There is a delicate balance between the lives of people and the lives of animals. As a society, we often forget that we are part of nature ourselves. Our choices, our lives, and our beliefs are important factors in this world we all call home. While many of us in the United States may be removed from the reality that we share this world with other living creatures, it cannot be ignored by the many communities that live near and within the same environments of endangered animals. The issues of climate change, deforestation, and even poaching are not just felt by animals but by people as well. Many of the threats that have put thousands of animals on the brink of extinction also threaten the lives of many people throughout the African nations, Latin America, and across the world.
Being an advocate for wildlife goes hand in hand with being an advocate for people, for believing that social justice is an important factor in saving communities of all beings around the world. Ecocentrism allows us to view the world as we should. A planet where people are part of the larger natural and animal world. Injustices that affect people and animals are not so different after all. The oppression and injustices felt by one group has ripple effects to many others, human and animal alike. Environmental injustices, such as a company dumping pollution into the ocean does not only kill a variety of biodiverse marine life but deprives the low-income communities that may rely on these species for economic well-being and survival.
Often these are environmental injustices that have been created by large industrialized and corporate countries, such as the United States, through the impacts of climate change. And yet the people that have been disparaged are the ones that are picking up the broken pieces of our society to save these endangered animals. They are the communities that have been empowered to save their environment and the animals that call it home. It is the power they have found within themselves that will save these animals and make sure they have a future in this world. Within the last few decades a variety of animals have become extinct or critically endangered. Community-based and locally led projects to address these injustices of both animals and people have sprouted up across the world. From the endangered Cotton-Top Tamarin to the Ploughshare Tortoise, it is thanks to these amazing community-based organizations that these animals are still with us.
It is here, within these local villages and towns, that we can find our first line of defense against poaching, deforestation, the bushmeat trade, and the exotic pet industry. Local programs that are involved with larger organizations rely heavily on good communication between non native conservation organizations and the communities that live near these endangered species. With effective and caring support native peoples and non-native peoples can work together to educate one another for the betterment of wildlife. These programs have often led to the empowerment of these people, women and girls included, through educational, economic, and environmental vitality.
Conservancies in Namibia
Namibia, a country with large slopes of golden sand, bordering the deep blue Atlantic, is one such nation that is taking a locally based conservation approach. Several endangered animals call this majestic place home: the elusive black rhino, the nearly extinct white rhino, and the great African elephant to name a few. All of which have been hunted for sport, medicinal properties, and as part of the bushmeat trade. It is here that we can find some of the most successful and important locally led conservation projections: communal conservancies. The World Wildlife Foundation notes that since 1998 there have been 86 communal conservancies created in Namibia, covering nearly 20% of the country and involving more than 200,000 Namibians within these programs (WWF). In a nation where nearly 50% of species are of concern to conservation efforts, this is an amazing accomplishment and their efforts have nearly tripled the elephant population and brought back the black rhino from near extinction. They have done this through anti-poaching ranger teams, veterinary care, national park land allocation, ecotourism and educational forums regarding the status and importance of endangered animals. This is just one example of how a community-based approach to conservation can not only succeed but thrive.
Community Based Ecotourism
Conservancies are crucial to the improvement of conservation efforts that highlight the important relationship between local people and endangered species. These efforts have been important to a variety of environmental protections funded through ecotourism. Ecotourism is a large part of the Namibian economy, allowing for people to advance their living conditions while balancing wildlife needs with the needs of humans. Community-based ecotourism is of utmost importance to endangered species and the people who live in these areas, providing the lifeline of currency that is needed for veterinary care, conservation programs, and empowering educational programs for communities.
Valuable and responsible ecotourism does the following:
- Minimal impact to animals and the environment. A great perk of locally based ecotourism allows people to view these animals and appreciate them while providing financial needs that are used for the upkeep of conservatories. When you pay a responsible organization to take you to see a rhino or an elephant you are providing valuable funding to animals and people in these areas. The best part is that animals and the environment are minimally impacted by these activities if done correctly!
- People from around the world come to appreciate the importance of animal conservation while empathizing with another’s culture and native land.
- Non-native people will come to understand the political, social, economic, and environmental impacts that native people have faced and been disenfranchised with through climate change, deforestation, poaching, and other environmentally harmful activities. They will broaden their understanding of these issues, build respect for other cultures, and learn how they can respectfully help.
Local Anti-Poaching Units
Local anti-poaching units are paramount to the success of conservation efforts, empowering many to protect the animals that share their environment. The Akashinga, is one such group. Also called the Black Mambas, the Akashinga, are an all women’s anti-poaching unit in South Africa. These brave women go through rigorous training to dedicate their lives to the protection of endangered rhinos and elephants in their country. Such a powerful group inspires the next generation in both gender equality and conservationism.
