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This article is written by Raslin Saluja from KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar. This article analyses the steps, strategies, policies applied by the most developed nations in their attempt to protect wildlife.

Introduction

The economic quest of the human race has led to quicker exhaustion of the natural resources endangering the existence of the wildlife and their habitat all around the world, specifically those who may be displaced for land development or other human purposes. This has been an ancient practice that the human communities have relied on biodiversity for the most basic needs. In our daily lives, innumerable species of wild flora and fauna are being used by us across the world for food and for the manufacturing of medicinal products, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics, and clothing.

According to recent research, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which painted a very clear picture of the present state of the world’s wildlife as a result of human activities. It states that about a million species—one-fourth of all known lifeforms—might go extinct in the near future as a direct result of excessive human interference, climate change, and habitat degradation.

Implementing and working towards having a global framework for conservation is the need of the hour. This can be done and can yield tremendous results for human development as shown earlier by the effort of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other important conventions on wildlife and biodiversity that constantly strive to improve the living conditions for the wildlife. Through the coordinated and cooperative aid of governments, various international organizations, local and international civil society groups and communities, as well as private sector actors, we can strive to bring forth a change in our consumption patterns and in turn work to hold up the wildlife and their habitat conservation by putting in efforts on many different fronts.

Conservation of wildlife

It is the practice of preserving/safeguarding flora and fauna species and their respective habitats. Wildlife forms a very integral part of the world’s ecosystems. It provides balance and stability to nature’s processes maintaining the ecological balance of the natural environment. The goal of this practice is to ascertain the survival of these species and to impart knowledge to people and raise their awareness on living sustainably with other species.

Need to conserve the wildlife

It represents biodiversity, a vital need for our health and in the general well-being of nature. We are creatures of an interdependent ecosystem where each organism-micro or macro affects the other. To continue to maintain the balance of nature it is necessary that we must not alter the natural habitat of any organism which has the potential to trigger a dynamo effect affecting the equilibrium of mutual existence. They majorly help in three things which are securing future food supplies and agriculture prospects, providing aid in generating revenues through ecotourism, and serving as various environmental indicators. Thus in order to save all that we are left with, we must make conserving wildlife our priority at all the levels of the international, regional, and local communities. We must build a framework that would be both their conservation and human well-being.

Efforts by some developed countries

A developed country is one that is sovereign in nature and well equipped with advanced infrastructure and technology when compared to other nations. There can be many factors that determine whether a country is developed or not such as the Human Development Index (HDI), political stability, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), industrialization, and freedom.  The United Nations approach to determine a developed country is particularly based on the Human Development Index, which is essentially quantified by factors of human development based on living conditions, health, education, and life expectancy. Based on it, the United Nations Development Report 2019 Statistical Update ranks the top 10 countries which come under the category of being developed. These are Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Singapore, and the Netherlands in that order. We look over some of these countries in their efforts of conserving wildlife.

Ireland

The main statutory legislation for controlling and conserving nature, in general, is covered under the Wildlife Act, 1976. It empowers the government to take measures and action and provide protection to all the wild species of fauna and flora. Currently, all bird species, 22 other animal species or groups of species, and 86 species of flora are afforded protected status. For the longest time, their typical efforts for the conservation of wildlife were focused on maintaining what already exists and preventing any further losses to ecosystems and declines in biodiversity.

But in 2018, they came with the concept of ‘rewilding’ which is more about allowing nature to shape itself rather than humans interfering and designing it. It explains the opportunities for modern society to reconnect with the wildlife and natural processes where the land itself becomes wilder. Thus humans do provide some initial push to facilitate the process and get the wildlife species to get into more natural numbers followed by lesser intervention.

They have also demarcated the area under the National Heritage Areas which holds immense significance in preserving the habitats of the flora and fauna. To date, 75 raised bogs – mainly in the midlands – have been given legal protection, covering some 23,000 hectares. A further 73 blanket bogs, covering 37,000 hectares, mostly in western areas, are also designated as National Heritage Areas.

