by Beth Robinson and Ali Skeats
Given the challenges faced by biodiversity globally, why should we be optimistic about conservation? Thankfully, there are many answers to this question and behind each answer is a story. In this post we would like to share with you some of those stories; stories about the people we meet through our work that make us optimistic.
We work for a not-for-profit charity called WildTeam UK. We specialise in helping conservationists achieve more, by providing them training in key skills such as strategy development and project management. So far we have trained over 200 conservationists from 36 countries and helped teams such as WWF, WCS, Born Free and EIA.
Who: Umer is a Team Leader for the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project (EWCP).
What he does: Umer manages a team working in the Arsi area of Ethiopia to reduce the threats to the Ethiopian wolf. There are fewer than 500 wolves left and they face multiple threats. One of biggest is Rabies, which can also be devastating to alpine shepherds, infecting guardian dogs, sheep and even people. The EWCP team have recently had an exciting success using an oral vaccine to vaccinate against rabies, protecting the wolves, people and livelihoods.
How we know him: We met Umer in February 2018 in Bale Mountain National Park, Ethiopia. We were there training the EWCP team to use our Project Management for Wildlife Conservation (PMWC) best practice, to support their work. The workshop was part of ongoing work with EWCP to increase their project management capacity and was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Network. We were in Bale Mountain National Park for eight days overall, so had lots of time to get to know the team and explore the park.
The reason he makes us optimistic: Because he takes an interest in the world and in the people around him, asks questions and listens. Umer’s background is in marketing and he is currently thinking about how he can use his training for the benefit of biodiversity, and how he can connect with others with similar interests.
Who: Girl’s education Programme Manager, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
What she does: Since the devastation of the Mozambique civil war, the park is being rebuilt to its former glory as a tourist destination filled with diverse wildlife and dense forest. The park’s regeneration plan is all-encompassing, ensuring human development is as important as wildlife conservation. Larissa works with girls who live around the buffer zone of the park, to help them stay in school, improve their life skills and empower their sense of choice in relationship and marital decisions.
How we know her: I met Larissa when I was delivering Project Management for Wildlife Conservation training in the park in 2017. Larissa intended to use some of the management skills she learnt from us to manage her gender empowerment work, which takes place within the park.
The reason she makes us optimistic: The regeneration of the park is providing valuable work for local people and an appreciation of conservation. But for Larissa, the park also provides a safe space for the difficult and sensitive conversations she must have with the girls. This gives the park a greater value than simple ecosystem services and job provisioning. I believe it is only by creating an equal society that we can improve engagement with wildlife conservation and Larissa’s passion for the two makes me feel optimistic for the girls, animals and plants alike.
Who: Brett is coordinator for NQ Dry Tropics’ Protecting Biodiversity Programme in Australia.
What he does: Brett and his team support the community to protect, maintain and restore biodiversity in the Burdekin Dry Tropics region. They use landscape level and science driven approaches to achieve their results. There are many threats to the region, invasive species being one of the greatest, but by engaging with, and having the community at the core of the work they do, good progress is being made.
How we know him: NQ Dry Tropics and WildTeam met at a conservation coaches conference in 2015, before I worked for WildTeam. One of the first training workshops I did, soon after joining WildTeam, was with NQ Dry Tropics. It was a bit different, in that it was all done via Skype, in fact, I’ve only even chatted to Brett via email and video conferencing.
The reason he makes us optimistic: Brett, like his whole team, is brimming with optimism and energy and is ready to hurl himself at any challenges that come his way.
Brett is always smiling, laughs often, asks how you are and shows a genuine interest in people. It is clear he wants to make the programme he is coordinating the best it can be so it can have maximum impact for biodiversity and the communities that live within its target area.
Who she is: Debbie is the Tiger campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
What she does: She leads a team which seeks to uncover illegal tiger trade activities around the world.
How we know her: We have worked alongside EIA for a couple of years now to improve their monitoring and evaluation. In particular, we work on helping their teams to use online project trackers. These trackers provide a platform to manage the campaigns and reduce admin time which would be be better spent saving wildlife.
The reason she makes us optimistic:
Debbie has such a wealth of experience. She is determined and professional, passionate and inspiring. And she is making a real impact through her work. She once told us that we shouldn’t talk about “Chinese medicine” under an umbrella of negativity for conservation; afterall, how many of us sip some ginger tea when we have an upset stomach? We like to remember this when thinking about conservation planning and the importance of empowering and involving local people and respecting their traditions.
Ali & Beth
Through our work we meet so many dedicated, passionate and inspiring people, working tirelessly to protect a variety of species and ecosystems. By sharing their stories, we hope this will inspire others to make small changes in their lives to halt the loss of biodiversity and reconnect with nature.
If you would like to find out more about WildTeam please go to our website www.wildteam.org.uk.