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International Conservation Series: What are National Parks Doing?

the Mirr family hikes on conservation lands in Kenya
The Mirr family hikes on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya

There is a lot we can learn from international conservation efforts and management practices like those seen in Africa and South America. While the hardships and circumstances may differ from region to region, the new methods being employed internationally can benefit all landscapes. We will mostly take a look at private lands throughout this series on international conservation, but today we will focus on examples of what is happening at the National Park level.

In Mozambique

A recent New York Times article discussed a case study at Gorongosa National Park where there had been, until recently, a 95% decline in the large mammal population since 1992. Thanks to adequate private funding and new management techniques, the overall number of mammals in the national park has steadily increased since then.

In the past, big game trophy hunting and photo tourism have generally been seen as the funding savoir for African conservation, but this is simply not the case. Corruption in the hunting industry and ineffective management practices in many of the national parks have led to inadequate funding generated ever reaching local communities. Without monetary or social incentives at the local level, conservation can not be successful.

Elephants on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Lately there has been a shift to a more inclusive approach to conservation that connects ecosystem health to economic development through:

  • Collaborative management to improve wildlife and habitat,
  • Long-term partnerships with local communities,
  • And both private and public funding.

Since adopting some of these practices Gorongosa National Park has:

  • Generated countless jobs for the local community,
  • Created after school clubs for local girls,
  • Introduced holistic management techniques and training,
  • Created mobile medical clinics,
  • And implemented a 25+ year co-management agreement with the Mozambican government.

In Chile

Another country that is making strides in their national park conservation efforts through private donors and collaborative management is Chile. One of the largest donors to Chilean national parks is the Tompkins Conservation group. Over the years, the Tompkins Conservation group has donated over a million acres to the Chilean government, including a property we helped market in partnership with Patagonia Sur, Jeinimeini. These sizeable contributions to their national park system has:

  • Restored numerous ecosystems and landscapes,
  • Created local jobs,
  • Strengthened local environmental activism,
  • Generated substantial income to the national ecotourism industry,
  • Supported local economies,
  • And recovered endangered Chilean wildlife.
the Jeinimeni property in Chile
Jeinimeni, now part of the Chilean National Park system

The Importance of Private Land

While National Parks are a great source of conservation, animals and overall ecosystem health can not rely on these spaces alone. Privately owned conservancies are some of the most important instruments to overall conservation and wildlife health. Without the efforts of private landowners and the local projects they have funded:

  • Endangered animals would not be protected,
  • Local human development would not be adequately financed,
  • And overall ecosystem health would diminish.

A recent TNC report predicted that over the next 35 years, 90% of the global population growth will occur in Africa. In Kenya, 65% of its overall wildlife population will live outside of protected areas. It is imperative that private landowners implement effective management practices to account for wildlife health and the growth of local populations.

This past Christmas the Mirrs visited private conservancies in Kenya to witness first hand what private conservation can do to improve ecological and economic conditions. Over the next couple of weeks we will explore how the private conservancies we have visited in Kenya and Chile have implemented some of the above mentioned techniques to achieve some surprising results.

The Mirr family with their guide at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
The Mirr family with their guide, Joseph, at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

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