SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!

by IUCN - Internat. Union for Conservation of Nature
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SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!
African Elephant (c) IUCN/Remco Van Merm
African Elephant (c) IUCN/Remco Van Merm

Dear Species Savers,

Thank you very much for supporting IUCN SOS – Save Our Species by donating to our project through GlobalGiving.

We are writing to let you know that we are deactivating the ‘SOS - Help save species & sustain livelihoods!’ project on GlobalGiving. However, our mission to protect threatened species will continue.

According to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™ more than 28,000 species are currently threatened with extinction. We are working to reduce those numbers.

Since the start of IUCN SOS in 2010, we have funded numerous projects to protect threatened species, from Lions, to Giraffe and Vultures, just to name a few.

We could not have done this without your help. If you would like to continue to keep up to date with IUCN SOS or perhaps make a further contribution towards the protection of threatened species, please visit our website: www.SaveOurSpecies.org

Thank you again for your support.

Kind regards,

Michelle Frausing

Species Communications Team
International Union for Conservation of Nature

www.SaveOurSpecies.org

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Two lion cubs. Credit: Laly Lichtenfeld
Two lion cubs. Credit: Laly Lichtenfeld

Löwe. León. Simba. Løve. Lion. Panthera leo. These are just some of the many names for one of the world’s most famous species. Depicted frequently across traditional and modern culture, the Lion is often associated with bravery, courage and royalty earning it the title ‘King of the Jungle’.

Yet, this majestic species is in dramatic decline: a century ago, there were as many as 200,000 wild lions in Africa, compared to as few as 20,000 today. Once widely distributed across this continent, as well as Europe and Asia, Lions have now disappeared from more than 90% of their historic range, remaining only in Africa and in one population in India. As such, experts currently classify it as Vulnerable to extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The Lion is an apex predator species, playing a pivotal role in maintaining a natural balance in the wild. The loss of the Lion would not only have significant impacts on ecosystems, but it would also deprive the world of an iconic species. So what is causing this continuing decline?

Lions are under pressure from a variety of forces and long-term trends in how we use natural resources. These include habitat loss and fragmentation (due to human settlements, roads and agricultural expansion), intense human-lion conflicts (resulting in indiscriminate retaliatory killing to protect humans and livestock), extensive decreases in population of prey species, unsustainable trophy hunting (in some areas) and, to a lesser extent, the demand for Lion parts in traditional medicine.

The IUCN SOS African Wildlife initiative, funded by the European Union, supports on-the-ground Lion conservation action including activities that address human-wildlife conflicts, improve protected areas management, facilitate land use planning, restore rangelands for prey species, and improve the livelihoods of the local communities.

Much of this work is implemented by passionate and inspiring people dedicated to generating solutions for Lions and communities to live in harmony. Below, we present just some of the work SOS grantees are doing to protect the ‘King of the Jungle’.

In Northern Tanzania’s Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, one of the main threats to Lion survival is human-lion conflict due to livestock depredation in the neighbouring pastoralist communities. As known scavengers, Lions here are also susceptible to the poisoning of carcasses. Tanzania People and Wildlife (TPW), is working with local communities to reduce livestock-carnivore conflict by, amongst other things, constructing Living Walls — environmentally friendly, predator-proof corrals that keep large carnivores out of livestock enclosures at night.

TPW implements community-driven conservation programmes across the famous Northern Tanzania landscape, which includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Over the course of the project, TPW aims to conserve habitat and improve landscape connectivity in the region, protecting as many as 900 Lions. The team is working to achieve this by empowering local communities to manage their grasslands sustainably and by organising beekeeping activities with local women to generate household income and protect wildlife corridors.

Meanwhile in the Ruaha landscape in southwestern Tanzania, conflict and carnivore killing levels are extremely high. In addition to depredation on livestock, the conflicts are also driven by a deeper-rooted antagonism as wildlife currently imposes a high cost, but little to no perceived benefit for the local community here.

The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) is reducing the damage caused by Lions in this area by fortifying livestock enclosures and introducing mobile enclosures for pastoralist communities. More importantly, they are also working with the communities to introduce tangible benefits for local residents as a direct result of wildlife presence using a community camera-trapping system across villages.

