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← How community-led conservation can save wildlife

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Showing Revision 6 created 10/04/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. I'm a lion conservationist.
  2. Sounds cool, doesn't it?
  3. Some people may have no idea
    what that means.
  4. But I'm sure you've all heard
    about Cecil the lion.
  5. [Cecil the Lion (2002-2015)]

  6. (Lion roaring)

  7. He roars no more.

  8. On the second of July, 2015,
  9. his life was cut short
    when he was killed by a trophy hunter.
  10. They say that you can become attached
    to the animals you study.

  11. That was the case for me
    with Cecil the lion,
  12. having known him and studied him
    for three years
  13. in Hwange National Park.
  14. I was heartbroken at his death.
  15. But the good thing
    to come out of this tragedy
  16. is the attention that the story brought
  17. towards the plight
    of threatened wild animals.
  18. After Cecil's death,

  19. I began to ask myself these questions:
  20. What if the community
    that lived next to Cecil the lion
  21. was involved in protecting him?
  22. What if I had met Cecil
    when I was 10 years old, instead of 29?
  23. Could I or my classmates
    have changed his fate?
  24. Many people are working
    to stop lions from disappearing,
  25. but very few of these people
    are native to these countries
  26. or from the communities most affected.
  27. But the communities
    that live with the lions
  28. are the ones best positioned
    to help lions the most.
  29. Local people should be at the forefront

  30. of the solutions to the challenges
    facing their wildlife.
  31. Sometimes, change can only come
  32. when the people most affected
    and impacted take charge.
  33. Local communities play an important role
  34. in fighting poaching
    and illegal wildlife trade,
  35. which are major threats
    affecting lions and other wildlife.
  36. Being a black African woman
    in the sciences,

  37. the people I meet
    are always curious to know
  38. if I've always wanted
    to be a conservationist,
  39. because they don't meet
    a lot of conservationists
  40. who look like me.
  41. When I was growing up,
  42. I didn't even know that wildlife
    conservation was a career.
  43. The first time I saw a wild animal
    in my home country
  44. was when I was 25 years old,
  45. even though lions and African wild dogs
  46. lived just a few miles away from my home.
  47. This is quite common in Zimbabwe,
  48. as many people
    are not exposed to wildlife,
  49. even though it's part of our heritage.
  50. When I was growing up,

  51. I didn't even know
    that lions lived in my backyard.
  52. When I stepped into
    Savé Valley Conservancy
  53. on a cold winter morning 10 years ago
  54. to study African wild dogs
    for my master's research project,
  55. I was mesmerized by the beauty
    and the tranquility that surrounded me.
  56. I felt like I had found my passion
    and my purpose in life.
  57. I made a commitment that day
  58. that I was going to dedicate my life
    to protecting animals.
  59. I think of my childhood
    school days in Zimbabwe

  60. and the other kids I was in school with.
  61. Perhaps if we had a chance
    to interact with wildlife,
  62. more of my classmates
    would be working alongside me now.
  63. Unless the local communities
    want to protect and coexist with wildlife,
  64. all conservation efforts might be in vain.
  65. These are the communities
    that live with the wild animals
  66. in the same ecosystem
  67. and bear the cost of doing so.
  68. If they don't have a direct connection
  69. or benefit from the animals,
  70. they have no reason
    to want to protect them.
  71. And if local communities
    don't protect their wildlife,
  72. no amount of outside
    intervention will work.
  73. So what needs to be done?

  74. Conservationists must prioritize
    environmental education
  75. and help expand the community's skills
    to conserve their wildlife.
  76. Schoolchildren and communities
    must be taken to national parks,
  77. so they get a chance
    to connect with the wildlife.
  78. At every effort and every level,
  79. conservation must include
    the economies of the people
  80. who share the land with the wild animals.
  81. It is also critical
    that local conservationists
  82. be part of every conservation effort,
  83. if we are to build trust and really embed
    conservation into communities.
  84. As local conservationists,
    we face many hurdles,
  85. from outright discrimination
    to barriers because of cultural norms.
  86. But I will not give up my efforts

  87. to bring indigenous
    communities to this fight
  88. for the survival of our planet.
  89. I'm asking you to come
    and stand together with me.
  90. We must actively dismantle
    the hurdles we have created,
  91. which are leaving indigenous populations
    out of conservation efforts.
  92. I've dedicated my life
    to protecting lions.

  93. And I know my neighbor would, too,
  94. if only they knew the animals
    that lived next door to them.
  95. Thank you.

  96. (Applause)