Year : 2021 | Volume
: 19 | Issue : 3 | Page : 197--198
A Path Towards the Future of Wildlife Conservation
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, New Delhi, India
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, New Delhi
|How to cite this article:|
Karnad D. A Path Towards the Future of Wildlife Conservation.Conservat Soc 2021;19:197-198
|How to cite this URL:|
Karnad D. A Path Towards the Future of Wildlife Conservation. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 7 ];19:197-198
Available from: https://www.conservationandsociety.org.in//text.asp?2021/19/3/197/320542
Along with climate change, wildlife conservation is one of the most pressing global issues of the 21st century. As landscapes are changing due, and in order, to suit human-use, wild flora and fauna are being squeezed out of existence. For such a conglomerate of problems in the current era, Leaving Space for Nature by Nigel Dudley and Sue Stolton is a fantastic response. Wildlife conservation in this century cannot afford to remain within disciplinary boxes, nor can it approach solutions simplistically. This book provides a nuanced, pragmatic perspective on how to conserve flora and fauna in urban and rural landscapes, as well as in areas set aside for wildlife conservation. In doing so, this book addresses key debates in the field of wildlife conservation such as inclusive versus fortress-based models of conservation, while bringing together narratives of other global issues, such as climate change and ecosystem services. In the year 2020, when the whole world has begun to visualise how multiple inter-related problems are beginning to manifest, from disease to extreme weather and species declines, the fact that this book sets wildlife conservation within the context of our surpassing planetary boundaries is very timely.
Despite clear linkages between human actions and the depletion of species, the practices of wildlife conservation are controversial. For instance, funds for conservation are unequally distributed and impacts vary based on species and its geographical location. Some animals that are perceived as “majestic” or “cute”, such as the tiger or the lion, receive the majority of attention and funds, while other ecologically important species, such as certain species of trees or corals, receive very little of both. More importantly, wildlife conservation has a differential impact on people. Forest dwelling people across the globe have borne the brunt of the philosophy of “pristine wilderness”, the concept that has resulted in separation and elimination of humans from a landscape. Even as indigenous people are removed from national parks and sanctuaries because of the supposed threat that they pose, those who can afford are welcomed in to boost the tourism economy. The perceived unfairness of these approaches to wildlife conservation has marred the efficacy of conservation measures in several places. By acknowledging the negative consequences of such approaches, these authors demonstrate that the field of wildlife conservation has matured enough to address these socio-economic critiques. Paige West1, among others, has devoted entire volumes to describing the hypocrisy and the unintended consequences arising from substituting a subsistence economy with a tourism-based economy. The authors of this book tackle these issues head-on by suggesting that local subsistence could co-exist with other types of conservation approaches. The western approach to conservation has typically been to find a one-stop solution and then replicate it everywhere. They suggest that wildlife conservation needs to take a new direction, which is described below. In a welcome departure from previous textbooks on this subject, this book is inclusive of diversity, not only socially, but also in terms of approaches to conservation in that they suggest applying diverse conservation philosophies together that could lead to better socio-ecological outcomes. For instance, they suggest that conservation can be achieved outside traditional spaces designated for wildlife, such as through appropriate urban planning. Cities with wildlife corridors will allow biodiversity to pass through the landscape and maintain its ecological and genetic connections. This book recognises that to really achieve conservation one needs to implement a diversity of solutions, which the authors categorise under the broad heading of “area-based conservation”. They define area-based conservation as a planned approach of including multiple conservation approaches, from protected space to community-used areas across all types of habitats, from forests to cities. This deviates from historical thought that wildlife ought to exist only in areas that are not used by humans and vice-versa. In some ways, this resembles the view that many indigenous, non-western communities take about the spaces that they live in, where certain types of changes are accepted, alongside tolerance for flora and fauna who also use those spaces. Yet, the way these authors suggest implementing such a form of conservation is steeped in Western thought, in the form of centralised planning, rather than grassroots developments that stem from philosophical changes towards acceptance of being a part of nature.
Another important issue that has bogged down the field of wildlife conservation is its inability to account for change as being a natural process. Despite an understanding of evolution as underlying natural interactions between species, wildlife conservation itself appears to take a static view, i.e., that landscapes need to “return” to a particular state in their past, often arbitrarily defined. Wildlife conservation, it appears, seeks to stop change. Once again, this book offers a refreshingly different view. The authors acknowledge, “Today we know that all ecosystems have been modified to some extent or other by human activity...”. Instead, this book approaches conservation from the perspective that landscapes with or without human influence, all need to build resilience to the types of shocks that are likely to emerge as climate change and economic development wreak havoc. Achieving such resilience requires increasing biodiversity, and allowing ecosystem function, whether in cities or the deepest forests. In this way, this book also explicitly recognises the human element of conservation – we conserve because we see the need for something in some way, whether utilitarian or aesthetic.
Yet even as they propose the term “area-based conservation”, one wonders why they did not choose a more novel term, a term with less baggage. The term “area based conservation” is already associated with existing, and controversial, forms of conservation such as the creation of national parks. Their definition of the term also differs from the extremely context-specific and localised form of conservation suggested by Stewart et al. (2013) as “place based” conservation in having a centralised planning element. Further, in terms of offering solutions, there is little novel that is proposed in the book, which has not already been discussed in policy circles. For example, “Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures' (OECMs) which are similarly inclusive in terms of recognising wildlife conservation practices outside protected areas were proposed and fully incorporated into conventions like the Convention on Biological Diversity by 2018. This book serves more as a compendium of the different approaches that can be collectively understood to aid wildlife conservation and will help the students or conservationists think beyond traditional protected area models. By summarising existing information, along with the way this book is written and formatted, the book seems more like a textbook. Part 2, for instance offers a list of terms and definitions that would aid any student of international conservation policy. This book follows the approach of incorporating numerous examples to provide very broad scale analyses of generalised phenomena and is therefore very well suited to the beginner. Still, restricting examples to one or a few paragraphs, does a disservice to the power of case studies in helping the reader really grasp the concepts. It would have been great to deep dive into some of the more interesting cases.
As a textbook, there's a little bit for everyone. A compendium of terms and nomenclature for the professional conservationists. But also, the simple explanations that will draw in a student of wildlife conservation. However, whether this book can grip the attention of the general reader is doubtful. Overall, this book offers insight into the new direction that the practice of wildlife conservation is taking, demonstrating that the field has adapted to overcome some of the critique levelled at it. It whets one's appetite for more detailed work looking at the impact of such an approach on the conservation of wildlife.
West, P. (2006). Conservation is our government now: the politics of ecology in Papua New Guinea. Duke University Press.