Community camera-trap officers from each village are employed, trained and equipped to place camera-traps on village land, capture images of wild animals and translate them to points. These points are then converted into benefits for the village, such as education, healthcare and veterinary health services. Through this direct community benefit system, the populations are increasingly motivated to protect Lions and other wildlife.

In Zambia, Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), are working together to address the threats facing Lions and other carnivores in the Luangwa valley, while ZCP also works in the Greater Kafue and the Greater Liuwa ecosystems. These threats include snaring, illegal trade in their body parts and illegal bushmeat trade of their prey species.

ZCP and CSL are tackling wildlife crime and reducing its impact on the carnivores living within the project area by increasing snare recoveries while leading on snaring and rifle poaching arrests. This is being realised with a team of 65 community scouts and two detection dog units.

Despite being among the least resourced national parks in Africa, the Luengue-Luiana National Park (LLNP) in Angola is home to multiple threatened species, including 10 – 30 Lions, and several small communal settlements. Prey species in the LLNP are currently under pressure from widespread bushmeat hunting by local villagers, who rely on bushmeat trade for survival. Traps set up for hunting reduce the number of prey favoured by Lions and other carnivores, while also maiming and occasionally killing carnivores themselves.

Panthera is working with the local communities to develop community owned and operated wildlife tourism ventures by upgrading park facilities, restoring species habitat, as well as training and employing Community Game Guards to patrol, de-snare and monitor wildlife. This will benefit wildlife, provide jobs to local residents and generate economic opportunities.

In Cameroon, Lions seemed to exist only in the Northern part until recently, when a small group of Lions reappeared in the buffer zone of the Mpem and Djim National Park (MDNP) in the centre of the country. While they roamed the park in the past, the last record of any sighting was in the 1970s. Their sudden reappearance in MDNP has not been without complications for the human population, who now have to learn to live alongside the species and protect their livestock from depredation. Lions have already been attacking livestock and as a result, there have been multiple attempts at retaliatory killing.

With funding from the IUCN SOS African Wildlife Rapid Action Grants scheme, Biodiversité Environnement et Développement Durable (BEDD), will translocate the Lions to the core area of MDNP, away from grazing livestock. They will monitor the prey density to assess the possibility of keeping the Lions in the park. They will also work to increase awareness in the park’s neighbouring communities and introduce bomas (enclosures) to protect livestock. Their work will help reduce the impact of the lion presence in the short-term, while the park authorities develop long-term plans for the Lion population in MNDP.

Through these ongoing projects, IUCN SOS – Save Our Species is setting the pace for stabilising and increasing the population of iconic carnivore species including the Lion. The IUCN SOS African Wildlife initiative will continue to support civil society organisations to carry out actions that maintain viable functional populations of carnivores, their prey species and their habitats (wild lands) as they represent the last places that provide essential ecological services and goods for present and future generations.

The IUCN SOS African Wildlife initiative is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DG Devco) through its B4Life initiative. This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of IUCN SOS - Save Our Species and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Lion. Credit: Laly Lichtenfeld
Lion. Credit: Laly Lichtenfeld

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Lion sighting via camera trap. Credit: RCP
Lion sighting via camera trap. Credit: RCP

Africa is perceived to be synonymous to wild lands and wildlife but in reality, very few countries in Africa still boast of a vibrant wildlife haven.

The decline in wildlife populations can be attributed to rapid human population increases in most parts of Africa leading people to encroach on wildlands that previously served as habitat for iconic wildlife species. This encroachment poses challenges to both humans and wildlife with their encounters often resulting in human-wildlife conflicts. 

Human-wildlife conflict is evidenced in the European Union’s Larger than Elephants report (2016) as one of the greatest long-term threats to Africa’s wildlife. Consequences of the conflict are felt by both wildlife – especially carnivores (for example, killed as a result of community retaliation for livestock losses) – and people, who suffer losses of human life or assets. Over the years, lions have been targeted most during conflict-related killings – they have lost over 85% of their historical habitat range and only an estimated 23,000 to 39,000 individuals exist in the wild, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  

IUCN - Save Our Species (SOS) through its European Union funded African Wildlife Initiative is contributing towards reducing the threat of human-wildlife conflicts related to carnivores across Africa by incentivising wildlife conservation. The aim is to decrease the cost of living with wildlife usually incurred by local communities and improve their livelihoods through various socio-economic development initiatives.

