The IUCN estimate that lion populations have declined 43% in just the past 21 years (1993 – 2014), and that fewer than 20,000 lions remain across Africa.
The primary reasons for the decline in lion populations are habitat loss and prey-base depletion, two forces that combine to create a conflict between lions and people. Retaliatory killing of lions in response to lion predation of livestock is rife in many parts of Africa. However, whilst these threats are key to understanding the reasons for the decline, on their own they do not define the underlying drivers of the threats to the species.
A rapidly increasing human population in Africa, living in poverty and with food insecurity, is in direct competition with lions, and indeed other species, for the same resources of space, shelter and food. Wherever there is competition there is conflict. Unless our approach to conservation tackles the underlying issues we are simply placing a Band-Aid on a problem that is only going to get worse.
As Nelson Mandela has said, “ultimately, conservation is about people”.
This is why ALERT takes a responsible development approach to lion conservation. Yes, we must continue to create solutions to help humans and lions to live alongside one another, but we can only achieve real protection in the long term if the people of Africa want to live alongside lions and other wildlife. What will create the motivation for such co-existence? If people benefit from the presence of wildlife. This principle is at the core of ALERT’s approach to conservation.
ALERT favours African solutions to meet African challenges, believing that such solutions are more likely to succeed by gaining acceptance and support amongst relevant stakeholders, and speaking to the needs and aspirations of those stakeholders. ALERT projects fall under five key programmes;
- in situ lion conservation,
- ex situ lion conservation,
- education matters,
- social development,
- conserving biodiversity.
To ensure viable populations of African lions are maintained as an integral part of functional ecosystems.
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is dedicated to a multi-disciplinary approach for the facilitation and promotion of sound conservation and management plans for the African lion (Panthera leo) and the ecosystems on which the species relies.
Through responsible development we aim to realize the species’ potential to provide substantial social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits, that are distributed equitably amongst stakeholders to promote sustainable motivation in them for the protection of Africa’s natural heritage.
A RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
Unless the people of Africa want to conserve lions, by benefitting from their presence, the species will continue to decline until they are all gone.
Our environment is shaped not just by geography and bio-physical factors, but also by socio-economic, cultural, legal and political ones. In most cases the challenges facing Africa’s people and its wildlife are too great and too complex, and they require too many resources, for any one organization to address.
We believe these challenges can most effectively be met by uniting community and policy makers with non-governmental organizations, scientists and business leaders. In doing so, the best solutions can be proposed that create benefits for stakeholder groups to generate sustainable motivation for sound conservation management. This union can ensure both present and future generations are able to enjoy the benefits of Africa’s environmental services by integrating the protection of natural processes with economic and social development in a process we term responsible development.
By acting collectively the stakeholders of Africa can combine expertise, knowledge and funding to generate real, long-lasting, cost efficient and responsible solutions that are reflected in policy of national governments all the way through the structure of society to the actions of the individual.
Too often conservation efforts have been implemented using a broad brush approach. A particular solution may have been relevant to the location in which it was developed, but elsewhere a seemingly similar challenge can be fundamentally different in origin and require an adapted response. Responsible development promotes the implementation of locally conceived solutions that benefit from the experience of schemes successfully implemented in other locations.
Systems based & cooperative solutions
In nature each habitat acts as a complex system comprised of many parts. Air, soil, water, plants, animals, and, of course, people are all part of an inter-connected system. Using a systems thinking based decision making framework allows us to consider the impacts of our actions on the whole system. Such decision making can only be undertaken through co-operation between all stakeholders with their varied view points, and understanding, of the system.
Unless conservation solutions are relevant to the needs and aspirations of communities who live on the land they will have little reason to support them, and the solutions will ultimately falter. Programmes are often donor driven and research often only meets the requirements of a PhD thesis. Responsible development promotes community involvement in all aspects of conservation from design and implementation to ongoing reviews of the success of the programme – an element often given little heed.
Long term solutions
Responsible development seeks to promote the appreciation of the need for long-term, sustainable solutions.