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Community-Based Conservation Efforts to Protect Wildlife

World Rhino Day, September 22, draws international attention to the continuing senseless slaughter of these amazing animals to meet the illegal demand for rhino horn.  That demand is fueled by the myth that rhino horn contains magical healing properties. In Africa– where the black rhinoceros population has been reduced from 70,000 in 1970 to about 3,000 today–protests, parades, and public awareness campaigns will be held to debunk this myth and seek an end to illegal poaching of rhinos.

For conservation efforts to succeed, the support of local communities that share land with endangered animals is critical. Two Aid for Africa members know the value of community-based wildlife conservation firsthand. In Kenya,  Lewa Wildlife Conservancy protects rhinos and other threatened animals by working with several surrounding communities to reduce poaching through education and efforts to alleviate poverty.  Lewa provides medical assistance, women’s micro-credit financing, and water management projects in these communities, where the average income is less than $1 a day. By helping lift communities out of poverty, Lewa builds trust and changes attitudes about wildlife preservation. This approach has led to the creation of more than a million and a half acres of conservation area that is managed primarily by communities and provides jobs to more than 1,000 Kenyans. As a result, the black rhino population in Kenya has more than doubled from 300 in the early 1980s to more than 600 today.

Cheetah Conservation Botswana outreach teams investigate incidents of conflict between cheetahs and their human neighbors.

Wildlife Conservation Network follows a similar model by supporting independent “conservationist entrepreneurs” who work actively with local communities to protect endangered wildlife. Cheetah Conservation Botswana, for example, teaches predator-proof farming techniques to farmers through local workshops, live theater, and video to ensure that farmers can protect their livestock herds without killing the cheetahs that threaten them. They also offer educational programs that change negative perceptions of cheetahs and explain the roles of predators in healthy ecosystems. When livestock are killed, community outreach teams analyze which livestock management techniques were in place and develop better solutions.  These are then shared with others through farmer associations and village networks.

As conservationists continue to build partnerships with local communities, a more sustainable approach to wildlife protection is emerging that benefits both people and wildlife. To learn more about all of our members working to protect wildlife in Sub Saharan Africa visit, Member charities that work in wildlife and habitat preservation.