One of the projects funded under the IUCN - SOS African Wildlife Initiative is being implemented by a grantee, the Ruaha Carnivore Programme (RCP) in the South Western border of Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape. In their efforts to contribute towards several Sustainable Development Goals, the grantee will provide incentives to communities for wildlife conservation based on a community camera-trapping system. This project has two main objectives: (1) Reduce the damage caused by carnivores by fortifying livestock enclosures, and (2) provide tangible benefits to local communities as a direct result of wildlife presence. The actions carried out will aim to reduce depredation on livestock and provide significant improvements in healthcare, education and veterinary medicine. 

For example, communities obtain credits for any species captured by their camera traps, with more credits awarded for species photographed that are more prone to causing human-wildlife conflict (such as carnivores). These credits can then be converted into financial contributions for the development of healthcare, education and veterinary services. This is important as poverty resulting from limited access to these services is recognised in the EU’s Larger than Elephants report as one of the key underlying issues driving habitat degradation and biodiversity loss.  

The compensation scheme which will run in 16 villages will demonstrate a clear linkage between the presence of species such as lions, cheetahs, leopards and African wild dogs and community benefits. It is expected to reduce the chances of people killing large carnivores in general. 

At a wider scale, education about best-practice livestock husbandry will also be provided to over 55,000 people in the study area, thereby improving household economic security in this poverty-stricken area, as well as improving attitudes towards conservation and reducing the killing of large carnivores and other wildlife.

IUCN SOS will continue to support public awareness raising efforts as well as education programmes in African large carnivore Range states, in order to support co-existence between humans and carnivores and to promote measures for the conservation and recovery of their populations.

GPS tracking pugmarks. Credit: RCP
GPS tracking pugmarks. Credit: RCP
Leopard and kill sighted in a tree. Credit: RCP
Leopard and kill sighted in a tree. Credit: RCP

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Critically Endangered Cycads live in Mpanga Gorge
Critically Endangered Cycads live in Mpanga Gorge

Helping save species means investing in communities and empowering them to live alongside wildlife. A review of older SOS projects indicates there is no one-size fits all solution however.

Since 2015, SOS has focused on thematic initiatives including SOS Lemurs and SOS African Wildlife - each with significant livelihood components in their respective portfolios. But generating sustainable livelihoods has been a key conservation activity for SOS since its launch in response to the Aichi targets declared at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in Nagoya 2010.

The SOS founding mission focused on three Aichi targets: helping stop the extinction crisis (12), helping attract more funds to conservation (20) and raising awareness about the need to protect wildlife (1). It did this by working to address the priorities identified in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ™ and funding existing NGOs worldwide to implement tailored solutions.

Looking back on those first five years of activity from 2011-2015 shows that approximately 40% of the projects funded during that time included a livelihood component.

Almost half of the projects with livelihoods activities (47%) took place across Africa followed by 42% across Asia and Oceania while the remainder (11%) were implemented across Central and Latin America. Characteristic of the SOS portfolio at the time, there was also a broad taxonomic spread with equal numbers of bird, reptile, plant, amphibian and fish projects even if the vast majority targeted mammal species (21 projects).

Indeed, project solutions were as diverse as target species and circumstances. Three examples from this era illustrate that clearly. These include a cycad conservation project in Uganda, a Tree-kangaroo project in Papua New Guinea’s remote Huon peninsula and an amphibian conservation project in Guatemala’s Sierra Caral mountain range.

In Uganda a Dutch NGO called PROTOS worked with local communities around the Mpanga Gorge to build a pump and pipeline system that would provide a steady clean supply of river water to thirsty livestock living in the vicinity above the gorge.

Eliminating the need to make the tiring journey on foot to the riverbed for herders and their animals, while clearly demarcating protected cycad habitat around the river course, strengthened the chances of recovery for the Critically Endangered Muhure cycad (Encephalartos whitelockii) endemic to the gorge and often trampled by cattle or destroyed by slash and burn agricultural practices.

In the remote Huon peninsula of Papua New Guinea, another grantee, US-based Woodland Park Zoo worked with local communities to protect populations of Endangered Huon Tree-kangaroos (Dendrolagus matschiei) and their forest habitat. This was done by developing a sustainable high value coffee export business delivering products to a Seattle-based coffee shop chain. In turn this reduced the dependency on rice growing which was impacting habitat integrity.

