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Protecting endangered species helps reduce poverty


20 Mar 2006, Gland, Switzerland – Saving pandas, gorillas or tigers is not just about stopping an endangered species from going extinct, but also about reducing poverty and improving the lives of local communities, according to a new WWF report.

The report, based on six case studies, shows that WWF’s species work helps eradicate poverty and hunger, as well as promote sustainable and fair development in rural areas of countries such as Nepal, Uganda, India, Namibia, Costa Rica and China.

The case studies prove that the conservation and sustainable management of species and their habitats means better protection of forests, freshwater and marine areas. As a result, the rural poor who depend on these areas will have more access to goods and services they provide. This not only increases incomes, but access to freshwater, health, education and women’s rights often also improve.

According to the report, some ecotourism projects based on the observation of species in the wild – such as marine turtles, pandas and mountain gorillas – generate significant amounts of money to communities. By applying knowledge of species movements in and across habitats, this can help implement sustainable land-use planning.

“Very often the issues that threaten species are the same which contribute to poverty, such as loss of habitats and natural resources,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme. “This report provides evidence that when endangered species benefit, people benefit as well.”

For example, in Tortuguero (Costa Rica), live turtles are worth more to the local economy than turtle meat and eggs ever were. The community strongly supports conservation measures to promote ecotourism, and both turtle and tourist numbers have been climbing over the past 30 years.

Community forests in parts of Nepal have led to the restoration of vital corridors for the survival of tiger populations living there. WWF is helping local people to manage and directly benefit from these forest resources. According to the report, groups of community forest users can earn US$4,760 annually.

In the Indian village of Farida, a WWF awareness-raising programme aimed at conserving the rare Ganges river dolphin helped the community to address critical basic needs. After five years, the number of families below the poverty line significantly declined.

The report further shows that more than 60 per cent of people living around Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which protects the habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla, feel they benefit economically and socially from the forests. Additional examples show that in China, illegal and damaging activities in forest reserves declined when communities gained alternative sources of income, such as farming and animal husbandries supported by WWF panda projects. In Namibia, the creation of conservancies, where communities are managing their wildlife resources, has resulted in better wildlife management, increased wildlife populations, ecotourism development and increased profits in community-owned enterprises.

As the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP8) opens today in Curitiba (Brazil), WWF believes that the CBD and member governments should integrate species conservation work into efforts to alleviate poverty.

“It seems illogical that billions of dollars are being spent to reduce poverty and promote sustainable economic development without looking at the links between sustainable development, a healthy environment, and species conservation,” said Dr Lieberman. “Now is the time to make that link and act upon it.”


• The six case studies, based on new research and analysis using the Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) framework to assess field data and supported by wide literature review, include:

1. Integrating sustainable livelihoods with tiger conservation in the Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal
2 Wildlife Conservation – a viable strategy in Namibia’s Rural Development Programme
3. Mountain gorilla conservation contributes to local livelihoods around the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
4. Partnering to secure the future for people and pandas in the Minshan and Qinling Mountains, China
5. Sea Turtle Conservation in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
6. Conserving the Ganges River Dolphin and improving livelihoods in Uttar Pradesh, India

• The study shows that WWF species conservation field projects deliver on four of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1); Promote gender equality and empower women (Goal 3); Ensure environmental sustainability (Goal 7); and Develop a global partnership for development (Goal 8).


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