Today SCI/F affirmed the importance of indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation at the IUCN World Conservation Congress currently held in Marseille, France. IUCN members, including SCI/F, voted on 41 different motions regarding conservation around the world. Holding the proxy for several other North American organizations unable to attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, SCI/F voted to ensure that sustainable use of wildlife remains at the forefront of conservation.
The motions voted on included broadly ranging topics, from the conservation of individual species, to plans, to the role of biodiversity conservation in the worldwide recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. SCI/F Director of Conservation Christopher E. Comer, Ph.D., attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress, representing numerous sustainable use conservation organizations. Comer cast the group’s votes supporting, among other motions, the rights of indigenous people and communities to continue using and managing their natural resources without the interference of trade bans.
Over the five days of the Congress Forum, several important themes have emerged. Among them is the growing appreciation for the role of indigenous peoples in conservation of biodiversity worldwide, especially in developing regions. Along with other local communities, sustainable use of wildlife and other natural products is important to indigenous peoples and their ability to steward the wild places under their control. Recognition of this at the level of the IUCN is significant.
Two other dominant themes at the Congress were the COVID-19 recovery and the related “One Health” concept. Not surprisingly, limited travel during the pandemic has harmed conservation efforts, especially in developing countries where conservation funding is dependent on nature-based tourism (including hunting). On the other hand, in North America and many other regions, the pandemic has increased awareness of and appreciation for the value of nature for human health.
Indeed, health is an important concept, as some responses to the recent pandemic focus on the interrelationships of public health with ecosystem health. Specifically, concepts such as biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental degradation seem to be tied with human health outcomes. There is an emerging effort to consider these issues as part of an intertwined system – One Health. This concept has been promoted by a range of public health entities such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and the United Nations.
As SCI/F has seen elsewhere, anti-use and animal rights organizations use fear of future pandemics derived from zoonotic sources to drive sweeping limitations on wildlife trade. SCIF continues working with sustainable use partners, such as the CIC, FACE, and the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, to identify and oppose these attempts. It was several organizations representing range states and community organizations, for example, that created Motion 137 to ensure protection of the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities dependent on wild resources for food or incomes.