This process has taken more across many European countries like in Italy trying to connect the protected areas with the areas of the existence of large mammals, especially brown bears, red deer, and wolves, in addition to supporting an increase of wildlife populations. Griffon vultures have been reintroduced in the area to support rewilding efforts and five small colonies now exist. Similarly in Portugal, rewilding has been followed by purchasing significant core areas, reintroducing the long-lost species, promoting their return, and enhancing the conditions for their sustenance.

For the natural grazing regimes, red deer, Iberian Ibex, primitive horses, and cattle adapted to the local situation are also being reintroduced. A variety of cattle breeds that are native to the Mediterranean have also been cross-bred as an effort to reintroduce an animal that as closely as possible resembles the original wild bovine species that once roamed Europe, the Aurochs.

Very recently, the Government has also ordered a major review of their National Parks and Wildlife services to revamp their method in conservation, protection, and sustainable development of the same. Though under their regular services, they have designated sites as special areas of conservation, special protection areas, and natural heritage areas. They have administered a licensing system to have control over activities impacting the wildlife, they conduct regular surveys and raise awareness through education and information circulation, have created a comprehensive inventory of species and their habitats, etc.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong, like many other countries, has been a part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1976 and has implemented it through the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, Cap. 586. It provides that no one should carry out activities of import, export or re-export, or introduce from the sea, or possess any endangered species in any state be it living, dead, or its parts or derivatives, except as per the license issued in advance by Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD).

In general, the trade-in CITES. They have a reward system for the informers of any illegal activities going on with endangered species. Continuous efforts have been made by them for advertising and educating the masses by setting resource centers, Tv broadcasts, radio announcements, leaflets distribution, etc. The major source of attraction is their Endangered Species Resource Centre which expands about 1,700 square feet, over 600 specimens of 200 endangered species are on display with facilities of audio-visual and interactive computer displays which makes the learning more pleasant. 

Then they started an independent initiative under the name of Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG), where they have a separate Fauna Conservation Department established in 1994 to support the KFBG Mission and establish programs for rescuing wildlife, conserving endangered species, managing the protected area, and educating the public. 

The need for the injured and sick wildlife has been taken care of by the Wild Animal Rescue Centre (WARC) which supports the government efforts in tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Departments include various projects one of which is the Golden Coin Turtle Conservation project to prevent this species from becoming extinct. Another such project is the environmental enhancement project which examines and develops features that are animal-friendly and allowing easy mobility to the wild animals across human-dominated areas and considers new ways to deal with a range of animal and human conflicts.  All these projects are supported by education programs to guide public behavior towards wildlife. The major five roles of the department include:

  1. Operation of a Wild Animal Rescue Centre.
  2. Arranging live education displays in order to make the public aware.
  3. Executing projects on conservation for local endangered species.
  4. Carrying out projects on ecological enhancement and managing protected area.
  5.  Arranging public education.

Australia

They have their strategy for nature which provides the guidelines for the management of flora and fauna along with their habitat and ecosystem by governments, the community, industry, and scientists until 2030. Their major areas of concern are:

  • loss, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat.
  • spreading of invasive species.
  • using of natural resources unsustainably.
  • the changing of climate.
  • inappropriate fire regimes.
  • changes to the aquatic environment and water flows.

The initiatives taken by their government involve EPBC Act Conservation Agreements; they are agreements between the Australian Government Environment Minister and any other person for the protection and conserving of biodiversity in an area of land or sea. They have National Wildlife Corridors Plans and Threatened Species Strategy 2021 – 2031. It prioritizes action and funding, setting the direction for efforts to recover our threatened plants, animals, and ecological communities over the next ten years. It has a very clear vision to have on-ground measures taken, identifying key areas which are fundamental for restoring and recovering processes of the threatened species and ecological communities; and establishes principles for identifying priority threatened species and places to focus on the efforts by Australia. This plan will be divided into consecutive 5-year action plans which will identify the important species and places that require urgent action and measurable targets to assess progress. Though this plan is in progress and would commence from June 2021. 

