Passion: the key to Conservation success

Bumi Hills Foundation • 27 April 2017

It is early March and an average start to the day for the Anti-Poaching scouts at the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit (BHAPU) as they head out before sunrise for our daily deployment.

The rainy season has been good to us this year and as we bump along the muddy, broken-down stretch of road, rain drops continuously beating down on our backs and across our faces and a loud knock on the roof brings the vehicle to a stop.

An unusual bird, not a common sighting for our scouts due to its migratory behaviour, was hovering some distance from the road and a unanimous request was made to stop and identify the species.

After much discussion and referencing their birding field guide books, the species was identified as an Amur Falcon followed by excited chatter from those who had not yet seen one. It is in moments like these where we are able to reflect on the Conservation Crisis facing all of Africa today and consider what the vital elements are if we are to be successful in our endeavours.

With unabated human population expansion, increasing poverty, dwindling foreign aid and the effects of years of unsustainable natural resource exploitation coming to the fore, it is completely understandable that the ‘average joe’ in the developing African landscape has virtually no grasp on the concept of conservation. Life is literally all about survival, the next dollar, the next meal, perhaps even the next few drops of water to drink. Jobs are highly sought after as tickets to temporary freedom from financial burden, regardless of what the role is or of what responsibilities may be involved. Virtually everywhere you look those who are lucky enough to be employed turn up for work every day and a large majority get on with their duties with minimal effort for the sole purpose of receiving a paycheck at the end of the month.

It is for this very reason that the brutal truth in this day and age is this:  Without Passion There is No Conservation.

Passion is ultimately entwined with education, awareness and leadership. If a subject or topic can be brought to life and injected with a greater understanding of its impact on one’s own individual self and/or surroundings and done in such a way as to be engaging, it is likely that the learning process will spur on passion which then ultimately increases productivity.

This is our focus at the Bumi Hills Foundation, whereby investing our time and effort into inspiring passion amongst our scouts and staff, our Conservation efforts are ultimately reaping the rewards. Our induction process for new scouts is highly focused on education and awareness based on the concept of conservation.  We have witnessed first hand over the last few months, that once a spark is ignited and is continuously fueled through engagement and education, it becomes a roaring flame.

As part of their development programme, our rangers are taught the basics about both large and small species, flora and fauna, how to recognise and identify species and monitor their behaviour, as well as what evasive action is required should they encounter a certain dangerous species in the field.

Almost every opportunity now presents itself as an opportunity to share information and engage our team, whether it be behavioural traits, body condition, scientific data and / or the role a particular species plays in the ecosystem.  As a result we now find ourselves inundated with questions at virtually every sighting and on every deployment as the eagerness to expand their own knowledge has taken hold.

Meal times have become the centre of debates on scientific names, gestation periods, trees and plants and their medicinal uses or food sources for different species. Reports on newly-identified species have become the norm as part of patrol debriefs.

Boat and vehicle driving lessons have become more about understanding how the engine or brakes work than just learning how to drive; and the advanced first aid training has brought to light how fragile the human body can be and the importance of International medical aid cover for our employees in case of emergency situations.

More importantly our rangers are beginning to understand why they do their jobs, why it is important to use the right type and size of fishing net, what impact poaching an individual has on a breeding herd of elephants, how deforestation results in soil erosion and the effect this has on bridges and the greater ecosystem downstream, the list is endless. 

They are now the voices that speak the loudest at consultative meetings with the local communities and they are not only doing this here, they are doing it at home in their own communities during their time off. To our rangers, their employment has become more than just a paycheck at the end of the month – it has become an engaging environment fueled by education and understanding and they are well on their way to becoming the passionate conservationists who will ultimately make a difference to Africa’s Conservation Crisis.

The word Passion actually stems from the Greek verb πασχω meaning “to suffer”, and whilst ultimately the word refers to an intense emotion or compelling enthusiasm or desire for something, there is an element of irony that  – without Conservation of Africa’s wildlife and habitats, and without this passion for conservation which we at the Bumi Hills Foundation believe in, we as a species will ultimately suffer.

This Blog, originally titled "Does Passion Play a Role in the Success of Conservation?" first appeared on the website of the Bumi Hills Foundation in March 2017.

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