You may have heard of the saying, conservation can be contentious. However, no matter how you feel about conservation, I think we should all take a moment and understand the changes happening in our natural environment and how we feel about them.
Conservation, as defined by Stuart L. Pimm in an article with Encyclopedia Brittanica titled, “Conservation” is the “study of the loss of Earth’s biological diversity and the ways this loss can be prevented. Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is the variety of life either in a particular place or on the entire Earth, including its ecosystems, species, populations, and genes. Conservation thus seeks to protect life’s variety at all levels of biological organization.”
There are serious conservation issues to be aware of as responsible travelers; issues that compromise the health of ecosystems and conservation efforts aimed at saving and restoring imperiled wildlife populations. We have seen how mass tourism could harm the environment and wildlife if not done properly. Responsible community tourism initiatives travel can be the antidote to the problems of mass tourism.
You may have come across terminologies such as “eco-tourism” which as defined by Epler Wood the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard, as nature and wildlife travel that was sustainable and responsible and minimizes harm to both wildlife and ecosystems. On the same token, sustainable travel which seeks to have positive impact on both the environment, the cultures and the economies of the destination one visits; Social impact travel which aims to ensure money spent on a tour or a trip stays in the community. The question becomes how best can one learn about these terms at the same time effectively implement them. Whatever your reason may be or the reason that prompt you to read this blog post, we hope that you will become more aware of conservation issues and find ways to become part of the solution.
“Although not completely harmless, when done properly, tourism can provide a relatively benign economic incentive for wildlife conservation that is far more preferable to other forms of development, including mining, oil and gas exploration, agriculture, and so forth. This may be the best we can hope for in a world increasingly dominated by humans and their domestic animals,” states Dr. Michael Hutchins, a distinguished conservationist and noted authority on wildlife management and policy. Moreover, in his efforts to educate communities about conservation issues Nelson Mandela argued that, “nature conservationists must take into account the needs of people around the reserves. They need to encourage education programs about protecting wildlife and always act in cooperation with local communities." And added, “I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses. We must never forget that it is our duty to protect this environment.”
According to the best estimates of the world’s environmental experts, human activities have driven species to extinction at rates perhaps 1,000 times the natural, or background, rate, and future rates of extinction will likely be higher. In another study The National Wildlife Federation, “Human activity has changed and eliminated habitat, locally, and on the global scale, and birds, butterflies, and other wildlife are pushed into ever-shrinking wilderness areas. In fact Species extinction is the most obvious aspect of the loss of biodiversity according to Pimm. “The subject of conservation is broader than this, however. Even a species that survives extinction can lose much of its genetic diversity as local, genetically distinct populations are lost from most of the species’ original range. Furthermore, ecosystems may shrink dramatically in area and lose many of their functions, even if their constituent species manage to survive.”
Conservation is involved with studying all these kinds of losses, understanding the factors responsible for them, developing techniques to prevent losses, and, whenever possible, restoring biodiversity. Conservation is a crisis discipline, one demanded by the unusual rates of loss; it is also a mission-driven one. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to research, studies and treatment” methods to prevent these losses. After all, as organisms, we all need each other if we are survive. For example, the relationship between bees and humans. Bees are vital to a healthy environment and healthy economy. They're also simply beautiful and fascinating little insects. As humans, we need bees. We may take them and other pollinators like butterflies and hoverflies for granted - but they are vital for stable, healthy food supplies. They are key to the varied, colorful and nutritious diets we need and have come to expect. Bees are perfectly adapted to pollinate, helping plants grow, breed and produce food. They do so by transferring pollen between flowering plants and so keep the cycle of life turning. The vast majority of plants we need for food rely on pollination, especially by bees: from almonds and vanilla and apples to squashes. Bees also pollinate around 80% of wildflowers in Europe, so our countryside would be far less interesting and beautiful without them.
However, due to human activity, bees are also in trouble. There is growing public and political concern at bee decline across the world. This decline is caused by a combination of stresses - from loss of their habitat and food sources to exposure to pesticides and the effects of climate change.