Iceland

It is currently committed to demarcating 25% of the country under official protection either present in the national parks or other protected area categories. While other plans are on their way for a new Highland National park encompassing the wilderness of the central highlands. The Icelandic Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources.

It is responsible for enforcing and formulating government policies related to environmental affairs. It supervises the affairs for the protection of animals, wildlife management, and other related matters. Further, their protected areas are divided into nine categories based on  IUCN´s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classification system for protected areas. However, the local flora and fauna of the country are generally in good condition. As of now, there are no endangered mammal species. The few problems they face are from major damage and cultivation of wetlands and by blending genetic material with imported and cultivated species. In addition, destruction of habitat, over-harvesting, and inappropriate interaction of animals cause moderate fauna loss. A red list for animals is under preparation. 

Sweden

They believe in shared responsibility for a shared resource by having a balance between sustainable use and conservation. They ensure that the natural wildlife species present in the country are sustained in long-term viable populations and that ecological, social, cultural, and economic considerations are to be taken into consideration for proper management. Further include adaptive management that incorporates participation. They regulate their hunting legislation which determines what equipment can be used, in what areas it can be done, etc. Sweden has laws like Animal Welfare Act,2018 to prevent and control any damage caused by wildlife. They are to cooperate with other countries in their efforts for wildlife management. They also make sure that management is based on quality-assured knowledge and so they follow the principles for e-government and cooperate with other stakeholders to promote efficient and user-friendly information technology (IT) systems and data exchanging processes. Any non-confidential data would be made open and freely available to others. 

Singapore

It is also responsible for its remarkable management and conservation of its native species of flora and fauna, more significantly of its endemic species. They have their scientists who contribute to maintaining proper records and other information that help to assess the status of animal species, indicating where conservation actions are needed to assist threatened and endangered wildlife. To prevent problems of illegal wildlife trade it is also a party to CITES. Singapore has established its first Centre for Wildlife Forensics (CWF) in 2020 which works on science and technology to investigate illegal cases and support law enforcement agencies. It also enables National Parks to build in-house capabilities for carrying out investigation on wildlife forensic, such as the identifying wood specimens and DNA testing of animal specimens to further support its CITES commitments.

China

China has been identified as one of the countries with the most endangered species and as a result, it has also taken steps to conservation techniques. It adheres to the philosophy of ecological civilization and has been working continuously towards mainstreaming biodiversity across all departments and sectors, promoting effective restoration and protection of ecosystems through the implementation of environmental conservation projects and other measures, improving public participation, and boosting international cooperation and exchanges on biodiversity. Sustained efforts have been made toward the initiative of “building a beautiful China”.

It has a 2050 vision of “Living in harmony with nature”. It has conducted several wildlife surveys and monitored major conservation projects and later tracked and evaluated progress in its implementation. It has incorporated conservation in its overall sector of economic and social development, ecological protection, and restoration. Their funding support has also steadily grown towards the years with the help they have strengthened their supervision and inspection in the conservation

Countries with the most effective and developed wildlife conservation practices

The Global Ecology and Conservation published a study that showed that the countries with the best conservation practices are the ones with the most to gain from it economically. Since their conservation is of huge economic value and an attractive tourism product. The top ten countries ranked on the basis of their efforts and higher megafauna conservation index are Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Norway, Central African Republic, Canada, Zambia, and Rwanda. In a more general sense, countries with wildlife destinations in Africa had the highest-ranking followed by North/Central America, Asia, Europe, and South America, in that order. 

That being said, Africa in fact comprises the world’s most dense wildlife population with the richest variety of fauna. It has the most number of national parks compared to anywhere on the planet with 335 national parks as of 2014 that protect more than 1,100 species of mammals, 100,000 species of insects, 2,600 species of birds, and 3,000 species of fishes. In addition, there are hundreds of game reserves, forest reserves, marine reserves, national reserves, and natural parks. Despite struggling with the challenges of poverty and instability in various areas of the continent, it prioritizes and makes more efficient attempts for large mammal conservation than any other region in the world. 

