International Conservation Caucus Foundation

Article: David Barron

In the next fifty years, the world population is expected to increase from seven billion to eleven billion, with three billion more people in Africa alone. We are facing an enormous crisis in Africa right now in terms of illegal wildlife trafficking, which is decimating animal populations, destroying local economies, and funding armed insurgencies and terrorist syndicates. If we do not find solutions to this crisis now, there will be little habitat left beyond sparse areas of national parks that will serve as glorified zoos to small pockets of remaining animals.

Many people and organizations are working hard to prevent this, including The ICCF Group, which is leading the way in building multipartisan political support in the US and internationally to combat the crisis as well as providing on-the-ground expertise. African governments are committed and asking for help. Eight countries have recently signed the Arusha Declaration, pledging to work together to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, and last month in New York, heads of state from African nations and major donors came together at an ICCF event to pledge support.

Many of our leaders are involved in the fight to protect Africa’s wild animals and wild places. In the US Congress, Kay Granger, Lindsey Graham, Pat Leahy, Ed Royce, and Nita Lowey are working together in a truly bipartisan fashion to provide funding for the crisis through agencies and institutions such as USAID and the Global Environment Facility.

What is needed are economic models for local peoples to sustainably utilize their natural resources in ways that protect them for future generations while allowing them to feed their children. We must find solutions that pay for themselves in terms of economic returns and seek true “conservation through development.” ICCF calls it Natural Resource Wealth Management™.

Several years ago, I sat in a meeting with then-Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and a number of CEOs of leading conservation organizations to discuss what he might speak about during an upcoming trip to Africa. I pointed out that visiting Mt. Kilimanjaro to address climate change would appeal to American and European audiences, but that if he were going to Africans, he must address development. Secretary Paulson leaned across the table and said, “They’re just trying to get through the night!”

He “got” it. For conservation to succeed, we must embrace conservation models where people use their natural resources to create jobs, to grow economies, and to feed their people while protecting wildlife and Africa’s iconic species.

Tourism is one proven model, but not the only. The best tourism companies in Africa are actively involved in communities, developing local economies while maintaining extraordinary properties in ecologically fragile places, including Abercrombie & Kent, Grumeti Reserve, Ol Jogi, and Wilderness Safaris. But in addition to tourism, it is essential to employ other ways to benefit more from the use of natural resources than from their destruction—from wildlife breeding operations to—yes—hunting of abundant species where viable.

We still have time left to make a difference, but the clock is ticking. We must embrace comprehensive new models before there is little left to save.

David Barron is the founder of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), a nonprofit organization that supports the leadership of the most popular multipartisan caucus on Capitol Hill, and chairman of the board of governors of The ICCF Group. He is among eight conservationists selected to serve on the Advisory Council to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking.

PHOTO: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti | elephant
PHOTO: The Nature Conservancy

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