Therefore, since the underlying cause of the loss of biodiversity is increasing human activity, conservation must inevitably involve human interactions. Many of the techniques to prevent the loss of biodiversity involve issues of economics, law, social sciences, and religion. You can make a difference. You can invite wildlife back to your own yard and neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides habitat. Imagine your garden teeming with singing songbirds, colorful butterflies, flitting hummingbirds, and other small wildlife.”
Here are few examples of conservation efforts proven effective upon implementation; Preventing The Loss Of Biodiversity:
In Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, consists of an estimated 115 islands, most of which are not permanently inhabited. Another 30 islands are significant rock formations. The islands are divided into two distinct categories; 41 Inner Islands and another 74 Outer Islands, although, Mahé, Praslin and La Digue are the most popular islands. The island also call “another world” which couldn’t be more true because once you landed in the country you know for sure you are in another world. Seychelles and its citizens rely on a healthy, thriving marine ecosystem. Numerous species, indigenous animals and vegetation exist nowhere else in the world, however they were once severely endangered. Conservation efforts in some parts of the island have been underway to protect and restore the island the way it was before humans settled there with the intention of turning the ecological clock back three hundred years.
For example, one of the largest issues the island faced was rat control. Rats had caused serious deleterious effects through predation and competition, and extinction of many species on the islands, particularly the bat population. Efforts to remove invasive species and repopulate the island with native vegetation and wildlife have proven successful. The only feasible option was to wipe out the entire rat population by having a helicopter spray the entire island. Before this was done, all indigenous animals endemic to the region were rescued and brought to safety. An evacuation of hundreds of birds and turtles etc. In 2006 the island was declared rat-free, and perhaps the most heartwarming story of recovery belongs to the once-thought extinct Seychelles White-eye, whose population has blossomed from 25 to now more than 100 individuals.
To ensure the region remains vibrant and ecologically healthy, bio-security measures (including searching incoming vessels) have been put in place. Bio-security prevents rats from setting foot on this vibrant island again, and gaining a “Protected Area” status for North Island would help management do even more to ensure this beautiful and sensitive place does not become re-invaded. After undergoing invasive species removal and ecological restoration, Seychelles island has proven conservation efforts can yield results results that are effective and lasting.
The Seychelles are in every respect a special place, where one can live in close harmony with nature, far from the rest of the world. Numerous creatures find a haven here in complete seclusion and isolation, which is why this practically unspoiled paradise is home to one of the highest number of species on our planet. Let the free and easy life-style of the Seychellois – the inhabitants of the Seychelles – stimulate you in this tropical climate and immerse yourself in a world full of uplifting moments.
Another example is a community tourism initiative in Rwanda. This is by far one of our favorite community tourism initiatives. In a cultural village founded by 2015 CNN Hero Edwin Sabuhoro, a former warden at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Sabuhoro quit his job and founded Iby’iwacu in an attempt to stop poaching and protect the park’s critically endangered Mountain Gorillas. Hunters weren’t killing them intentionally, but the gorillas would get caught in traps set out to catch deer and buffalo, which poachers used to feed their families. So Sabuhoro bought land at the foot of the mountains and promised jobs to hunters who stopped poaching. As a result, this initiative has generated jobs and currently employs more than 1,000 people, who teach visitors about the Rwandan culture, work on Pyrethrum farms, or serve as porters in the national park. Today, Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla population is gradually on the rise.
Sahuaro’s success impressed the Rwandan government so much so that they now donate 5% of Volcanoes NP fees to fund local community projects, such as building hospitals and schools.
There are multiple other conservation stories and efforts not just in Africa but around the world. At Trailblazer Travelz, we have collaborated with few conservation projects and NGOs in Seychelles, Rwanda, South Africa, etc for our customers traveling to those regions to volunteer and or actually join in the efforts. Let’s all make an effort to help conserve our natural environment. We all need each other. Feel free to share with us any conservation projects or NGOs that you know of or have worked with.