Thursday, November 29, 2012

Would everyone please hand in their snares...

I found this story in the WCN's newsletter and thought it really interesting and encouraging. It is putting into practice some of what we have been discussing as far as conservationists working with people to help the wildlife, and this one is a success! It was written by Dr. Colleen Begg who works with the Niassa Lion Project.

"In the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique, lions fall prey to snares set for bushmeat. This year we decided to develop a community anti- poaching team and have the community choose scouts. At the scouts’ passing out (graduation) parade, we invited all the Chiefs who nominated scouts to be present. One of the Chiefs said he hoped the team caught lots of poachers, and that he was fully behind conservation.
The scouts went on their first patrol, found some freshly set wire snares, set up an ambush and caught three people - one of whom was this same Chief! He cursed them, and said their families would die if they arrested him. If the community turned against the scouts, it could destroy all our efforts. We needed to show we were serious and support the scouts, but not let the Chief lose face and support in the village.
Francine constantly told us to 'own the process, not the solution.' For my husband Keith and me this is very difficult as we like to 
control situations, find
 solutions and
 move on, but
 this time we needed to do 
things differently. We needed the community to be firmly behind any decision made, and for that to happen they needed to come up with the solution.
The community was very emotional and angry, but no one knew what to do. We called a meeting of all the leaders and hunters. We explained what had happened and asked them what we should do. There was an uncomfortable silence that went on for ages. Sitting there on the sand outside a hut in the village, all I could hear in my head was Francine’s voice saying, 'Don’t provide the solution; be patient and let them come up with it.'
Eventually, one of the other Chiefs said, 'I think we should have some time when people hand in snares while the community gets used to the idea of the scouts.'
Perfect, an amnesty! He didn’t call it that, but it was a great solution. A few days later, the Chief handed in four snares, and others handed in ten more. Fourteen snares handed in voluntarily, which has never happened before in Niassa."
This, and other fascinating stories, can be read in the newsletter at

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