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The Global Environmental Facility (GEF)

The world’s wildlife needs young naturalists

Hasita Bhammar's picture
The youth from the Turia community celebrating their first workshop on tiger conservation in the Pench Tiger Reserve
The youth from the Turia community celebrating their first workshop on tiger conservation in the Pench Tiger Reserve

In 2010, 15 days after graduating from college, with nothing but a backpack and an old water bottle, I stood in front of a large gate with a rusted sign welcoming me to the “Pench Tiger Reserve.” The same reserve that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s, Jungle Book. None of the mock interviews  or standardized testscould have prepared me for the job at hand. I was there to set up a small nonprofit whose mission was to involve youth from the local community near the tiger reserve and instill in them a love and passion for the environment. Specifically, instill in these young minds a commitment to safeguard the 41 tigers that roamed wild in the reserve.

As a 21 year old, my employers were entrusting upon me this responsibility based on a simple philosophy – if you want to inspire young people – give the opportunity to someone young! In the two and a half years that I spent in the reserve, with the help of the forest department, three local schools and community members, we were able to invite leading conservationists, teachers, innovators and environmental enthusiasts to conduct hands-on workshops with children aged 10-16 from within the community. Every workshop answered questions on the importance of environmental protection and the rationale behind how simple, local efforts can have positive impacts globally. These curious minds absorbed knowledge like sponges and within a few years, we had the next set of forest protectors and tiger champions. They are influencers in the community and are currently involved in small enterprises that help the local economy and preserve the tiger habitat in and around the Pench Tiger Reserve.

Since leaving the Reserve, I have been active in many youth groups around the world. One such organization is the 2041 Foundation whose mission is to provide leadership training to young people especially from developing countries to help preserve the environment. As a part of this training, on an expedition to Antarctica, I was able to see firsthand the effects of climate change on our fragile ecosystems. This experience had a profound influence on my commitment to conservation.  

The future of wildlife is in our hands

Claudia Sobrevila's picture
Botswana. The Global Wildlife Program

On March 3rd we will celebrate World Wildlife Day. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, this day raises awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. This year’s theme, "The future of wildlife is in our hands" resonates with those who understand the impact of species loss on the health of ecosystems and human survival.

We are currently in the midst of the sixth, man-made mass extinction of plants and animals. Experts estimate the current loss of species to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The global Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an overall species decline of 52% between 1970 and 2010. Our increasing demands on nature are driving the two biggest catastrophic threats to species decline- habitat loss and wildlife trade. Habitat loss is a threat to 85% of all species.  Exploitation (including poaching and wildlife trade) is the most immediate threat to wildlife populations worldwide.

Illicit trafficking in wildlife is a multifaceted global threat. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where poaching is leading some charismatic species to the brink of extinction. For example, in 2011 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the Western black rhino extinct, largely due to poaching. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program estimated that in the last 5 years, between 22,000 to 25,000 elephants were poached per year across Africa.