Too much has been written about the effects of humans on wildlife. To create an impactful and sustainable conservation effort, it is important to address the issue on many fronts. Environmentalists are working hard across the world to preserve natural habitats for wildlife big and small. But until communities get involved, the effort is against the current.
So the big question is – what would it take for communities to get involved? The answer is to take a holistic approach. The issue needs to be attacked through education, awareness, regulations and support all together. There are regulations and laws to address the issue of poachers and hunters.
But let’s take the example of innocent villages at the periphery of a forest. When big animals are threatened with the loss of habitat and prey, they often venture towards human settlements in search of food. Livestock and children are easy prey to big cats. Elephants also end up wrecking fields, roads, vehicles and houses in their way when interrupted. The obvious response from humans is to scare these animals off or attack them. Animals further retaliate or lose their lives.
Instead of fighting this tide, conservationists have now started acknowledging this issue for what it is. Humans also fear animals and need protection. When cornered, humans will employ all their might to save their own lives.
Here are three important tools to address the problem head-on:
1) A proactive alert system, informing humans of wildlife movement in their areas
2) An active information mechanism to provide medical and other assistance when humans and their farms/livestock are attacked by animals
3) An intensive, consistent and ongoing education program to sensitize people on the struggles faced by wildlife.
This is by no means a small feat. The most established organizations need years of effort, manpower and financial resources to bring this simple circle to fruition. A critical step is to bring youth into the fold of education and awareness. This will be key factor in ensuring wildlife conservation is continuous and sustainable journey for years to come.