The future of all conservation areas is directly dependant on the public’s perception of these conservation areas. This means that conservation areas and those who have been mandated to protect them have to focus much of their time and resources on maintaining social relevance.

This is particularly important in developing countries where resources for
conservation are often limited. For example, in South Africa, where unemployment and social inequality are rife, it is essential for conservation areas to remain relevant to the communities living alongside these protected areas. This relevance is provided by the employment of community members, by providing healthcare to community members and
most perhaps most importantly in the education of people that surround wildlife preserves.

The maintenance of biodiversity mandates that all state parks carry will be increasingly difficult to maintain as populations alongside parks grow. The opportunities and responsibilities carried by the conservation practitioners and tourism operators to create benefits for local neighbours are limited only by our own imagination. All responsible operators have social commitments and when you add in the employment and training that tourism provides, it really is conceivable that we can make conservation a local community imperative. If all tourism promotes local employment and link affluent tourists with well-structured community projects the relevance of the conservation can increase substantially.

As a result, the future leaders of local communities are critical to continue and reinforce this growing mutually beneficial relationship between conservation areas and the communities that surround them. Therefore, I believe that very rarely has there been a more important project for conservation than LiC.

KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK
YOU ARE MAKING MUCH MORE OF A DIFFERENCE THAN YOU REALISE
Les Carlisle (Group conservation manager for AndBeyond)

Photography credits: AndBeyond