Quantcast
Animals
Toque macaques in Sri Lanka. Milos Kravcik / Flickr

It’s Time for a More Realistic Approach to Conservation

By Rajesh Rajaselvam

The tropics are home to the greatest diversity of plants and animals on Earth. Yet many of these hotspots are in war zones that disregard the rules of democracy and nurture an indefinite influence of corruption.

During the 10 years I've worked in tropical countries, I have seen the human toll on biodiversity both exaggerated and underplayed by scientists and media. Rare road kills of leopards in Sri Lanka have been mistakenly exaggerated as "organized poaching," and the systematic smuggling of reptiles in South America and Africa has been distorted as "random attempts."


Preserving biodiversity in these areas is a real challenge for scientists and conservationists. They collect reliable data, create robust models and project the fate of biodiversity hot spots, but without real access to these locations, practical conservation strategies remain out of reach.

Only an effective network of scientists, local governments and people, conservation groups and honest media can create a clear picture of this biodiversity crisis and work towards a solution.

Can humans and nature coexist?

Instead of spending enormous amounts of money on "absurd research" and conservation-irrelevant work, let's put the dollars towards supporting those living in these bio-diverse hotspots. This would allow them to improve their living conditions and to serve as guardians who keep a watchful eye on poachers.

Already some local governments rely on their villagers to stop wildlife crimes. For example, Tibetan villagers assigned to protect local wildlife have captured poachers.

But elsewhere, local people are being evicted in the name of wildlife conservation. More than 200,000 people are to be relocated so that Kaziranga National Park in India can expand its boundaries to give its tigers and endangered Indian rhinos more space. The government says this will help forest rangers deal with poachers and keep innocent villagers from being caught up in the conflict.

But hard-line approaches like this should be directed towards the poachers—not forest dwellers. For the most part, those who live in wild areas harvest only the resources they require. They look after the forest.

This coexistence between people and land is necessary to conserve nature. Governments shouldn't oust people to conserve nature, but involve them in ecotourism, the conservation decision-making process and proposed management strategies.

Rural Hindus and Buddhists in South Asia consider monkeys sacred and protect them. If not, even the hardy species like macaques and Asian elephants might go extinct.

Sincere effort is vital.

The political leaders and governments of tropical nations should be encouraged to keep their international reputations by respecting conservation obligations. This can be guaranteed if developed countries provide adequate and performance-based financing. When forest-dwellers can support themselves, they'll be more willing to help conserve the forests.

Nature's ecosystem services, such as water purification, pest control and storm buffering, must be more greatly valued than the cash crops that destroy forests and other habitats.

Paying farmers and land owners for managing their lands to provide ecosystem services definitely pays off. When local communities have confidence in practical strategies, such as incentives for conserving and restoring forest habitats, then corruption can be minimized and eventually eliminated.

When coupled with regulations, market-based strategies can also help local residents conserve nature.

In Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar, land-owners are tempted to clear land to plant oil palm to meet the high demand for palm oil. Some have suggested that high-yielding varieties might remove the pressure, but others argue that, in the absence of regulation, it will only become more attractive to farmers.

This coupling has worked elsewhere. For example, the moratorium signed between the local soybean exporting companies in Brazil and the foreign supermarket chains in 2006 significantly reduced clearing forest lands.

Spread the word.

Finally, governments, environmental NGOs and research institutes should introduce outreach activities that teach children about conservation.

The principles of biodiversity conservation should be made compulsory in all schools, especially in the countries where it's a serious concern. This will positively impact students to form strong commitments towards conservation, thus creating a positive atmosphere to nature.

Conservation cannot exist only on paper—it must be translated into practical tasks that can be embraced by those most affected by its future.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Food
Pixabay

What All Parents Need to Know About Pesticides in Produce

By Robert Coleman

Every spring the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases our Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide can be used by anyone trying to avoid pesticides, but it's especially important for parents to limit their children's exposures to these toxic chemicals.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Vegan Coffee Creamers for the Perfect Morning Cup

When it comes to coffee and tea creamers, you may have to try a few before you find the perfect one for you. Some are creamier, some are sweeter, but there's something that all the best ones have in common: They don't harm cows by using their milk. Even if creamers tout a "dairy-free" label, you may find milk derivatives such as casein in the ingredients. Thankfully, there are so many delicious vegan creamers to choose from, and they're widely available in most grocery stores.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Alessio Viora / Marine Photobank

A Single Discarded Fishing Net Can Keep Killing for Centuries

By Jason Bittel

Divers off the coast of the Cayman Islands last month came face to face with a ghoulish sight: a gigantic mass of abandoned fishing gear and its catch. The monstrous net, as wide and deep as the Hollywood sign is tall, drifted just below the water's surface with tendrils that teemed with hundreds of dead and dying fish and sharks.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Pxhere

17 Organizations Feeding and Healing the World Through Regenerative Agriculture

By Eva Perroni

Transitioning to more sustainable forms of agriculture remains critical, as many current agriculture practices have serious consequences including deforestation and soil degradation. But despite agriculture's enormous potential to hurt the environment, it also has enormous potential to heal it. Realizing this, many organizations are promoting regenerative agriculture as a way to not just grow food but to progressively improve ecosystems.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
A pair of Genusee glasses and a Flint-sewn polish bag. Genusee

Michigan Native Develops Visionary Solution for Flint’s Plastic Bottle Problem

When Detroit-area native Ali Rose VanOverBeke came back home in 2016 to volunteer with the Red Cross at the height of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, she probably didn't expect to get a business idea with the potential to change both her and Flint's future.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
TAFE SA TONSLEY/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Scientists Hit Back: Another Paper Claims 100% Renewables is Possible and Affordable

Is it possible for the world to run on 100 percent renewable energy? It's a noble goal, as the best science tells us we must significantly slash fossil fuel consumption or else the planet faces dangerous climate change.

A number of academics believe it's not only feasible to wean off coal, natural gas and other polluting fuels by transitioning to renewable sources such as solar and wind power, it's even cost-effective.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
White-banded swallows in Yasuni National Park, which has largely escaped human pressures. Geoff Gallice from Gainesville / CC BY 2.0

One-Third of Protected Areas 'Highly Degraded' By Humans, Study Finds

A study published in Science Friday presents what authors call a sobering "reality check" on global efforts to protect biodiversity—one third of all conservation areas set aside as wildlife sanctuaries or national parks are "highly degraded" by human activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!