FFN Award ceremony 2020
An afternoon full of digital conservation inspiration
On Friday the 30th of October, hundreds of people logged in to the Hopin platform to get in touch with this year’s Future For Nature Award winners. For the first time ever, the award ceremony took place in different spots all around the world at the same time, making us feel truly connected in this difficult era. Iroro Tanshi, working on the conservation of the short-tailed roundleaf bat in Nigeria, joined us from Texas. Tjalle Boorsma, a Dutch conservationist who is protection the blue-throated macaw, logged in from Bolivia. And María Fernanda Puerto-Carrillo, the jaguar saviour, joined us from her home in Venezuela. Moreover, the entire afternoon was hosted by the brilliant Saba Douglas-Hamilton, a world-famous conservationist and tv-presenter, live from the Kenyan wilderness where she grew up. As if this wasn’t inspiring enough, the members of the Future For Nature Academy were given the opportunity to ask the well-deserved award winners all our burning conservation-related questions. This led to truly inspiring conversations. Because there are no people who know better what is really important in conservation than the experts who are out there in the field fighting the conservation battle every single day. Their stories revived hope for the future!
By devoting your life to conservation, you can achieve big impacts such as the successful fledging of over 90 blue-throated macaw chicks or the discovery of new breeding grounds, directly ensuring species survival. This makes it one of the most rewarding jobs we as FFN Academy members can think of. However, the circumstances can also be difficult. Not all local communities are aware of the importance of conservation or see it as a science at all, the working areas might be difficult to access or there can be culture clashes between conservationists and the local communities. For example, long-standing beliefs about particular bat species being witches can complicate conservation efforts. But with the right mindset, energy and patience, our inspiring conservationists showed that these obstacles can be converted into challenges and the three of them are ready to take them on!
While taking on these challenges ahead, our heroes emphasized how important it is to engage the local communities in conservation. It is essential to understand how the locals use the landscape and what ecosystem services they need, for people are part of the landscape too. As Iroro explained, you cannot exclude people from caves that harbour bat roosts, because local people also use some of these to gather snails or as rain shelter. Another example was provided by Tjalle: cattle ranging has been going on for centuries in South America, so speaking to cattle rangers and understanding their needs is essential to making inclusive conservation plans. Sometimes, threats like forest fires that affect endangered species, affect humans as well. In these cases, conservation of affected species will also help humans. In other cases, reaching out to stakeholders with different interests and creating conservation plans that include all needs requires boldness, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking!
Moreover, education is an important step to get local enthusiasm for conservation. If you show people the value of certain species in terms of their contribution to the ecosystem services, they are much more willing to conserve them. For example, Iroro experienced that by showing locals that shea butter production is highly dependent on seed dispersal by bats, or that the ‘dawadawa’ (seasoning used in soups and stews) cannot exist without pollination by bats, people’s mindset really started to change. However, education is more than watching documentaries or listening to conservationist preaches: the experience people get from going into the field and seeing biodiversity in real life can spark a real change and encourage them to step into the conservation field. This way, conservation becomes the pride of the local people themselves!
In conclusion, conservation is a beautiful field that can be very hard but very rewarding. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a lot of patience to make people see that nature and livelihoods can beautifully coexist. Conservationists need to think out of the box, be crazy, bold, and confident! Moreover, they need to be full of hope for the future and convey their enthusiasm onto the local stakeholders to get them on board. Because when people work together, we can achieve so much more!
By: Fleur Damen & Priya Nair