This Earth Day, we are busting three myths related to human-wildlife conflict. In fact, we’d like to flip the script entirely and show that the two can coexist in harmony.
To achieve this, RTI approaches wildlife conservation from all directions. In thinking expansively and holistically about the issue, RTI has identified new opportunities for wildlife conservation and win-win solutions that cut across development sectors.
Below are three examples of how RTI is turning this knowledge into practice for a new approach to combat human-wildlife conflict.
Myth 1: Wildlife conservation means sacrificing social and economic development
Wildlife conservation is often perceived as being at odds with international development’s traditional focus on macroeconomic growth, given conservation’s focus on preserving biodiversity. However, this long-term aim doesn’t preclude economic benefits in the near-term – and it can even multiply them. It requires a more thoughtful approach, but it is possible.
Wildlife conservation for economic growth put into practice
One example is RTI’s partnership with Chem Chem, a private eco-tourism company in Tanzania. The company’s luxury lodges are located on land between two national parks.
Chem Chem sought to protect and restore elephant and other wildlife movement routes through this area as human activity, including poaching, had encroached upon it. Through the USAID Promoting Tanzania's Environment, Conservation, and Tourism (PROTECT) project, RTI helped Chem Chem connect with the surrounding communities to understand their concerns and develop a plan that benefited wildlife and the communities at the same time.
Transforming human-wildlife conflict into ecotourism
In setting up a tourism business on this land rather than opening it for hunting, Chem Chem created local jobs and economic growth that depend on wildlife: Elephants and other wildlife draw visitors from around the world. With support from PROTECT, Chem Chem brought together the community, public sector, and private sector to collaboratively conduct anti-poaching patrols to further protect these animals and, by association, local economic growth. Many people living in surrounding communities work at Chem Chem and have fewer incentives to encroach on the land, poach animals, or hunt them for food. Poaching has since decreased by an astonishing 66% from 2016 to 2019. With an influx of tourists to the area, Chem Chem’s business and nonprofit association made enough to pay surrounding communities $800,000 in 2019 for conservation use of the land.
RTI continues to partner with Chem Chem through the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Project.
Myth 2: Infrastructure investments hurt wildlife and conservation efforts
When human infrastructure is built in areas used by wildlife, animals put themselves at risk to cross highways and bridges or disrupt farms and communities, resulting in economic losses and, in some cases, even death to both humans and animals.
Contrary to common belief, further infrastructure investment can actually help ease human-wildlife conflict and promote wildlife conservation. Wildlife corridors reduce these risks and enable humans and animals to dwell in harmony. In some cases, these corridors entail setting aside land for animal passage. In other cases, they can involve building a bridge or highway specifically for wildlife.