Botswana

They implement sector-specific policies on using resources sustainably with the main policy on wildlife conservation being the Wildlife Conservation Policy of 1986 (WCP). They aim in encouraging the development of the wildlife industry commercially which is viable for the long term in order to create economic opportunities, jobs prospects in wildlife management and administration involving the active participation of the local rural population and in general to realize the full potential of the wildlife industry with the help of government introduced legislations.

They are also a part of the CITES convention and therefore satisfy the requirement of it in making sustainable use of the wildlife ensuring their continuity as a resource. They have the system of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) which are different national parks and reserves. They have wildlife utilization plans in WMAs that can include hunting, game ranching and farming, live capture, venison processing, and photographic safaris. 

They have also adopted a Game Ranching Policy (GRP) in 2002 which provides for appropriate guidelines of Wildlife Conservation and National parks Act, 1992.  It enumerates a viable way for using game ranching as an alternative to enhance sustainable utilization of wildlife products and in turn, use them in the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

Namibia

It was the first-ever African country to have environment protection provisions incorporated in its constitution. This was furthered by the government’s effort to involve local communal communities in the management of natural resources and wildlife. They created several conservancies, non-profit organizations, and other entities combined to restore populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, zebras, and other native wildlife to the world’s richest dry land. They also managed to generate sustainable income through such initiatives of ecotourism and restoration. They have developed innovative transmitters to track the movement of Rhinos, anti-poaching tools like the rhino hotline to allow people to contact authorities for providing any information. They use satellite collars to study their whereabouts and habitat requirements to reduce the human-wildlife conflict and peacefully coexist with the species.

Tanzania

Similarly, even for Tanzania, wildlife conservation sustains the rural population of the country. It has demarcated the largest protected area estate in Africa, which is about 40% of the country itself. Their strategy against illegal use of wildlife includes methods such as enabling cooperation with other law enforcement agencies for executing functions for wildlife offenses, extending assistance to the wildlife authorities, subjecting the wildlife staff towards strict codes of discipline, establishing informer networks and intelligence databases at local as well as national levels, enrolling the local communities, devolving responsibility for illegal use in wildlife management areas, training the village wildlife scouts to protect them, developing an intrinsic relationship between the wildlife and local communities by sharing with them the benefits and finally acquiring enough funds to sustain themselves and provide the authorities with enough capable manpower.

They have a strategy to implement wildlife research and monitoring regularly focusing on the key areas according to the wildlife research guidelines. To develop the widest possible understanding and support for wildlife conservation by circulating posters, magazines and raising awareness on the topic. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of the United Republic of Tanzania has also published a report elaborating on all such strategies under various heads. 

Bhutan

Though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, it has made huge efforts towards its commitment to wildlife conservation. Bhutan has always believed in maintaining a balance between its economic development and protecting its resources. They conduct extensive wildlife surveys, from conservation management plans, implement plans for educating the local masses to reduce human-wildlife conflict. They have managed to create a $43 million fund —the first of its kind in Asia—to permanently protect Bhutan’s network of protected areas combined with $75 million from the Bhutan government, which will be contributed over a 14-year period that starts in 2018. 

Zimbabwe

The practice of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe is a matter of national priority.  The government set huge game reserves specially for the wildlife which today have become the forerunners of the national park’s system in the country. Approximately 5 million hectares of land or 13% of Zimbabwe falls under the care of the Zimbabwe National Parks authority. They, like the above-mentioned countries, also believe in the joint effort of the local people and the government making the community understand that it is in their best interest. The country also has a team of conservationists by the name of Wildlife Conservation Action which endlessly works towards saving and protecting the wildlife alongside improving the people’s lifestyle. They aim to envisage a world where both the human race as well as wildlife thrives together thereby promoting harmonious coexistence of the human and wildlife.

Norway

Norway also tops the list of the most developed nations according to the United Nations Development Report 2019 Statistical Update which ranks each country in the world based on its HDI ranking. Norway also happens to be the first country in the world to ban deforestation.

