6 Takeaways from our World Wildlife Day Twitter Q&A

Lynsey Grosfield
21 March 2017
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#ListenToTheYoungVoices was the theme of the day, going into the UN 2017 World Wildlife Day. We held a rousing Q&A session on twitter and learned from our social media community about the relationships between wildlife, habitat protection, agriculture, and development.

Here are our top 6 takeaways from that discussion.

1. Habitat loss for increased food production may not be a necessary evil

By 2050 there will be approximately another 2.3 billion more mouths to feed. According to the World Bank, this means we have to produce almost 50% more food. Or do we?

Terry Sunderland, a lead scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), suggests that we already produce more than enough food. According to a publication from the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, we are currently producing enough food to feed 10 billion people – yet the UN’s FAO estimates almost a billion people are suffering from chronic undernourishment. So, if the rate of food production isn’t the issue, what is the real cause of hunger?

In reality, an increase in food production by 50% would do little for the people most at risk of hunger. Currently, the resource-poor farmer on less than $2 a day can’t afford to buy the majority of grain crops because of competition from the biofuels, meat and dairy industries.

Until we prioritize people over energy, meat and dairy, there will be hunger.

2. Environmental protection does not always equal enforcement

In the current political climate, there is huge pressure on government to place legal protection on particularly significant ecosystems and species. Protection and conservation does not end there, though.

From the IUCN and CITES to the numerous protected areas and natural heritage sites, there is seemingly plenty of protection for endangered animals and ecosystems. Though, forests keep getting logged, endangered species keep going extinct, and ecosystems keep being degraded. So, where are our protection laws falling short.

In our World Wildlife Day Q&A, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation suggested that not enough is being done to enforce the protection laws already in place. I.e. despite knowing what must be done and how to achieve it, many authorities are falling short due to a lack of resources and man-power.

To really be able to protect the forests and landscapes that host the world’s most endangered species, we must have full transparency and stringent monitoring systems in place. In reality, doing so requires time and money – two rare commodities in many situations.

Again, wildlife protection comes down to a matter of priority. Until we give environmental protection authorities higher priority on funding and resources, there will be habitat degradation and wildlife loss

3. Hunting is an essential part of many livelihoods

It’s difficult for many to imagine that hunting could be considered a sustainable activity, but for many communities, especially indigenous communities, hunting is an essential part of their way of life. Though, there is a significant difference between the hunting of wild bush meat and the poaching of endangered species.

As CIFOR have pointed to in their research, local communities that hunt bush meat as part of their livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the health of their surroundings and have a vested interest in sustainably managing the population of the animals they hunt. Despite relying on hunting and killing, local communities that rely on bush meat must protect the balance and live in harmony with their environment. For, to destroy their environment would be to destroy themselves. This couldn’t be further from the illegal poaching of valuable, endangered species.

The distinction between a sustainable, harmonious relationship with a local environment and the illegal, exploitative poaching of species must be made explicitly clear. In doing so, we can focus conservation efforts on the sources of poaching that are actually threatening the protection of wildlife.

Though perhaps more can be done than just re-focusing our protection and enforcement efforts. As IFSA hint towards, poaching is an economic problem driven by necessity. If we can make poaching an unprofitable and nonviable option for livelihoods, then we can eliminate it as a source of wildlife loss

4. Wildlife conservation in the long run is a matter of education and awareness

At current rates, wildlife loss and its long list of causes are not going to be defeated in the next generation’s lifetime. It is now a long term issue that will be shared across age barriers. So the question we posed was, ‘how can we work across generations to fight species-loss?’

This might seem an obvious solution, but education remains the most effective method for combating wildlife loss. By teaching people the value that intact habitats and functioning ecosystems can have on their own lives, we can show people real, tangible incentives to protect the environment and wildlife around them.

Though ironically, the areas that need conservation education the most, tend to be the areas that aren’t equipped to provide it. The first step in engaging the youth in wildlife conservation, is making sure that conservation education is readily available in the areas that need it most. Though, to achieve this, the message must be spread across all age groups and not just limited to the youth.

In engaging the youth and following generations, it is essential for all age groups to be active in reinforcing conservation messages. To continue the work that must be done to conserve wildlife, there can be no missing links between generations; the mantle of responsibility must be passed from one generation to the next.

5. To empower youth groups, give them a platform to be heard

From our success with the various youth groups that are engaged with the GLF events, we know first-hand that putting youth center-stage in discussions with policy makers, researchers and activists is a recipe for an engaged youth group. The key is making sure that younger generations feel like their voices can make a difference. In doing so, we empower and inspire them to take active roles in conservation and to become engaged leaders and activists.

Giving youth a platform to be heard can come in the form of anything from an active role in events and discussions to participating in competitions and workshops. The essential quality of these platforms is valuing the unique skills that younger generations can bring to the table.

6. Wildlife conservation is not limited to the professionals – we can all #DoOneThingToday

Whether it’s simply responsible consumerism and eco-tourism or mutli-national conservation; wildlife protection is everyone’s responsibility and no matter how little, everyone can #DoOneThingToday.

A few key activities that everyone can do were highlighted in the live twitter Q&A. Most significant are the small changes that everyone can make in their daily lives to change the impact they can have on the world. For example, simply avoiding animal products, even the ones labelled sustainable, will cut out huge impacts on species loss from your daily life. Similarly, avoiding unethical foodstuffs, like shark fin soup, regardless of the cultural circumstances will significantly reduce your impact on potentially endangered species.

However, perhaps the most significant thing that anyone can do for wildlife is being a responsible consumer – be aware of what you are buying, where it comes from, and what it took to make it. As much as possible, avoid products that contribute to deforestation or any form of habitat destruction and if you must buy forest products, always make sure they are from certified legal sources.

These are just a few examples of small adjustments in your daily life that can make massively reduce the damage being done to the environment and to wildlife. Anyone and everyone can #DoOneThingToday, what will you do?

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