Species Conservation An Endangered Environmental Priority
“...when the last individual of a race of living things
breathes no more, another Heaven and another Earth must
pass before such a one can be again.”
Due to a lack of funds being made available for species conservation efforts, and ultimately, a potential wave of extinctions a decline in the competitive marketplace of sustainability and conservation has been noticed. Thus, it is not just individual species that are endangered, but species conservation as a whole.
The world is facing challenges in the species conservation as a discipline, and species conservationists as a community of committed individuals and organizations. It considers the potential impact for species and the environment as a result of both of these trends. A new fund that places species conservation at the forefront of the environmental debate was announced on the sidelines of the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Barcelona in October 2008 The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a 25 million euro endowment fund established by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who hopes to make a genuine contribution to species conservation worldwide when the Fund’s operations commence in January 2009. Speaking at the WCC, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Emirates Wildlife Society, made the announcement by saying; “It is not just species, but species conservation as a whole, that is endangered. And by that, I don’t mean the threats facing individual species and habitats, but the predicament facing species conservation as a discipline, and its declining status as an environmental priority.“ Too often, species conservation is expected to benefit from the trickle down effect of our efforts to address the world’s ‘bigger picture’ environmental issues, and is not being addressed in its own right.
“Challenges to the cause are well documented and include the lack of funds, basic support for people on the front line and the focus of environmental debates moving towards climate change.”
The Fund will provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate. Its focus will be global and eligibility for grants will extend to all plant and animal species conservation efforts, without discrimination on the basis of region or selected species. It also aims to reduce the unwieldy processes usually associated with the award of donations, especially for smaller projects where a huge amount of administration can negate the benefits of a contribution.
Decline of Species Conservation
Until the 1970s conservation was dominated by an agenda of species and habitat preservation. However during the 1980s environmental conservation changed focus and started exploring the interrelationship between development and conservation. Several organizations moved away from the image of species conservation at that time to reflect a wider view of the conservation debate. During the 1980’s the context of sustainable development matured (World Conservation Strategy 1980) and Caring for the Earth (IUCN, UNEP and WWF, 1991), culminating in 1992 with the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Summit). At that time the conservation movement ceased to be the exclusive domain of scientists, naturalists, hunters and animal lovers and started to involve development specialists, economists, social science specialists and businesses. With the Millenium Development Goals (UNDP, 2000), poverty alleviation and sustainable development dominated debate in civil society and many large government aid agencies geared their funding to these priorities.
All of these changes in policy rightly recognized the imperative for poverty alleviation and sustainable development, and their undeniable connection with environmental outcomes.
However, an unintended consequence of this rapid evolution in priorities has been the dramatic decline of species conservation in the dialogue of global sustainability. This shift was also happening within many large conservation NGOs resulting in a change from tackling the direct threats to biodiversity to addressing the underlying mechanisms responsible for those threats (trade, globalization, subsidies).
More recently the meager funds available globally for environmental protection are even further stressed with the realization of climate change as the major environmental threat f our time. As a result, a large proportion of the limited funds recently made available for species conservation have been diverted from critical, hands-on initiatives in the field, to the equally important priorities of policy work and lobbying. Species conservation has effectively become a peripheral preoccupation, based on a hope that addressing the seemingly bigger environmental issues, or crises, will have a beneficial effect on species-status in the long-term. As a result the dedicated, detailed field based focus that is needed to conserve a species is increasingly being viewed as archaic and irrelevant. Often such work is seen as at best a luxury or at worst a distraction from “bigger” issues. This trend is a serious cause for concern, and its impact on individual conservation workers, and individual species conservation projects, can be witnessed in many corners of the globe. For example, budgets for field stations and protected area research facilities have declined dramatically. In many parts of the tropical world the forest guards and wardens, who often have an intimate understanding of the species in their custody, are chronically under funded and very poorly resourced. The provision of basic field equipment would dramatically improve their contribution to conservation, but alas, the support required to provide this basic equipment ceases to exist.
A worrying trend has started to emerge where somecritically threatened species are being dismissed as beyond help and condemned to premature extinction. However, this undervalues the impact of focused management for such species. For example, work with endangered birds and plants in Mauritius and elsewhere shows that such members of the “living dead” can be recovered and reinstated as functioning members of their local biota. Without the determination by a few individuals, we would have lost the round island bottle palm, echo parakeet, Californian condor, Mountain gorilla and Arabian oryx. There is no telling how many other species could be brought back from the precipice of extinction with some relatively small, but targeted, contributions to species conservation efforts across the world.
