Conservation of wildlife is always in the news. But the terms and goals of conservation are always changing. Historically, conservation often took the form of controlling hunting of favored game animals. Many groups still work to properly manage game animals. The presence of game animals is critical to predators and the rest of the chain.
But changing times and changing attitudes are forcing conservation methods to adapt. In developing nations conservation often caused conflict. Western values and values of other nations conflicted. Today, there are more efforts to involve local peoples in conservation efforts.
To this end The Snow Leopard Trust has announced the formation of what they call the “Partners Conservation Alliance.” One of the key goals is to reduce or end the “top down” nature of conservation. Governments and conservation groups have made demands on native peoples in conflict with their wants and needs.
Of course, conservation is a crowded field and the new group is apparently different from the Conservation Alliance. That group has been in existence since 1989. According to its website:
“We harness the power of businesses and outdoor communities to protect North America’s cherished wild places and outdoor spaces. Through the collective strength of our membership – companies from banks to breweries and outdoor gear – we champion solutions that balance the best interests of the land and water, wildlife, and people. Since 1989, we’ve helped protect 73 million acres and 3,580 river miles, remove or halt 37 dams, purchase 21 climbing areas & designate five marine reserves.” – Italics in original.
The existing Conservation Alliance focuses on North America. The new group appears to be focused on more developing areas of the world and the challenges conservation faces in those parts of the world.
The new group represents conservationists from 22 countries who have a cumulative experience of 45 decades. They have issued a statement and several challenges.
“According to the statement, initiatives built upon respectful, ethical and resilient partnerships with local and indigenous communities are among the most effective approaches, not just to address biodiversity loss, but also for sustainable economic development.”
This, of course. is the challenge facing conservation around the world. Up to this point conservation has been “top-down.” India, for example, accepted an international challenge to double the tiger population. They may have succeeded. But they have moved villages, and landscaped habitat. This approach has been labeled “tiger centric” and has been challenged. The World Wildlife Federation has recognized this and called for a “People-centric” Tiger conservation model along the lines of the Partner’s Conservation Alliance.
Other examples of working with the local peoples have also been successful. Amazon fish are a good case. Working with sensitivity has brought back the worlds largest freshwater fish.
The problem will always be the fact that police authority will be needed. Someone will have to crush poachers, drug runners, gun-runners and other animal exploiters. The idea of working with locals is noble. However, the trade in illegal wildlife is in the billions. The United States may be the birthplace of formal conservatism. But in 2023 there are wolf poisoners, tiger kidnappers, and assorted criminals.