Today in our final chapter on the increased militarisation of anti-poaching, we look at possible solutions.
The issue, according to Annette Hubschle, is that wildlife conservation continues to benefit economic elites: “Local communities remain mostly excluded from real benefits. They lose their land, access to natural resources and cultural sites. They have limited agency, management and ownership. Often the only benefits derive from the poaching profits that trickle down to grassroots level.”
Mark Butcher, CEO of Imvelo Wildlife Lodges, was a Hwange park ranger in the 1980s. “I spent years arresting poachers. There were whole villages with their menfolk in jail, but it made no difference. Since we built our lodge on communal land adjoining Hwange, poaching in the south-east of the park has stopped. We employ up to three generations in a family, build schools and teachers’ homes, provide water and dental services, and there is a turnaround. Elephants still trample crops, but they also provide jobs and send children to school. And if outsiders enter the area to poach, these communities inform us. It is now their asset to safeguard.“
Clive Stockil in Zimbabwe has dedicated 40 years to engaging with local communities, turning conflict to cooperation between the Mahenye community and Gonarezhou National Park, pioneering the CAMPFIRE program and creating one of Africa’s largest private conservancies in the Savé Valley, home to most of Zimbabwe’s rhinos. It took years to build trust with local people, he says, but once trust is won, the benefits are enduring. “Local people are part of the system,” he says. “Without their support, conservation will fail.”
Other successful models are raising their heads. Wildlands in South Africa and the Northern Rangeland Trust in Kenya champion conservation on community land, community conservancies in Namibia are proving to be sustainable and Transfrontier Parks Destinations is showing how community-owned lodges can be successful. Such models that genuinely involve communities in seeking solutions are the most sustainable way forward - but they need a giant leap of faith and a diversion of funds away from wildlife wars that cannot be won.
Wildlands directs part of its funding to community-based green solutions to improve the lives of poor communities through food security, subsistence farming, small business development, and so on. Source: Wildlands Wild Trust.