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Embracing Local Community Needs is Key to Conserving Africa’s Wildlife

Today, in his column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about the demise of the African wild dog, also known as the painted dog.  Once numbering in the hundreds of wilddogthousands throughout Africa, the painted dog is about to disappear—only a few thousand remain in four countries.  The Painted Dog Conservation Center in Zimbabwe is trying to change this by caring for injured and orphaned dogs, and by working with the local villagers, who are seen as the key to saving the species.  The center’s programs include community development projects for local villages and education on the benefits of wildlife to local populations.

This model is the not new, but it is the future. Aid for Africa members and others have been linking local African communities to wildlife preservation for years.  In East Africa, Friends of Conservation—Friends of the Masai Mara supports conservation clubs that educate youth in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and supports income-generating community development projects.  Similar work is underway in Zambia through the African Conservancy.  In Tanzania, the African Rainforest Conservancy has been empowering villagers to protect rare forests that are home to a range of wildlife, including more than 100 vertebrate species that are found no where else on earth. Like the others, what is their approach? Conservation through inclusion of those who most affect and benefit from African wildlife—the local communities.