Conservationists challenge private sector to support wildlife efforts

Chimpanzee tracking is one of the tourist activities in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  PHOTO | NET

What you need to know:

  • Experts say few private businesses are willing to support conservation efforts. But they support soccer clubs, dinners, marathons, where they are seen rather than educate young people, who if not inspired to care for wildlife, are potential wildlife criminals.

Every March 3, wildlife is celebrated all over the world as United Nations World Wildlife Day. Among other things, the day acknowledges the significant contribution made by various stakeholders to sustain wildlife and biodiversity conservation and how this contribution has been enhanced by partnerships.

Under the theme partnerships for wildlife conservation, conservationists say there is an urgent need to build synergies both local and at international level, aimed at conserving wildlife.

Ivan Kakooza, the director of Fravan Safaris Limited, says collaborative partnerships from the public and private sector will inform policies, appropriate laws and regulations to govern the user rights of the wildlife resources.

 “If we harness and protect wildlife, we will make a significant contribution to the economy,” says Sam Mwandha, the executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The authority currently manages and protects wildlife in 10 national parks and game reserves.

Isaac Mujaasi, a conservation education specialist at WorldAid Africa says Uganda needs partnerships that take care of wildlife, people and environment.

“We tend to focus so much on wildlife and forget that unless people appreciate and buy into the conservation agendas, not much will achieved. Partnership should help to bridge and address the human wildlife challenges of our time,” he explains.

Partnerships which add value

Presently, human populations are increasingly competing with wildlife and exerting pressure on natural resources. Mujaasi argues that any conservation programme needs to cater for the needs of people as well as those of wildlife.

Conservationists believe that partnerships which add value, complement existing conservation initiatives rather than duplication of the already little resources for conservation are much needed.

According to Dr Joshua Rukundo, the executive director of Chimpanzee Trust which runs Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, says some of the potential partnerships that can promote the conservation of wildlife, promote policies and initiatives and protect wildlife and their habitats, include government agencies, national and local government agencies.

Non-profit organisations such as wildlife trusts, conservation societies, and animal welfare groups can work with government agencies and private sector partners to promote conservation initiatives, provide education and outreach to the public.

Rukundo explains, “Local communities can be important partners in conservation efforts by providing support and expertise to conservation organisations and government agencies.”

He says researchers and scientists can provide valuable insights and data on the behaviour, population dynamics, and habitat requirements of wildlife, which can inform conservation policies and initiatives.

International organisations, Rukundo adds, can provide funding and expertise to support global conservation efforts, promote cooperation between countries to protect wildlife and their habitats.

But effective conservation partnerships require collaboration, trust, and a shared commitment to protecting wildlife and their habitats.

Mujaasi observes that locally, there is big gap in partnership as far as conveying common messages on issues of global and local relevance, related to sustainable wildlife management is concerned.

Quick and easy solutions

 He is concerned that most organisations tend to focus on quick and easy solutions to gain media attention or donor engagement.

He, however, notes that Uganda has made significant strides in bringing on board partnerships to support government-led efforts to combat poaching, manage protected areas, promote community based conservation, species monitoring or scientific management of wildlife resources in both captive and non-captive environments.

“How many organisations want to put resources towards education and awareness of young people? Not many. Even where this has been done, these partnerships are short term,” Mujaasi observes. 

Unlike short term interventions that promote wildlife, Mujaasi believes education and behaviour change are the game-changer. “The quick fix of partnerships we see, fights wildlife crime and pays little attention to teaching and inspiring behaviouur change among the young people,” he says.

Mujaasi says conservation is and should not be a competition on who is doing what and where, but instead forge mutual and respectful partnerships to enable different stakeholders to share best practices, considering that the common goal for conservation of resources is long term- conserving for generations.

In regard to partnerships to support conservation efforts, Uganda has developed policies and strengthened institutions and the legal framework. Dr Rukundo says more efforts are needed to implement policies, such as the Wildlife Act 2019.

Unique programmes

Mujaasi believes designing programmes to entice the private sector in the non-profitable areas will have a significant bearing on the long term survival for wildlife. A good example in the Ugandan context is how small the costs for supporting local school groups to the parks may be.

Very few private businesses are willing to support such initiatives. But they will instead support a soccer club, a dinner, a marathon, where they are seen rather than the young people, who if not inspired at a young age to appreciate and care for wildlife, are potential wildlife criminals.

Dancan Kiiza, the managing director of Signature Africa Safaris, observes that one of the major partners in conservation are the communities that neighbour parks and reserves, because they are fundamental in the surveillance of any threat on wildlife.

“International conservation organisations such as Africa Wildlife Foundation and World Wildlife Fund offer expertise and resources that ease conservation efforts. We should attract more of these. In future, we may consider running the reserves privately, in order to commercialise them for sustainability,” Kiiza explains.

Kakooza observes that some strides include gazetting of Wildlife Protected Areas, establishing UWA to manage them on behalf of the citizens. He says punitive measures in place now, if caught poaching or dealing in wildlife products illegally, will help to reduce on the vice. He adds that assistance from AWF with tracking dogs at the airport in Entebbe will also help to curb illegal wildlife trade.