Local governments have also been creating incentives for the creation of local conservation groups. In Nepal, where large mountain peaks reach high into the hazy sky, the government has encouraged anti-poaching measures through CBAPO (Community Based Anti-Poaching Operation) with success. This program in particular has ignited a passion for anti-poaching in the youth of Nepal where they have improved anti-poaching incentives, spread education about anti-poaching awareness, and been able to construct sustainability in line with Nepalese tradition. These are not just educational efforts, but physical efforts of people to risk their own lives by patrolling habitats of endangered rhinos, tigers, and other animals. On these patrols they look for poaching traps and stop poaching groups (People Not Poaching). As we can see these organizations are powerful, and while there are often many financial struggles that these communities face, awareness and support from others can be extremely important to both the animals and the people of these countries.
Case Study: The Cotton Top Tamarin
The adorable Cotton Top Tamarin, once on the brink of extinction, is one animal that has been saved by local efforts. This little fella weighs in at about 1 pound, with a lifespan of up to 24 years. Unfortunately, they often do not see this full length of life for a variety of reasons. Their population, native to Columbia, has been unduly hurt through the years through habitat destruction, poaching, and biomedical testing. The largest impact on these animals is habitat destruction for palm oil and other crops. There are only about 6,000 left in the wild and it is thanks to an amazing project, Proyecto Titi that these animals are around to be appreciated by the next generation.
Proyecto Titi is a conservation group dedicated to community sustainability and locally led programs to protect the Cotton Top while positively influencing the local economy. They combine field research, education, and economic incentives for people to ensure the survivability of the Cotton Top Tamarin (Proyecto Titi). It is with the help of these people that education about the threats to the Cotton Top has spread. Native peoples have become aware of habitat destruction and found alternative, sustainable ways to use their traditional means of living. For example, Proyecto Titi has funded reusable bag creation by locals while also teaching new ways of heating and cooking homes that does not involve deforestation of the Cotton Top’s habitat. Just think about that! How many of us are willing to completely change the ways we live? The ways that we cook our food and heat our homes? Their efforts and sacrifices have been paramount to this program’s success. Read more about Proyecto Titi!
SAFE Worldwide Community Programs
Without the help, dedication, and passion that local communities have for saving endangered wildlife there would be minimal success in saving endangered animals. It is with communal involvement, empowerment, and education that we can see a greater future for the populations of species and people that are affected by poaching, climate change, and environmental destruction. SAFE Worldwide is dedicated to saving endangered animals and we could not do it without the wonderful help of our local community-based partners. In 2019, along with MUSAA and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, we were able to have a constructive week of educational programs and environmental action with people in Uganda and Rwanda. We were able to hold educational programs on anti-poaching and anti-bushmeat, along with planting trees and appreciating the culture and beauty of these communities. It is with this knowledge that these communities will be able to teach and empower one another to save the endangered populations that live near them, while improving their economic well-being through conservation efforts.
Recently, coronavirus has damaged many conservation efforts to protect wildlife in Uganda, Rwanda, and many other nations. With government shutdowns and the pandemic’s threat to human life, the programs that often educate and protect these animals against poachers have not been able to function properly. Furthermore, the decline in ecotourism has caused financial deficits in local economies and their conservation programs. Conservancies that thousands of animals and people rely on for their livelihoods and survival. With this in mind, SAFE Worldwide has launched our Save Wildlife While Saving a Life campaign to provide financial needs and awareness for these people and the animals they are dedicated to protecting. 100% of donations go directly to our programs that support wildlife vet clinics, rehabilitation programs, and local conservation efforts throughout Africa. With each donation of $25 our team is saying thank you by sending you a handmade mask from our Uganda-based sewing team. This team has worked hard to support conservation efforts near their homes. To learn more about this campaign: Click here! SAFE Worldwide’s mission is about the conservation of endangered animals and spreading awareness and education about these animals, but we cannot do this without the help of local communities and people like you.
What Can You Do to Help?
- Research, donate, and share! There are thousands of more community-based programs that are working tirelessly to save endangered species. If you cannot donate financially, share it with your friends and ask your friends to share as well. Check out these programs:
- Responsible Ecotourism: Ecotourism is very important to the financial stability of both animals and people in many regions across the world. Like many of us, you may have a wish to see an African elephant or a silverback mountain gorilla in the wild. Make sure that you are using responsible organizations that understand minimal impact is of key importance to ecotourism. You will also provide financial support for these communities while expanding your understanding and appreciation of the world.
- Looking in your backyard: Perhaps you do not live in an area where you are aware of endangered species near you but they are there. Do local research on plants, insects, birds, and animals in your region that are suffering because of development or climate change. Learn about ways you can create a backyard that is friendly to these animals or by supporting a local organization!
- Ethically Shopping: Did you know that many of the products you are buying may, unknowing to you, support the destruction of habitats for endangered species. Palm oil agriculture, for example, has contributed to the extinction of many animals while putting thousands more on the critically endangered list. Try an app like GoodGuide to know the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the products you are buying!
It takes all of us in creating a better future for animals and people alike!
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