Such success required significant coordination and outreach to create community based land-use plans and maps, as well as ongoing capacity building in terms of coffee production and marketing, complemented by support for local schools’ education curricula. 

In Guatemala, local NGO Fundaeco worked with communities in the Sierra Caral to protect the largest contiguous forest remnant in the region – also home to numerous endemic and threatened amphibians.

Activities focused on fostering community based eco-tourism leveraging the attraction of these unique amphibians. The breakthrough came when Sierra Caral was declared a National Protected Area in 2015 by the Guatemalan government – the first Guatemalan protected area created in almost ten years.

There are many other success stories and tailored solutions implemented by a range of NGOs working to protect different threatened species while collaborating with local communities. Despite the uniqueness of each project, there are standard metrics we can use to measure success but perhaps the one overarching guideline is the value of local knowledge and community participation to ensuring lasting success.

To learn more about the sustainable livelihoods why not read other recent articles and news from SOS African Wildlife, SOS Lrmus and IUCN's Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme on our website.

Land use planning in Mpanga Gorge
Land use planning in Mpanga Gorge
Installing a water pump for cattle
Installing a water pump for cattle
Cattle don't trample cycads anymore
Cattle don't trample cycads anymore

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A passing tiger cub inspects a camera trap
A passing tiger cub inspects a camera trap

If we want a world with tigers we must act now. The urgency is clear in the Terai Arc Landscape of Nepal and India, a globally significant tiger landscape supporting an estimated 17% of wild tigers explains Gitanjali Bhattacharya and colleagues at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a species conservation action IUCN grantee. 

But the tiger population here is severely depressed due to sharing the landscape with one of the densest human populations on earth, which continues to grow, and increase its demand for resources and land. Human-tiger conflict is escalating as the competition for scarce resources in an increasingly crowded landscape intensifies. Similarly, poaching pressure is intense, as the global illegal wildlife trade continues to drive high prices for a wide range of tiger body parts.

Given the transboundary and multifaceted nature of these threats to tigers, we must also act together. With the support of the ITHCP, ZSL has galvanised collective action for the tigers of the Terai Arc. A transboundary conservation partnership was launched bringing together Indian and Nepalese government departments, local communities, protected area management authorities, expert scientific research institutions from both countries and a diverse selection of other partners such as the Nepal Army and Nepal Tourism Board who bring critical skills and experience to the cause of tiger conservation.

Our unique conservation partnership has laid foundations for ongoing transboundary cooperation and has already helped drive tiger population recovery in the landscape. We have seen a 40% increase in the tiger population since 2013 across the project’s focal protected areas in Nepal. In India, early indications of tiger population growth are equally positive.

This has been achieved through utilising the combination of expertise offered by our partnership to strengthen anti-poaching initiatives and wider protected area management – including training around 1,700 protected area and law enforcement staff. Anti-poaching ‘Rapid Response Teams’ established by our partnership in 5 project sites made 70 arrests in 2016-17, including the interception of transboundary poachers. Intruder arrests in Nepal project sites increased by 60% since 2016. Supplementary community-led anti-poaching patrols covered an additional 1,000km2 area since 2016.

Our partnership has also supported the mitigation and prevention of human-tiger conflict. We have implemented direct measures such as constructing 250 predator-proof corrals and 11 early-warning systems and facilitating communities’ access to human-wildlife conflict relief funds. We have also supported communities to pursue sustainable livelihoods, which both improve their wellbeing and reduce their pressure on natural resources. We have established 5 homestays, trained nearly 500 community members in sustainable livelihood skills, and supported the establishment of 13 soft-loan facilities to enable long-term sustainable development.

It has been wonderful to see tiger conservation benefiting local people. An example is the story of Rabindra Chaudhary, a member of the indigenous Tharu ethnic group, living in the buffer zone of Suklaphanta National Park, Nepal. Having received driver training through the project he now drives a rapid response vehicle within the protected area to help intercept poachers and protect tigers, and so makes a living from conservation. At ZSL we would say he ‘works for wildlife’!

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IUCN - Internat. Union for Conservation of Nature

Location: Gland, Vaud - Switzerland
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IUCN - Internat. Union for Conservation of Nature
Simon Bradley
Project Leader:
Simon Bradley
Gland, Vaud Switzerland

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