However, time is of the essence, for both the species whose existence is endangered, and the conservationists who are committed to their protection. If we were to lose the passion and dedication of the species conservation community, we would be deprived of one of the world’s most potent and agile weapons against extinction: the energy and applied knowledge of the experts in our field. The results would quickly become evident, in a sad and massive wave of extinctions. Species Conservation: An Endangered Environmental Priority
Based on the threats to species conservation, and species conservationists as a community outlined above, there is an urgent need to refocus conservation priorities on the species. There are a number of compelling reasons to do this. Perhaps the most important is the urgent need to secure and salvage species before they are lost for ever. Secondly, we have the opportunity to reinstate the excitement of discovery. There are still biological frontiers where new species are being discovered (for example the primates in Brazil, bovids in SE Asia, palms and lemurs in Madagascar, amphibians in the Caribbean, coral reef communities off Australia) and areas yet to be explored. We need to reinstate the attraction of species work to the next generation of conservationists, and reignite the “romance” of conservation.
Key to rebuilding species conservation is the need to maintain a close partnership between the professional conservation community and the amateur. In many parts of the world the amateur conservationist is a key player and a vital lobbying force for conservation. As such, we propose a series of key actions to secure a future for species conservation:
• Facilitate the work of those dedicated species conservationists who are at the frontlines of efforts to prevent species extinctions
• Support of the work of organizations dedicated to species conservation
• Firmly establish species conservation as a fundamental component of protected area and landscape management species conservation has frequently acted as a catalyst for habitat and ecosystem conservation initiatives, for example the Golden Lion Tamarin in Brazil and the Arabian Oryx in Arabia
• Establish and quantify the value of species as a substrate for sustainable development and poverty alleviation-the management and harvesting of species will continue to be a vital resource for millions of rural communities
• Train and develop the next generation of species conservationists within government agencies, NGO’s and academia
• Increase the status of species conservation work in key institutions around the world through support for such activities in research institutions
• Establish higher levels of public concern and political commitment for species conservation-after all species feed us, provide medicine, timber and textiles, our daily lives are supported by species both wild and domesticated
• Promote species conservation through the media and production of education and awareness materials.
Underpinning all of these individual initiatives, there is an urgent need to re-stimulate a broad discussion on the subject of species conservation and biodiversity, and to better integrate individual environmental initiatives addressing individual issues such as species conservation, climate change, habitat destruction and unsustainable development.
Ultimately, the conservation community must end the era of promoting one environmental cause at the expense of another, because if one of these causes (or any of the others competing for attention) fails, all of them are far less likely to succeed.
Just like the species of a complex ecosystem, our individual conservation efforts are more interdependent than we tend to recognize, and we will all only be as strong as our weakest links. Species Conservation: An Endangered Environmental Priority
The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Recognizing the crisis facing species conservation, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is establishing a dedicated fund for the provision of support to individual and coordinated species conservation initiatives. To retain the species and habitats we treasure, and indeed need, the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund will seek to support the on-the-ground champions of species conservation; the individuals in the villages, field stations, laboratories and homes, that are dedicated to conserving their local (and the world’s global) threatened species. The fund will help their work through focused financial support and will nurture the next generation of species conservationists by making the best conservation practices available to them using innovative methods of communication.
Through additional events and activities, the fund will also seek to recognize individual leaders in the field of species conservation whose passion and commitment often goes unnoticed, and in doing so, to inspire others with an interest in the field of conservation.
It is proposed that the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund will be established with an initial endowment of 25,000,000 (Twenty Five Million Euros), and will commence operation in January 2009.
It is expected that the fund’s focus will be global, and eligibility for grants will extend to all plant and animal species conservation efforts, without discrimination on the basis of region or selected species. The fund will truly be open to conservationists around the world, with an interest in an infinite number of species, subject to the evaluation of an independent selection committee.
The final details of how the fund will be governed, how the grant application process will be carried out, and the potential evaluation criteria for successful applications, are all still being developed in consultation with species conservation experts from across the world. The fund is committed to complete transparency in all of its operations, and will make all relevant policies and guidelines available to the public at the time of its commencement of operations.
An Endangered Environmental Priority
Information provided by
Mohammed bin Zayed
Species Conservation Fund
available at www.mbzspeciesconservation.org
Author: William Beebe
WE Mag Issue: n.2, pg 116-119
Category: Bio diversity