It has three major national biodiversity targets which are achieving substantial ecological status in ecosystems, trying to safeguard endangered species and their habitats, and maintaining a representative selection of Norwegian nature (the conservation of areas covering the whole range of habitats and ecosystems)

The Central African Republic

It has exceptional biodiversity having contiguous forest blocks and some endangered species of forest elephants, two species of gorilla, chimpanzees, bonobos, okapi, and the bongo. They implement plans of developing effective partnerships with creating protected areas and their management, assisting with the development of wildlife law enforcement programs, encouraging sustainable landscape-scale planning, and closely working with the government and the international partners for developing strategies and approaches. It mainly focuses on supporting conservation on many fronts such as anti-poaching and ecological monitoring, reduction of illegal wildlife trade, sustainable development, and effective protection of Dzanga-Sangha Protected Area (DSPA), and the most successful Western Lowland Gorilla Habituation Program of Central Africa. It is a joint effort made by the WWF who works in association with the DSPA administration, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Ministry of Water and Forest Resources and Tourism. 

Canada

They provide direct, hands-on care for saving the species at risk. They have an organization known as Wildlife Preservation Canada which is the only one to cater to multiple species in various efforts made across the country. They make use of science-based technologies such as conservation breeding and release, reintroduction, and translocation based on the urgency of the need and are updated annually. They work closely with federal and provincial ministries and parks, charities for habitat protection and restoration, and land trusts, zoos, universities and colleges, and local grassroots volunteer groups. They have scientists who collect and study high-quality field data in order to assess the effect of their recovery strategies and plans. Canada also has a New Noah scholarship program which is designed to train future conservationists with expertise on the subject and recovery techniques for the endangered species. 

Canada has a wildlife federation that works on the strategic themes of connecting Canadians with nature, maintaining a healthy wildlife population, conserving and restoring wildlife habitat. They have iconic programs to promote these practices such as Hinterland Who’s Who and WILD Education, as well as unique programs such as WILD Family Nature Clubs and Wild About Gardening, conservation programming, Endangered Species Program, Backyard Habitat program, and Love Your Lake. The Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada also works under similar lines. 

Zambia

They extend wildlife internships on research, career-building practice as a form of community involvement for the protection and conservation of wildlife. The Zambian communities represented by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) have also been given the responsibility to conserve wildlife in Game Management Areas (GMAs), the community form what is called the Community Resource Board  (CRB) which looks at management issues in collaboration with ZAWA. Zambia has chosen to apply and implement the non-consumptive tourism method of conserving wildlife which allows the time and space for animals to breed and increase in numbers.

Rwanda

Under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Rwanda’s wildlife policy is based on the following framework. It recognizes that wildlife is a national heritage and a vital component, it is a major contributor to GDP and contributes to the well being of the people, that the wildlife and their habitat contributes for sustainable development of the ecosystem and the country, that a balance must be developed to ensure long term sustainability and necessary steps must be taken for the rapid decline of wildlife and their habitats. Thus their policies are based on the following principles of sustainability, systematic/integrated conservation, proper management and administration to reduce human-wildlife conflict, ensuring social justice and equity, and using the precautionary principle. Using all these means, they aim to promote national-level conservation plans, enhance national parks, create conditions for peaceful coexistence, build human capacity for wildlife management, establish a financial strategy and develop institutional capacities. 

How can other countries improve and support

There are three major ways as derived from the above-mentioned countries which can help other countries in improving their score and adapt to the most beneficial techniques from around the world. However, the countries should understand their limitations in applying these. They are as follows:

  1. They can reintroduce megafauna or allow the time and space for the distribution of such species to increase in an attempt of applying non-interfering ways of rewilding;
  2. Demarcating more spaces as strictly protected areas; and
  3. Making strategies and managing funding by investing more in conservation, either locally or because of international commitments.

Conclusion

Thus, we see that different countries according to their capabilities have tried to innovatively make use of their techniques, statutory laws, and international commitments. However, upon close observation, we do realize that it is not the most developed countries who have been key players in the conservation of their wildlife rather the countries which run solely on the basis of their conservation efforts and practices that have managed to make the most of the options.

References


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