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How Effective Are Conservation Strategies?

Wildlife conservation is receiving extensive attention, with more organizations and coalitions being created with the aim to preserve wildlife.

However it is widely known that many conservation strategies fail to achieve their goals. Conservation issues have to be analyzed and tackled individually with political, economic, cultural and ecological drivers taken into consideration.

In addition to the protection of wildlife from human destruction, these conservation strategies fail to provide protection from environmental issues such as climate change and natural disasters, which is why there is such a high demand for immediate action.

A question that some might ask is whether all these efforts are actually successful in the creation of a “perfect” conservation strategy, the answer to which is possibly ‘yes’. There are two types of conservation strategy, one that relies on the local people to protect their wildlife, and a second that requires the government to create legal protection zones and various legislations. There is a heavy debate among conservation biologists and managers about the usefulness and practicality of either of those.

The main strategy used in the conservation sector is governmental legislation, creating national parks, protected areas and bans on hunting/fishing in certain areas or of certain species. The main advantage of this strategy is that the government can exercise complete control over such lands and thus has legal basis for effective enforcement of conservation policies. There is, however, considerable debate as to whether this strategy in developing nations does more harm than good.

flickr | Hannah JaneThis strategy showed promising results in Tanzania, when the status of turtles in the Western Indian Ocean region was reported to be declining in 70’s. The main reason for the decline was human activities, through illegal take-offs in the form of poaching of turtle meat, eggs and oil destroying 85% of the turtle population. This problem was tackled by educating tourists of the turtle economic value and importance of its conservation. The funds were raised to support the community of Tanzania and help the declining population of turtles. In nine years, the egg predation rate has gone from 80% to less than 1%, due directly to this scheme and the ongoing work of Sea Sense’s conservation officers. Effectiveness of this strategy, however, sometimes doubts, due to the fact that the indigenous people are not taken into consideration when attempting to conserve wildlife. Illegal fishing remains high in Tanzania, regardless of the legislation. Endangered and vulnerable species are still fished and foreigners still operate large-scale industrial fisheries along the coast, exporting most of the catch with no repercussions.

Indigenous protected areas are not new in practice, however, due to very limited documentation its effectiveness is not well understood and this strategy has its benefits as well as drawbacks. Experience from around the world shows that managing fisheries and marine resources work best when responsibility is placed within the hands of local communities. This is particularly true in low-income countries; where there is often limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation.

This strategy is practiced by Fijian communities, where fishing grounds or igoligolis are created, the management decisions of which are made by the chiefs. For example, the son of a high chief from Ucunivanua faced problems such as the loss of the kaikoso (clam), a staple food and main source of income. He developed a management strategy creating tabus, which are no take zones, and implemented a community monitoring system. Monitoring data indicated that management measures resulted in the rather quick recovery of kaikoso and associated increases in harvests and income. This strategy appears to be no different from the one practiced by the government where legislation is enforced to ban fishing in a certain area. This case is similar to a tenant versus owner occupancy. The house would undoubtedly be better maintained when occupied by an owner rather than a tenant. Similarly, in conservation, the landowner would cherish his lands to improve its productivity because overfishing or constant exploitation of the resource would result in it being extirpated.

flickr | Nick HobgoodAlthough this strategy appears to be favourable, it also has drawbacks. For instance, the police cannot apprehend suspected offenders at sea whilst fish wardens can only apprehend from high tide mark seawards and must hand over custody of the offenders to the police once ashore.

Reflecting upon the current conservation strategies, it is apparent that there is a need for improvement, which requires the collaboration of governments, NGOs, scientists and indigenous people. Indigenous people have to be educated and involved in the conservation strategy while, governments, NGOs and scientific knowledge are required to establish conservation efforts and to enforce legislation and policies. Only when this coalition is created will we be able to reach an effective conservation of our wildlife.

By Varvara Vladimirova Research And Development ntern

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