According to a definition by National Geographic, “Conservation is the care and protection of natural resources (Earth’s natural resources include air, minerals, plants, soil, water, and wildlife) so that they can persist for future generations.
It includes maintaining diversity of species, genes, and ecosystems, as well as functions of the environment, such as nutrient cycling”. Conservation is similar to preservation, but while both relate to the protection of nature, they strive to accomplish this task in different ways. Conservation seeks the sustainable use of nature by humans, for activities such as hunting, logging, or mining, while preservation means protecting nature from human use.
The preservation and conservation of the eco-systems, nature resources and habitats are vital for the survival of the Earth and of course, for the continuation of human’s life on our planet. Our environment is the base to everything, and without a healthy habitat, we will not have a future.
In a recent study by Frontiers in Forests and Global Change it appeared that only the 3% of the Earth Eco-systems are untouched by humans.
Human overpopulation, expansion, urbanisation, the destruction of forests in favour of plantations and agriculture fields, mining are some of the most impacting causes of habitat loss for the world’s eco-systems.
Working for conservation now is very challenging as there are many factors that limit the possibility to conserve and or preserve habitats so that nature and its eco-systems can succeed. Natural areas are owned and managed by governments or by privates, depending on each country and its constitution.
In South Africa, for example, most of the nature reserves are owned by private citizens. This is certainly a great way to protect land, as the people have the interest to protect the wildlife and their property. However the downfall is that owners do not receive any funding by the government in their effort to preserve land, and they have huge expenses each month, making it challenging to maintain a piece of land untouched.
The amount of the bills depend also by the size of the land, the animals present (i.e., if a property has rhinos, a huge chunk of the costs is reserved to pay the anti-poaching teams), the infrastructure present, the amount of employees needed to work on the reserve, maintenance etc.
How can a private owner maintain the land in South Africa?
Although this is a very difficult task, there are useful strategies to deal with the problem. Depending on the nature reserve, on the wildlife occurring, on the location, a reserve can try to cover the costs by:
– hosting tourists;
– selling some wildlife to contain the numbers of the animals that exceed or are close to the carrying capacity;
– breeding and selling “rare species” (for example sable antelopes or roan antelopes);
– hunt in a controlled way removing the older individuals and utilising the whole animal for food and other uses, replacing cattle that is competition to wildlife;
What happened if they can’t afford to pay the bills? Nature reserves’ owners who do not have the possibility to develop a system to the costs, find themselves in the position of having to sell the property. Lately, in South Africa, a “new trend” seem to be developing: the need to go away from the main cities and own a tiny “piece of land” in the so called “wildlife estates”. These places look like a good compromise between living in nature and having all the comforts. However, this practice is far removed from conservation of preservation of the land, despite the impression of the new owner to live among nature. Many houses are built in a natural area (enriching developers who do not have nature as their priority), removing actual space for the indigenous animals. Many times houses are built in unique eco-systems such as river side, forests, hills etc. leading towards loss of vital habitats for many different species.
Wildlife needs pristine habitats and balanced eco-systems to succeed. The more we develop nature through buildings and human presence, the less space is reserved to animals and their genetic biodiversity is restricted to small pockets. Interbreeding, food and water competition, overgrazing, loss of habitat, extinction, human-wildlife conflict to mention a few, are the main issue for the health of wildlife and the eco-systems.
Is there a solution? – The struggle for conservation
Many people on our Planet are just too busy with their lives, removed from nature, indifferent or simply have other interests than the health of our Planet. However, we should all understand that each of us play a vital role in conservation and in the preservation of our Planet, our Home! In order to have a healthy future, we all need to start living more sustainably, consciously, preserving the limited nature resources.
The protection of the current nature reserves, national parks and protected areas is vital, as well as the conversion of some areas to their original natural state. The LEO Africa Foundation, newly created, is aspiring to this: being able, through funding of many individuals or larger donors, to purchase land in Africa with the aim to reconvert it to habitat for wildlife and nature, protecting it from over-exploitation and threats by mines, plantations, urbanisation, agriculture and fragmentation.
Governments should think more “green” rather than giving mines the possibility to have the right to excavate even in protected areas, as it might happen in the Okavango Delta or in numerous other areas of South Africa and Africa.
– Jane Goodall
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
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