial sites.

However, it is believed that the ancestors honor and bless society members with rich resources that provide cures to the disturbing and often perplexing diseases in the society. With traditional priests and medicine men as leads, the ancestors reveal the parts of some plant species in their burial sites that could provide the cure for the disease(s) that may have potentially caused a plague. Since the knowledge of the cure is only the preserve of the traditional priests and herbalists in the society, the biodiversity resources are sparingly taken from the burial sites ensuring their conservation and sustainable use. Such is the case of the ‘Yesu Dua’ (Jesus plants) in the royal burial site of the Asantehenes (Kings of the Asante kingdom) of Ghana at the Breman Town in the Ashanti region of Ghana believed and proven scientifically to cure some kinds of cancer!

Also, before a particular part of a plant is taken, complex sacrifices are offered to propitiate the ancestors whose remains are steeped in the site. This helps in preventing any form of injury or hurt by anyone present in the eve of the cutting or extracting of the part of the plant. Failure to perform the sacrificial offerings strictly carried out only by the traditional priest is believed to incur the wrath of the ancestors which may be a death plague. Therefore, no ordinary society member with this knowledge would even dare enter the gazette burial sites of the ancestors and/or even take any biodiversity resource.

These cultural beliefs held strongly by the members of the society monitored under the vigil eye of the members of the traditional councils in the local communities have contributed to the survival of the clusters of royal burial sites globally with highly diversified and rich biodiversity resources. Conservation agencies and the various governments in countries must back the efforts of traditional societies in protecting these gazette burial sites. Probably, a law enacted and passed by the government to prevent the exploitation of these burial sites coupled with huge sanctions imposed, may be very helpful in realizing their eternal survival. This is very relevant in the face of westernization, technology, and global civilization that have negatively influenced the attitudes of many residents around these burial sites who do not hold on to the cultural beliefs and/or believe in the eternal existence of the ancestors.

The cultural beliefs that have led to the establishment of burial sites in local and indigenous societies have significantly contributed to the conservation of biodiversity and must be respected and reckoned. They are indeed one of the contemporary conservation mediums for the scarce biodiversity resources that play quintessential roles in the survival of the present and future generations.

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