Patricia Davis Lecture
On the 5th of October, Patricia Davis inspired us all with an online guest lecture. She won the Future For Nature Award in 2012 and is co-founder of Community Centred Conservation (C3). This is an NGO that focusses on community-based environmental conservation. Since nature conservation is directly connected to the livelihood of local communities, it is necessary to engage these communities in conservation on the long-term. This makes it also more likely that they will comply with conservation regulations.
During this online event, Patricia told us about three case studies in which they contributed to the conservation of dugongs and other animal species on the Philippines, Fiji and Madagascar.
As dugongs are reliant on shallow coastal seagrass, they share almost all of their habitats with humans. Therefore the support and involvement of local communities is key to ensure the survival of the dugongs. And because fishing communities spend a lot of time on the water, they are actively involved in dugong research by reporting dugong sightings. Moreover, there is targeted compensation for financial losses for people that are most affected by conservation regulations. When dugongs get entangled in fishing nets, fishermen can now set them free and receive compensation for their damaged gear.
On the Philippines, awareness is raised by workshops, education activities, and with ideas like the dugong ‘ecobag’ and an Iphone app for monitoring dugongs. And with success! Previously, the dugongs used to be hunted actively and their meat was being sold openly. Nowadays, incidental capture by fishing gear is likely to be the most significant threat.
The second case study was about Kia Island, close to Fiji, and was focussed on the humphead wrasse. This endangered fish species can grow 2 meters long and weigh up to 200 kilograms. It was interesting to see how the monthly catch of the humphead wrasse is linked to social events. Their catch rates increased when there are funerals, as these fish are then served as food. Moreover, catching these fish is a way of generating funds for school fees, which leads to an increased monthly catch in January and February. Although there is widespread awareness of the laws that prohibit hunting these fish, there needs to be more reinforcement.
The third case study was about the Nosy Hara Marine Park on Madagascar. This protected marine area covers critical ecosystems and endangered species. It is home to sharks, sea turtles, dugongs, coral reefs and mangroves. It was really nice to see how awareness is being raised by performing dances and plays about the threats to these animal species!
All together this online lecture by Patricia Davis was inspiring, and reminded us the importance of engaging local communities in environmental conservation. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and beautiful stories with us!
Written by: Sjoerd